With the best record in the NFL and a freshly signed three-year, $50 million contract extension which included $20 million guaranteed, Arizona Cardinals QB Carson Palmer was back on top of the world. Just as things were on the upswing for Palmer, the door shut, check that slammed on him.
By now, the entire football world knows that Palmer is out for the season with a torn ACL. The injury happened against the St. Louis Rams on a play that Palmer went virtually untouched. Palmer was almost immediately taken to the locker room following the injury and tests earlier this week confirmed the diagnosis that everyone had feared.
This is a crushing blow for Palmer as he was just returning to the top of his game after stooping to levels of NFL obscurity. Palmer was exiled in Cincinnati following a disagreement with management and then spent a year and a half with the Oakland Raiders, one of the least desirable destinations in the league.
Luckily or unluckily for Palmer – depending on how you look at – he’s been through a similar pattern of events before. Earlier in his career while with the Cincinnati Bengals, Palmer was at the peak of his craft as a former Heisman Trophy winner and No. 1 overall draft pick. You name it and Palmer had it, including a nine-year contract worth just shy of $119 million.
Then, just 10 days after that contract was finalized, Palmer suffered the same injury to the same knee, although it was more significant the first time around as both Palmer’s ACL and MCL were affected.
While it’s indeed a crushing blow to Palmer, it might not be quite as crushing for Arizona. The Cardinals have full confidence in backup Drew Stanton, who’s already proved himself to a certain degree going 2-1 as the starter earlier this year. That lone loss came on the road against the Denver Broncos in a game where Stanton also left injured after suffering a concussion.
As the door slammed on Palmer, that same door swung wide open for Stanton, for the second time this year. This time, though, the door won’t be closing as the Cardinals will be Stanton’s team to lead for the remainder of the season – providing that his own health stays intact.
While Stanton is no spring chicken, he isn’t exactly a battle-tested veteran either. In his eighth NFL season, Stanton has started only seven games, three of those coming in Weeks 2-4 of this year.
Stanton played the role of backup first with the Detroit Lions from 2007-2011 then landed with the Indianapolis Colts in 2012 where he was introduced to Bruce Arians. Stanton’s journey included a brief eight-day stint with the New York Jets, who acquired Tim Tebow at the time, prompting the trade of Stanton to the Colts.
But regardless of the inexperience that Stanton has being a starter in the NFL, he has plenty of other experience that can help him overcome that. His time with Arians, widely known as a quarterback genius, certainly helps his case. The fact that Stanton has embraced the role of being a backup and is more involved than many of his counterparts around the league does also.
Arians and the Cardinals believe that Stanton can be the guy and pick up right where Palmer left off. Most of the time, believing is half the battle, and Stanton has already passed that test with flying colors – both on his own and with the support he’s received from his teammates.
After all, the Cardinals as a team have made a habit of overcoming obstacles this season and as long as Stanton follows that lead, he and Arizona will be just fine.
Door shuts for Palmer, opens for Stanton
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