Palmer gets up to speed in a hurry

  • Article by: CHRIS MILLER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: November 19, 2011 - 12:51 AM

After sitting out to start, the veteran QB was called upon by the Raiders to save their season when Jason Campbell went down.

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Carson Palmer was magnificent in his third appearance for the Raiders, throwing for 299 yards on 20 passes against the Chargers on Nov. 10.

Photo: DENIS POROY, AP

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If you spent the first six Sundays of the NFL season kicking around your house watching football, then you have a lot in common with Carson Palmer.

The difference is Palmer will be the starting quarterback for the Oakland Raiders on Sunday against the Vikings and you, well, you still will be kicking around your house, watching football.

Palmer's promotion from couch potato to leader of the AFC West leaders happened in a hurry. Oakland lost quarterback Jason Campbell to a season-ending broken collarbone Oct. 16 and figured backup Kyle Boller wasn't the answer.

"Do you just go get someone to fit in? Or do you get someone who you think can help you truly win?" coach Hue Jackson said. "We went out there and got the best guy out there, which is [Palmer]."

Palmer, under contract to Cincinnati, declared himself retired rather than return to the Bengals after owner Mike Brown pointedly refused to trade him. Brown changed his tune when Oakland gave the Bengals a 2012 first-round choice and a conditional second-rounder in 2013 (it becomes a first-round pick if the Raiders make the AFC title game before then).

Palmer got an early-morning text on Oct. 18 at his home in Southern California and relieved Boller in the second half of a 24-0 home loss to Kansas City five days later. After a bye week when Palmer "spent all my time studying," he started Week 9 when the Raiders fell to visiting Denver 38-24.

But last week, the Raiders went to San Diego and won 24-17 as Palmer passed for 299 yards.

"It couldn't have been an easier locker room to walk in and be a part of the team," Palmer said at his Wednesday press briefing. "[I'm] getting more and more comfortable.

"I've been playing quarterback a long time. I understand the expectations, I understand the pressures, and I'm used to it. I've been doing it for a long time."

Palmer's transition was hastened because the Raiders (5-4) frequently use a no-huddle offense.

"It's the same offense [with the no-huddle], we're not changing too much, it's just a little faster tempo," said running back Michael Bush, who had 157 rushing yards and 85 receiving yards vs. the Chargers playing for an injured Darren McFadden. "It's hard coming in at quarterback to catch up with all the plays and the formations and all that stuff, but he's been doing a good job."

The Raiders reworked Palmer's contract through 2014, making it worth $43 million, although only $7.5 million is guaranteed.

"We haven't seen the best of him yet," said Jackson, the first-year head coach who was an assistant when Palmer played at USC.

In addition to getting sharp on the field, Palmer tried to become a guiding force in the locker room. "It's weird, trying to be a leader quickly," he said. "I've never been in this situation before. I'm not sure anyone has."

Palmer believes his throwing arm is at full strength after tearing elbow ligaments in 2008. Against the Chargers, he averaged 14.95 yards per attempt, a Raiders record. Rookie Denarius Moore had five catches for 123 yards and two touchdowns.

"It's been great," Palmer said. "Just a different attitude, a different organization; sometimes, that's what players need."

Said Jackson: "When you lose your quarterback and one of the biggest leaders on your team, there's an adjustment period ... and we're through that process, and the guys understand there is an opportunity to do something great this season."

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