Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer is coming off his best season yet and isn't contemplating retirement at all even at age 36.
When John Elway was 37, he won the first of back-to-back Super Bowls to wrap up his career.
It's Elway Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer thinks about when the idea of winning a Super Bowl and then retiring is brought up. It was Elway whom Palmer remembers watching, enraptured, as a kid as the Broncos great won twice.
That Palmer happens to be the same age as Elway when Elway won his first is coincidence. But unlike Elway, when Palmer talks about playing and his future, he doesn't sound like a guy who would be ready to quit the game even if the Cards somehow won a Super Bowl or two.
The games aren't the thing. Getting back on the field in March and reviewing the previous season? Training hard in June
and July to prepare for camp? Grinding on Mondays and Tuesday during the season to study tape and gameplans? That's the kind of thing former Cardinals great Kurt Warner said ultimately pushed him into retirement.
"Those are the kind of milestones, you have to realize, 'Am I still in this or am I not?' " Palmer said. "And I still love it. I still love that stuff. I love Mondays and Tuesdays getting gameplans and breaking down other teams. All that stuff, it's not work to me."
Palmer will have his skeptics, those waiting to see what he does in the postseason after his rough NFC Championship game last season. But he is still a quarterback who set team records a year ago and who had 35 touchdown passes and only 11 interceptions while staying in the MVP discussion a good chunk of the season.
That's not a player who seems close to retirement.
"I've seen him get younger just since his injury," coach Bruce Arians said, referring to Palmer's 2014 ACL tear. "He's adding longevity to his career."
Palmer has upgraded his eating habits and his training. Arians credits sports science for the ability of quarterbacks to
play to later and later ages – Tom Brady turns 39 Aug. 3, Drew Brees is 37, Tony Romo is 36. Palmer, who turns 37 in December, falls into that category.
His rigorous rehab from the knee injury not only put him in better shape but also seems to have increased velocity on his throws.
"I feel as good as I've felt …" Palmer said, pausing to consider it. "Ever."
For the best quarterbacks, their age 37-season often has produced success. Brady won a Super Bowl that year. Peyton Manning and Rich Gannon reached a Super Bowl, as did another familiar face at 37 – Warner, leading the 2008 Cardinals.
Of the top 30 quarterbacks all-time in passer rating, 10 have played at age 37. Six of them –Steve Young, Warner, Brady, Manning, Jeff Garcia and Rich Gannon – outperformed their career passer rating. Brett Favre didn't – although he bounced back with a huge season at age 38.
In a league that has a hard time finding good quarterbacks, having a good one last can't hurt.
"It's helped a lot of coaches keep their job longer, because you're tied at the hip to the guy," Arians said.
Last year, Brady said he wanted to play another 10 years and Palmer said that was hard to fathom. For now, Palmer is under contract through the 2017 season. Beyond that? Palmer didn't have a timeline on what he had left when he arrived in Arizona in 2013, and that hasn't changed.
"I just wanted to play because I love the game," Palmer said.
Players arrive for the start of training camp at University of Phoenix Stadium