Arizona Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer was packing for training camp last week when he realized just how different his situation was than in recent years.
For the first time in about six years, he said, he entered camp comfortable with an offense and at ease with his surroundings and teammates.
"It's been awhile since I've had real stability without chaos going on, whether it's in the locker room, whether it's changing locker rooms, whether it's changing staffs and offenses," Palmer said.
"This is the first time in a while that I've had this comfort and this calmness about myself going into a season, going into a training camp."
Palmer and Cardinals coach Bruce Arians believe that calmness is going to help an offense that struggled during the first half of last season. Palmer progressed as the season went on, a big reason the Cardinals won seven of their last nine.
"He is very resilient," Arians said. "The Detroit game sold me. He threw a bad interception for a touchdown and he was fine on the sideline. We go down and score 9 points and win the game. That's when I knew, this guy, he has what it takes."
Arians thinks Palmer has more talent around him than he did a year ago, even though there will be at least three new starters on the offensive line: left tackle Jared Veldheer, left guard Jonathan Cooper and right tackle Bobby Massie.
The Cardinals also are faster on offense. Andre Ellington is more dynamic than last year's starting running back, Rashard Mendenhall. Receivers Ted Ginn, Jr., and John Brown have brought much-needed speed to the position.
"I think we improved personnel wise," Palmer said. Just getting Coop (guard Jonathan Cooper) back is big. The addition of Jared, the addition of Teddy and John Brown. Just getting some guys that we didn't have last year who give us a different dynamic.
"And then guys like Mike, big (receiver) Mike Floyd, just having a really good off-season. I think (guard) Paul Fanaika had a really good off-season. Watching the two (right) tackles battle it out. There's some competition there.
"The system, it will never be perfected but there is a great comfort level there and there are expectations to take that to another level as each day of camp, each week of camp progresses. It was a great off-season."
First practice: July 26
Camp ends: Aug. 22
--As was the case last year, the Cardinals do no organized stretching once practice starts. Players are expected to stretch on their own and be ready when the horn blows to start practice.
"If a Doberman jumped out of a car with a gun, your ass wouldn't be stretching," Coach Bruce Arians said. "You'd be running."
--QB Carson Palmer is known for being cool, calm and collected on the football field. But when it comes closing time at Disneyland?
"Crowds, I'm not good in crowds," Palmer said. "I almost had a mental breakdown, I almost lost my cool at Disneyland one time when the park was closing, and I turn around and saw just a sea of people coming at me and a stroller full of kids.
"I just freaked out. I freaked out. We were doing the parade and all of a sudden, the park closes down. I had kids eating ice cream and all over the place. I turn around and just saw -- it felt like 700,000 people, it was probably 7,000 - but it felt like a sea of people. And between myself and the gate there was another 7,000 people. I don't do well in those situations."
Good-naturedly, he explained why.
Larry, different position," Dockett said. "He plays wide receiver. Can play that (expletive) as long as you damn want. Jerry Rice played what, 18 years and (expletive)?
"And Larry is always in shape. Larry can probably be 20 years in the (expletive) league. He never gets hit. He always falls down. He don't get tackled. "
Fitzgerald is also friendly with many players in the NFL, it was noted.
"Of course," Dockett said. "Get Pro Bowl votes and 600 receiving yards and be the starting wide receiver in the Pro Bowl. He's the (expletive) friendliest guy I've ever (expletive) met in my life.
"But my position is different. That position, you ain't going to have no friends. I'm very blessed at it. Unfortunately, I'm not 185 and 6-3 and can run and catch fade routes all game. I do the dirty work. I'm all good. I'm thankful for it. Somebody's got to do it."
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
--DB Tyrann Mathieu (knee) is on PUP to start camp but he expects to be off the list before the season. Mathieu likely won't be ready for the season opener. The Cardinals are targeting week five, after a bye, for Mathieu to return.
--NT Alameda Ta'amu (knee) is on PUP and there is a chance he could be ready by the start of the season.
