ALAMEDA, CA - As the Raiders' 2011 season went down the drain, quarterback Carson Palmer had to be wondering what he'd gotten himself into.
He arrived in a hasty trade with the Cincinnati Bengals orchestrated by former coach Hue Jackson in exchange for a first- and second-round draft pick after starter Jason Campbell broke his right collarbone.
Thinking he was retired - the Bengals had assured Palmer they wouldn't deal him - he ended up going from the couch to the field with almost zero working knowledge of the Raiders' offense.
The result was predictable - three interceptions against the Chiefs, a 28-0 loss. Palmer actually played some good football for the Raiders as the season went on; he finished with 13 touchdown passes and 16 interceptions, and averaged 8.1 yards per attempt.
But the Raiders lost their way out of the division title, Jackson was fired, and in came Dennis Allen and offensive coordinator Greg Knapp. Palmer was going to be asked to run an offense with a zone running scheme that includes the kinds of bootlegs and rollouts he hadn't executed since his days in college at USC.
"Once we got a look him, we weren't worried," Allen said. "Carson's a very good athlete."
Palmer has indeed shown during training camp he has the requisite ball skills to execute the fakes, and his rollout passing - while sometimes erratic - has been improving as he does it more often.
But mostly, Palmer is enjoying familiarity with a system rather than fighting from behind.
"I didn't even read every page in the playbook," Palmer said. I didn't even read half of it. I was just trying to read the plays I was hoping Hue would call."
Palmer is enjoying the repetition he never got last year and is working on perfecting the new system.
We're going through and installing every play," Palmer said. "We've already done 'Install 1' four times, and we have 14 installs to do. And we'll do them each four times. There's no comparison (to last year) whatsoever."
General manager Reggie McKenzie and Allen have given the organization some stability for the time being following the death of Al Davis last Oct. 8. There's a clear chain of command, and Palmer rates the training camp experience as first-rate.
"The organization has figured out ways so that you as a player, all you have to focus on is football," Palmer said. "There's nothing else to focus on."
Palmer declines comparisons with his experience in Cincinnati - where ironically Jackson landed as an assistant - but makes it clear he is enjoying life as a Raider.
"I'm very happy here," Palmer said. "Everything is well run, done the right way. From a player's standpoint, the way this is being run is the way it should be run."
Quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo, back with the organization to work with Knapp after stints with the New York Jets and San Jose State, was delighted to find a 32-year-old quarterback who was receptive to new ideas.
"Carson's a really good athlete. The thing we really worked with Carson and he's bought into is his balance in the pocket," DeFilippo said. "He's done a great job of his balance in the pocket, when he's moving around, he stays level, his shoulders are square. When you see that you know he'll be accurate on the run."