“It's been a whirlwind,” Palmer said Tuesday evening. “I understand what's expected of me. I know what playing quarterback is about, and it's about winning. I want to come in a contribute and do whatever I can to help this team.”
He wasn’t the only one preparing to step up. The Raiders’ switch, born of necessity, is one of several involving starting QBs in the NFL this week: The Vikings have gone from Donovan McNabb to Christian Ponder, the Denver Broncos are expected to go with Tim Tebow over Kyle Orton and the Washington Redskins have benched Rex Grossman in favor of John Beck. The Seattle Seahawks are preparing to start Charlie Whitehurst, although Tarvaris Jackson has not been ruled out because of a strained pectoral muscle.
The Raiders weren’t saying definitively whether Palmer would start Sunday in a division game against the Kansas City Chiefs, but offensive coordinator Al Saunders said in a radio interview Wednesday morning that Palmer would be on the field “as long as he's breathing.”
That figures, since the Raiders put so much on the line, trading a 2012 first-round pick and a conditional second-rounder in 2013 for Palmer. (If he can lead the team to the AFC Championship Game, that will become another first-round pick.) It’s a steep price for a guy who will be 32 in two months and has thrown 52 interceptions in his last 57 games.
His coach believes in him. Hue Jackson coached him at USC and was an assistant during Palmer’s years with the Cincinnati Bengals.
“This guy can play and he knows how to play the game and he knows how to elevate the players around him,” Jackson said. “There's no question you go on offense as good as your quarterback is. I think he's one of the best and that's why he's on this football team now. I didn't bring him here because he was just a guy sitting out there. I brought him here because I think he can help this team win a championship.”
They all say that.