Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer, shown here with cornerback Patrick Peterson, still enjoys the offseason preparation.
There is a part of Carson Palmer that seems to be looking forward to retirement.
The Cardinals' quarterback can spend plenty of time with his family, golf regularly and help tutor young football players at the high school level. When the 37-year-old is done playing in the NFL, he pledges to be fully done with the NFL.
"The hours I watch our coaches put in, I don't want to work that hard in retirement," Palmer said on a conference call Tuesday to publicize next month's American Century Celebrity Golf Championship in Lake Tahoe. "I want to have a life."
While Palmer figures to be content in his post-playing days, he is also having a tough time reaching them. When Palmer was chosen No. 1 overall by the Bengals in the 2003 draft, he envisioned a nice career spanning 10 or 12 years.
Over the past three seasons – his 12th, 13th and 14th in the league – he has thought a lot about walking away, going as far as to tell his wife, Shaelyn, that each year would be his last, before then changing his mind.
"She continues to not believe me every time I say that," Palmer said.
Palmer has now learned to hedge his bets. As he enters his 15th season, Palmer understands others would prefer a definitive declaration on his playing future, but he's not being sly when he responds.
"That's a great question," Palmer said, "and I don't have an answer."
At the end of each season, Palmer is worn down physically, which, as he's gotten older, has made him more open to the idea of retiring. But his mind has always been invested, and eventually his body has bounced back.
It's this time of year when he's reminded how much he loves the game, when the aches and pains have not yet arrived, and he's immersed in preparing for another season.
"I love every facet of it," Palmer said. "I don't want to stop. But I'll have to wait and make that decision after the season."
Team performance could be a factor. The Cardinals were expected to be Super Bowl contenders last season, and thus it made sense for Palmer to return. The season never went as planned, and now the expectations have dropped considerably.
"I kind of prefer the underdog role, and that's where we are now," Palmer said.
If the Cardinals bounce back, maybe Palmer doesn't retire at the end of this season. If he is kept upright the majority of the time, maybe Palmer feels fresher than he did at the end of 2016.
Then again, that inner fire could one day extinguish, making the thought of another offseason of preparation sound daunting. Palmer could move on to his next phase, playing in celebrity golf tournaments like the American Century Championship year-round and finding other hobbies.
Palmer is back for 2017 and determined to make the most of it, because no one knows what will come after it – not even him.
"There's always urgency, especially as you get to the second half of your career," Palmer said. "You just never know when your last year is going to be."
Images from pregame during the 2016 season