--RB Andre Ellington has a firm hold on the starting job but he won't be a traditional running back. He will run some between the tackles but the Cardinals will work hard to get him isolated in space against linebackers and safeties.
--TE Troy Niklas opened camp with a soft cast on his right hand. He suffered a broken bone there in the spring. Niklas will wear the cast about 10 days, coach Bruce Arians said.
--WR John Brown, a third-round pick, impressed on the first day of training camp. His speed is impressive and he seems to have a good grasp of the offense.
--OLB Alex Okafor is running with the first unit since John Abraham is late reporting because of a personal matter. Okafor had an impressive spring.
--SS Deone Bucannon isn't with the starting group for a couple of reasons. Tony Jefferson impressed this spring, and Bucannon missed some time with turf toe.
UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS (not tendered offers)
--SS Yeremiah Bell (not tendered as UFA).
--C/G Mike Gibson (not tendered as UFA).
--TE Jeff King (not tendered as UFA).
--RB Alfonso Smith (not tendered as RFA).
--TE Kory Sperry (not tendered as UFA).
--DE Ronald Talley (not tendered as RFA).
--DE Everette Thompson (not tendered as ERFA).
--RT Eric Winston (not tendered as UFA).
RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: None.
EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS FREE AGENTS: None.
DRAFT CHOICES SIGNED
--S Deone Bucannon (1/27): 4 yrs, terms unknown.
--TE Troy Niklas (2/52): 4 yrs, terms unknown.
--LB Kareem Martin (3/84): 4 yrs, terms unknown.
--WR John Brown (3/91): 4 yrs, terms unknown.
--QB Logan Thomas (4/120: 4 yrs, terms unknown.
--DL Ed Stinson (5/160): 4 yrs, terms unknown.
--WR Walt Powell (6/196): 4 yrs, terms unknown.
--TE Jake Ballard: Not tendered as RFA; 1 yr, terms unknown.
--LB Marcus Benard: Not tendered as RFA/1 yr, terms unknown.
--K Jay Feely: Potential UFA; $1.02M/1 yr.
--CB Bryan McCann: UFA; 1 yr, terms unknown.
--DE Frostee Rucker: $2.145M/2 yrs, $590,000 guaranteed.
--LB Matt Shaughnessy: UFA; terms unknown.
--NT Alameda Ta'amu: Potential ERFA; $570,000/1 yr.
--P Dave Zastudil: Potential UFA; $2.95M/2 yrs, $545,000 SB.
--TE John Carlson: FA Vikings; $4.65M/2 yrs.
--CB Antonio Cromartie: FA Jets; $3.5M/1 yr, $1M SB/$250,000 RB.
--RB Jonathan Dwyer: UFA Steelers; $795,000/1 yr, $65,000 SB.
--LB Larry Foote: FA Steelers; 1 yr, terms unknown.
--WR Ted Ginn: UFA Panthers; $9.75M/3 yrs.
--C Ted Larsen: UFA Buccaneers; $2.6M/2 yrs, $470,000 SB.
--LB Ernie Sims: Not tendered as UFA by Cowboys; terms unknown.
--T Jared Veldheer: UFA Raiders; $35M/5 yrs, $6.25M SB/$17M guaranteed.
--S Anthony Walters: Not tendered as ERFA by Bears; terms unknown.
--CB Javier Arenas: UFA Falcons; 1 yr, terms unknown.
--LB Jasper Brinkley (released).
--CB Antoine Cason: UFA Panthers; 1 yr, terms unknown.
--G Daryn Colledge (released/post-June 1 designation).
--LB Karlos Dansby: UFA Browns; $24M/4 yrs, $14M guaranteed.
--TE Jim Dray: UFA Browns; $5.625M/3 yrs, $2.25M guaranteed.
--RB Rashard Mendenhall (retired).
--LB Dontay Moch (released).
--WR Andre Roberts: UFA Redskins; $16M/4 yrs.
--RB Ryan Williams (released).
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- Larry Fitzgerald
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