Carson Palmer has tediously mapped out the rehabilitation plan for his torn ACL, and knows exactly when certain milestones will be reached.
The Cardinals quarterback gets ahead of himself at times, envisioning the progress he will make in the coming months.
"I'm so excited about OTAs, mini-camp, training camp, New Orleans coming here (to open the regular season), going to Chicago – you start thinking of all these things," Palmer said. "I have to fight that. That's a hurdle for me, personally. I've got to fight that. It's one day at a time, one rep at a time. I'm not looking past anything."
Monday was an easy day for Palmer to soak in the here and now. The Cardinals began Phase II of their offseason workout program, which allowed the players to take the field and run plays for the first time. Palmer was right in the mix, participating
with the first-team offense in all of the drills.
He not only handed the ball off to the running backs, but zipped short, intermediate and deep throws to his receivers. While the action wasn't close to replicating game-like conditions, Palmer said joining the rest of the team on the field was a big mental boost after missing the last eight games of the 2014 season.
"You want all your guys out there," Palmer said. "I know I want my five starting linemen and my two starting receivers. You don't ever want to see guys on the sidelines. Unfortunately I'm not going to be able to do everything once OTAs start, but I'll be able to do just about everything. It's important (to participate) because I enjoy it. I can't wait for tomorrow and I can't wait for every day."
Palmer wasn't the only injured quarterback who returned to the fold, as backup Drew Stanton took the reins of the second unit after missing the final three games of last year with his own knee injury.
"It's great," Stanton said. "We're both getting healthy. I can't speak for Carson, but from my standpoint it feels good to get out there and throw with these guys. Especially with some of these guys, it's exciting to see from here all the way to camp who really takes off and makes this team, who is going to have an impact. We rely on those guys every single year, the Jaron Browns of the world."
The Cardinals added Northern Iowa running back David Johnson and Alabama-Birmingham wide receiver J.J. Nelson to the skill positions in the draft – they will arrive Thursday with the other rookies -- but as the Cardinals know all too well from last year, a team's fortunes can often be closely tied to its quarterback.
Palmer seems to be making great strides, but strengthening the knee is not the only hurdle to clear in the rehab. He said the injury forces a quarterback to "start over from scratch" mechanically, as he works meticulously to regain the precise footwork and balance needed to succeed in the pocket.
"All those little things that still go through my head every couple reps, I'm fighting to get to the point where you just don't think about that anymore," Palmer said. "It just becomes natural. Just ingraining all those small mechanical movements is something that takes repetition after repetition."
In that regard, Palmer looks like a man possessed. His rehab is ongoing, spending extra time doing footwork drills with Stanton and finishing up with a plethora of knee-strengthening activities in a near-empty weight room.
"I'm always competing against other quarterbacks in the league in my head, and there are a lot of guys not coming off injuries," Palmer said. "I have to work that much harder, spend that much more time on it. But that part's easy for me. I like the work. I like the feeling I have when I go home, just knowing, 'Man, I'm done. I couldn't have done any more reps today. I don't even want my kids to tackle me when I walk in the door today because I'm so tired.' I enjoy that feeling. That part's not an issue for me."
The Cardinals get on the field to open Phase 2 of the 2015 offseason