— Carson Palmer has been through a lot.
It was a long, grueling three weeks in Atlanta, a season that saw him miss all but one game.
Palmer had surgery on a torn pectoral muscle and had to miss all of training camp.
The Broncos were a little more patient with Palmer, giving him more time to recover and get used to playing.
But they are now on the verge of making it two straight weeks without Palmer playing at all, which would be a season-high for Palmer in the franchise’s 15-year history.
Palmer said Sunday he has been pretty close to his normal self, and he was even more positive in his return to practice.
Palmer was back in full training gear after a six-week absence after surgery.
He’s hoping to return in time for the team’s game at New Orleans on Sunday.
Palmer will be one of the first quarterbacks to face the Saints.
He’ll be playing with the team that has allowed the fewest points per game in the NFL and has the NFL’s second-fewest sacks.
Palmer’s absence is likely to be a distraction for the Broncos, who are looking for a spark after a disappointing season that ended with them finishing last in the AFC West.
He said the Saints will be a tough opponent for him to overcome.
The biggest thing for me is getting healthy, which is going to be tough to do.
It’s not going to happen in a month.
I’m just trying to make the most of it.
Palmer, 33, said he’s been working with Broncos coach Vance Joseph and quarterback Matt Barkley to make sure he’s ready for New Orleans.
Palmer hasn’t played since he hurt his pector muscle in Week 2 and missed a Week 8 game.
He was in the middle of the season and then missed two games.
Palmer suffered a torn meniscus in Week 10 of last season, which prevented him from practicing or even playing for six weeks.
He then tore his meniscolament and tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee in Week 16.
Palmer missed all of the Broncos’ playoff games last season because of the injury, and that was before his return.
Palmer has said he’d like to return to the Broncos but hasn’t said he wants to be on the field for them again this season.
The NFL has strict rules on injuries to players, but Palmer’s injury means the Broncos will be without him for at least another week, which could be a factor in New Orleans’ success.
He is the team leader in completion percentage (69.2) and yards per attempt (8.7) with six games of 100-plus yards.
Palmer completed 33 of 54 passes for 354 yards and two touchdowns.
He also ran for 102 yards and a touchdown.
“I’ve been doing a great job of being more consistent in the offense and I’m excited about what the future holds,” Palmer said.
“Hopefully it all comes together for us, and I feel like we’re going to get this one.”
Palmer is one of five players who are under contract for the 2017 season.
They are wide receivers Emmanuel Sanders (three years, $13.5 million), Demaryius Thomas (two years, a $12.5 in incentives) and Eric Decker (three seasons, $19 million) and running back Shane Vereen (two seasons, a base salary of $1.25 million).
Vereus, who has played in just two games in his career, has averaged more than 100 yards in four of his past five seasons.
Thomas and Decker are under contracts through 2020, but both are under the age of 35.
“There’s no question that this is going be the biggest year of my career,” Thomas said.
Decker said he hopes to play a big role in the Broncos offense this season and is ready to contribute on special teams.
“Just having my body in place, I feel great about what I can do,” Decker said.