QB Carson Palmer. Photo by Tony Gonzales
Q: What do you make of this AFC West race? Three teams are 4-4 and one team is 3-5.
Palmer: It's a great opportunity for somebody this Thursday night. It isn't typically like this, a lot of times it seems like one team starts off hot and gets in the lead of just about every division, but it is great to be in the thick of it, in the hunt for it. Our team understands where we are and the opportunity that is in front of us and we expect to go out and play good football.
Q: What is it like for the rest of the team trying to get that second wind and get through the 2nd half of the season?
Palmer: Well the fortunate thing is that we had our bye week a week ago, and to have this Thursday night game two weeks after a bye week is good for us. It was a good chance to heal up; unfortunately we got some guys banged up for more long term than short term. After a loss, it is great to play Thursday night because you get a chance to forget about what happened the previous weekend and be excited about what happens on Thursday night.
Q: You have played in a lot of heavy rivalry games throughout your career. How does the AFC West compare and what do you know about the Chargers?
Palmer: I'm not real familiar with the AFC West, but it seems like every game is a rivalry game for the Raiders. It seems like we aren't liked by the Broncos, we aren't liked by the Chargers, we aren't liked by the Chiefs. I know a lot about rivalries, since college I understand that it doesn't matter what team is better on paper, or which team has more talent, or who has the higher paid players, higher drafted players; all that stuff gets thrown out the window. In these types of rivalry games when you go into a hostile environment where that team is hungry and being a team that's hungry, any team can win.
Q: Obviously the result wasn't what you wanted, but were you encouraged at all by some of things you guys were able to do in the passing game?
Palmer: Yeah, I am very excited. Obviously, the goal is to win and that was extremely disappointing, but I said this the other day, I really think the sky is the limit for this passing game. Having Michael Bush back there and when we get Darren back we will be great, but we have some young talented receivers that are hungry and want to be good. We got a taste of what we can do with some of the stuff we have been working on and we just need to keep expanding on it and keep getting better.
Q: Have you ever played with a fullback like (Marcel) Reece who can get down the seam like he did Sunday?
Palmer: Not a fullback that can run like him. He has to be one of a kind, I don't know if there is another fullback in the league like him; there's not another fullback in the league like him. He can block, he can pass protect, he can run protect, run Isos and go downhill on linebackers. He is a mismatch for safeties and he might be a mismatch for some corners because he is so much bigger. Obviously the speed is going to be a difference but also you factor in that he has about 80 or 90 pounds on some defensive backs, that's a big mismatch in of its self. I am excited about the potential with him too.
Q: How much more do you think [T.J.] Houshmandzadeh will be a part of this week's game plan?
Palmer: I think he has a good chance to play more then he did last week. I think he got his feet wet and got a taste of football, putting pads on and getting hit and getting knocked around a little bit. I haven't studied enough to know exactly what packages he is in and exactly how much he will play, but he is one of those guys that the more he's around this offense, he'll tell the coaches, 'put more on me, give me more opportunities, give me more responsibilities.' He will go as he goes; he is a veteran and has been around for a while.
Q: It seems like the one catch he made was typical of the catches he normally makes.
Palmer: Yeah, I have seen him make a lot of plays; whether it is 3rd down or 4th down, game winners, touchdowns. He has made big catches in his career and he is very routine, all the easy stuff. But he'll make a catch that you kind of have to look up at the screen during the game and see it on replay to see what he really did because he just somehow makes big plays. It's just what he does.
Q: On a play like the touchdown to [Jacoby] Ford, is that a play where you drop back to throw it and say, 'I've never thrown to him in this situation, let me see if he can go up and get it?'
Palmer: No, that was a play that we run quite a bit. I hadn't thrown it to him necessarily, I had thrown it to other spots on the field. It was just kind of a weakness of the defense in that instance. But I have a ton of confidence in him. I don't have a lot of playing experience with him, but I have seen just about every play he has made in a Raider uniform and I remember him in college, I know what he's capable of. He may be short, but he plays a lot bigger than he is.
Q: You got into a lot of scrapes with the Pittsburgh Steelers in critical situations and your other division rivalries. What is the key in a division race especially when the rivalries are as heated as they are, say in the AFC West?
Palmer: I think the key as the season goes on is to take it one game at a time. It is impossible to look past this game, but within keeping it one game at a time, you just have play your football. You can't try to change or do anything crazy or do anything special when you don't need to. And that's something we talked about with the young guys. Even though it is a big game on national television, don't do what you're not supposed to do, and that's something is easy to happen. Guys think they need to do something special like do something different on a route or in a pass protection. You just need to go out and play football and pretend that it's a preseason game or a regular season game at the beginning of the year and not get caught up in the hype of the rivalry.
Q: Do you have to be someone that provides a calm atmosphere on this team because you have so many young players who are so excitable?
Palmer: I haven't noticed that yet. I know it is a young team, but everyone is pretty even keel. Denarius Moore doesn't say a word and he is one of the better players on this team, I'm sure you guys know he doesn't talk much. Jacoby Ford is the same on Sunday as he is on Tuesday morning waking up, probably. This isn't a group that is overly confident or overly expressive. They're just kind of, 'let's go to work, let's grind, and let's have fun on Sundays, but let's just be ourselves.' Guys don't act too out of character on Sundays.
Q: Has that made it easier for you to get adjusted to them?
Palmer: Yeah, just being a young group, there's sometimes you have to motivate guys and stay on young guys, but it couldn't have been an easier locker room to walk in and be a part of the team.
Q: A lot has been made about you coming in and learning the playbook. How was it physically last week, playing four quarters for the first time in a while? How did that go?
Palmer: It was different. I hadn't been hit in nine months, so it's always a little different. But it kind of felt good actually to get knocked down to the ground. I hadn't been knocked down in a while, so it felt good to get knocked on the ground and get my jersey dirty. I was definitely sore on Monday morning, but it was good sore.