Quarterback Carson Palmer will again play a big role in the Cardinals' fortunes in 2016.
Carson Palmer is so stoic that even if the last eight months of his life were torturous, he'd never let on.
But the veteran quarterback is talking like a guy who has long since turned the page.
The Cardinals had a picture-perfect 2015 season ruined by an NFC Championship game loss to the Panthers, where Palmer threw four interceptions, lost two fumbles and watched his Super Bowl dream crumble.
It's sure to be a major storyline as the nation tunes in for the Cardinals' Sunday Night Football showdown with the Patriots on Sunday, as the much-hyped 2016 regular season begins in earnest.
Despite intense outside analysis, Palmer has not been watching the sand in the hourglass drop grain by grain this offseason, waiting fervently for his chance to prove critics wrong. He long ago coped with the subpar outing.
"You just move on," Palmer said. "You start working on what you need to improve on and preparing for what's ahead, not what's behind. There's no other choice."
The Cardinals are not shying away from lofty expectations, set both internally and externally. While the roster is stocked with talent all around him, a lot of the success is determinant on the play of Palmer, who had the best season of his career in 2015 at age 36.
He was the toast of the town throughout the 13-win regular season, when Palmer played at a near-MVP level. As the interceptions mounted against Carolina, the adulation was replaced by criticism. That's the gig of an NFL quarterback.
"You get the best and the worst," said Cardinals defensive tackle Frostee Rucker, a long-time teammate of Palmer's dating back to college. "You get all the praise, you get all the money, you get everything that comes good and bad with it.
"I've known him for so long and been in this business long enough to know that you have to kind of have hater repellant and let it roll right off of you, and get back to what you know how to do best. It just sucks that you get criticized for one day at the office, when you've probably made the company a whole lot of money. It's unfortunate, but that's what we signed up for. Kid's game, king's ransom."
While it's unknown how well 2016 will play out for Palmer, there's no one on the team doubting his ability to move forward.
Coach Bruce Arians said he saw Palmer five days after the loss to the Panthers, and there was no anguish. Tight end Darren Fells said it was business as usual this offseason.
"He took more blame than I think he should have, but he's like a rubber band," Fells said. "He bounces right back."
Palmer is raring to go for 2016. The Cardinals were given two days off before practices this week to recharge heading into the regular season, and he spent that down time peppering Arians with 30 text messages.
"He's always been a junkie, a workaholic," Arians said. "Even more so now because I think he's excited about the team he has."
Bill Belichick knows the challenge he faces going against Palmer. The Patriots coach certainly isn't counting on a redux of the Cardinals' struggles against the Panthers.
"You can't be light on your coverage in the deep part of the field or he'll kill you," Belichick said. "Tough guy, (can) stand in the pocket, take a hit, make a good throw. But he's smart. We'll have to do a good job of not making it easy for him and we've got to do a good job of not giving up big plays."
Palmer isn't looking forward to this season as a way to make amends, but as another opportunity to chase that elusive Super Bowl ring. After turbulence early in his career, Palmer has found an organization he loves, one he pledged to spend the rest of his career with after signing a contract extension in training camp.
"Getting to play the game this long is rare, and I think that's why I've enjoyed the end so much more than any other part of the career, because I understand how special each day is," Palmer said.
The outside concerns about Palmer's mental makeup are just noise to those who know him well. Rucker has watched Palmer go through adversity before.
"He's played the majority of his career in Cincinnati when the teams weren't even that good," Rucker said. "All of the stuff you hear there, and he's never complained, never pointed the finger at anything. He's taken full responsibility for wins and losses. He'll rebound and we'll be right where we want to be again."
Images of the Cardinals cheerleaders during the final preseason game