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Coming back from knee injury, Cardinals' Palmer knows he doesn't have many more years in NFL

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TEMPE, Arizona — Carson Palmer says he has rehabbed from his knee injury with "a certain intensity" driven by the knowledge that his days as an NFL quarterback are drawing to a close.

He participated in Tuesday's first session of organized team activity (OTAs) on a limited basis.

"You only get so many opportunities," he said afterward. "If you're lucky enough to get to play as long as I have, it takes you until you know you're getting to the end that you realize how small that window is and how few of opportunities you're going to have."

Palmer tore the ACL in his left knee against the St. Louis Rams last Nov. 9, ending what had been perhaps the most promising season of his long career. The Cardinals were 6-0 with him as the starter, 5-5 without him. He had 11 touchdowns with just three interceptions on the season when his knee gave way in a non-contact injury in the fourth quarter.

Palmer was limited to a few 7-on-7 reps on Tuesday. Of course he wants more.

"I've been politicking with the trainers and the physical therapist," he said. "Twelve plays just isn't enough for me. I need more action out there."

Coach Bruce Arians said he might allow Palmer to participate in 11-on-11 drills next week. The coach said he admires the "grit" Palmer has shown coming back from the injury. The quarterback turned 35 last December.

"He knows the clock's ticking," Arians said. "We all know the clock's ticking. It is for a lot of guys on this team. You get a window to make a run and most of it depends on your quarterback. Right now it's our window to make this run with him."

PHOTO: Arizona Cardinals NFL football players runs drills during team workouts, Tuesday, May 19, 2015, at the Cardinals' practice facility in Tempe, Ariz. (AP Photo/Matt York)
Arizona Cardinals NFL football players runs drills during team workouts, Tuesday, May 19, 2015, at the Cardinals' practice facility in Tempe, Ariz. (AP Photo/Matt York)

Palmer knows he has a ways to go to be ready to play.

"It's six months and two days post-op today," he said, "which is relatively early for the bone and the ligament graft I have in my knee through surgery. I still have another two months before I'm really fully cleared to do everything. But I feel great. I'm physically in phenomenal shape. My knee's strong, my body's strong, so I'm in a good spot."

If he is cleared in two months, Palmer would be ready to fully participate when training camp begins in late July.

Palmer said he always felt he was intense about his approach to the game, but the injury has made him even more so.

From the moment he was lying in bed watching the team play in mid-November, he said, " I just had a very tight focus, a very small vision, a certain intensity, a certain realness; just a certain focus about everything I do, whether it be my diet, what I do on Saturdays and Sundays as far as stretching and taking care of my body and recovering for Monday, training, studying, film watching, reading. It's just been a very focused offseason for me."

Palmer is entering his 13th NFL season, his third with Arizona.

"Thirty-five-year-old quarterbacks only play 'til they're 36, 37, 38 and I realize that," he said, "and I'm taking advantage of every second that I can."

During his reps, the defensive players got on him, chanting his name in a sing-song fashion. Palmer seemed amused.

"There was a lot of trash talking going on early," he said. "That's the stuff I miss too."


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PHOTO: Arizona Cardinals NFL football quarterback Carson Palmer runs drills during team workouts, Tuesday, May 19, 2015, at the Cardinals' practice facility in Tempe, Ariz. (AP Photo/Matt York)
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