Every training camp, quarterback Carson Palmer likes to say how much he's looking forward to the work – especially since, as a quarterback, he can't be hit and that coach Bruce Arians will scream at anyone who does.
That changes Saturday when the Cardinals open the preseason against the Houston Texans. In that case, Palmer said, he truly wants to be hit.
"I actually always hope to get knocked down a bunch of times in the preseason because if you don't, you get to Week 1 of the regular season, week one, two or three, your body is not used to being that type of sore," Palmer said. "Because it happens only five months of year, that soreness tends to linger a little bit longer. I like to get that soreness out of the way."
There are certain hits at which Palmer will cringe at the thought, like the time 400-pound-ish defensive lineman Shaun Rogers fell on to Palmer's sternum while Palmer was prone.
"There are definitely ways you don't want to get hit," Palmer acknowledged, but absorbing some punishment is necessary.
"You can't replicate standing up and then getting slammed into and knocked feet into the air and hitting the ground," Palmer said. Your body is not used to it. There are a million things you can do, lift weights, but unless you do (get hit in a game), your body is just not used to that type of soreness."
There is a flip side to getting hit, which is usually that an offensive lineman missed an assignment. New left tackle Jared Veldheer recently said he wants to protect Palmer so well "I don't even want (the defender) to smell him."
That's why Palmer doesn't exactly announce his willingness to get hit.
"I don't want those guys knowing that," Palmer said. "That's just something I've learned over the years and experienced year in and year out. If we miss a block here or there, that's OK."
MATHIEU ITCHING TO RETURN
Injured safety Tyrann Mathieu wore a big smile Wednesday when he was asked for an update on his rehab and injured knee.
"I expect to be at practice the next two to three weeks," Mathieu said. "Hopefully we can stick to that timetable."
The smile was in expectation of the next question, which was whether coach Bruce Arians was considering Mathieu's plan.
"I shared it with him," Mathieu said. "I don't think he takes me too seriously."
Mathieu remains, with defensive tackle Alameda Ta'amu, on the physically-unable-to-perform list. All along, it was doubtful Mathieu was going to be able to return in training camp. These days, when his teammates go through their regular practice inside University of Phoenix Stadium, Mathieu is on a nearby field outside "basically having my own practice."
Asked what it will take to play again, Mathieu got a little more serious.
"Our head coach, is he comfortable with me being out there?" Mathieu said. "Am I 100 percent, and am I going to better our defense? I don't want to go out there if I'm not the guy I was last year."
BALLARD RETIRES, CHANGING TIGHT ENDS DYNAMIC
Tight end Jake Ballard surprisingly announced his retirement Wednesday morning, saying in a statement the Super Bowl knee injury he suffered a couple of years ago was still causing him too much pain.
Ballard had been running first team with John Carlson. Rob Housler will likely ascend one on the depth chart, and now Darren Fells – who has impressed Arians – seemingly has a better shot at what will probably be the fourth and final tight end spot. Andre Hardy is the fifth tight end, although the Cardinals do have an open roster spot.
"He's a great guy, a good friend of mine and a good friend of my brother's," said Fells, whose brother played with Ballard in New England. "He'll be missed.
"Anything can happen. Someone else can come in and take my spot. If I can just keep doing what I have been doing, hopefully I can be on the roster."
TEXANS GAME SELLS OUT
The preseason opener against the Texans at University of Phoenix Stadium is officially a sellout, the 84th straight game the Cardinals have sold out in their building. The game will be televised live locally on ABC 15, with Dave Pasch and Ron Wolfley on the call.