Arizona Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer is playing at an elite level right now. Through 13 games, he's tossed 31 touchdown passes compared to just nine interceptions, and he's one of just two quarterbacks (Tom Brady) to have at least 4,000 passing yards (4,003). But at this time last season, Palmer wasn't playing at this level.
In fact, he wasn't playing at all.
Palmer tore his left ACL in early November of 2014, and missed the remainder of the season. It was the same knee that Palmer injured in 2006 with the Bengals. Despite two knee surgeries in the past 10 years and just 22 starts with the Cardinals over his first two seasons in Arizona, Palmer has come out with a vengeance in 2015, putting up MVP numbers in the process.
Sam Bradford can relate to Palmer's injuries better than most. While he's never reached out to the veteran signal-caller, he doesn't deny that the two share a similar career path and that Palmer is proof that players can overcome a significant injury.
"Obviously I've watched him," Bradford said on Wednesday. "He's been a great player for a long time, but it's been pretty cool to see someone come back from the ACL and have the success that he's had and just prove that it can be done, regardless of what people say or think."
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Palmer's impressive stats have clouded the fact that he had his struggles in Arizona upon first arriving there in 2013. Through his first seven games with Arizona, Palmer led the team to just three wins. He threw 13 interceptions and just eight touchdowns during that span. He threw for fewer than 200 yards in a game on two occasions.
Like Palmer, Bradford won three of his first seven games with his new team. He threw 10 interceptions and just nine touchdowns. In the four games since, he's gone 3-1 (having the lead in the Dolphins game before leaving with an injury), and it's clear that he's gotten more and more confident in the Eagles' offense.
"I think everyone adjusts to different situations a little bit differently," Bradford said. "It takes a certain amount of time, but (Palmer's) been a couple of places and he's had success in this league, and he's probably playing the best ball of his career right now in Year 13 or 14, but it proves that it can be done."
Unlike Palmer, however, Bradford didn't have the luxury of having a full Training Camp and offseason workout program. Palmer's injury occurred later in the 2014 season than Bradford's, but every player heals different, and as Bradford explained, there was no need to rush back to anything before the training staff felt he was ready.
"You'd always like to get more reps," Bradford said. "I think the more time you have with something, the more comfortable you're going to get, but like I said, I'm going through this process. In the spring, I don't think it would have been worth it to go out to the field and tear up my knee and set myself back physically."
After a bit of a slow start, Bradford can put his stamp on this 2015 season with his play in the final three weeks of the regular season. Palmer has played in two playoff games in his career, but Bradford has never advanced to the postseason during his six-year NFL career. As the Eagles' quarterback gains more experience and plays with more confidence here in Philadelphia, perhaps that streak can come to an end.
"Hopefully I'll continue to progress and continue to get more comfortable in what we're doing," Bradford said. "As a quarterback, the more confident you are in the scheme and what you're doing, the easier it is to just let it rip and trust yourself."