ELKHART — It's been a hectic two seasons of pro football for Nathan Palmer.
Since becoming an undrafted free agent signee by San Francisco in 2012, the Elkhart native has earned practice squad roster spots in Indianapolis, Miami and Denver. Palmer hopes to keep his slot as the Broncos gather Monday, April 21, for the beginning of the team's OTA — organized team activity.
The fun, return-home-and-relax time is over and the real job begins. The NFL Draft is set for May 8-10 and Denver's mandatory mini-camp will run June 10-12. The former Elkhart Central and Northern Illinois University standout knows he has work to do.
Palmer offered his take on the 2013 season and his hopes for 2014 — from the Richie Incognito-Jonathan Martin bullying drama in the Dolphins' locker room to Denver's humbling Super Bowl loss in New York.
How frustrating was your time in Miami?
"It wasn't my favorite place to be. Player wise, they were great guys. I just don't think they were on the same page. There are a lot of things they did down there, being on the practice squad, that was a new experience for me compared to other places. I was on the practice squad when I started off at San Fran and that was a great place to be on a practice squad. In Miami, that was the first time I sat in the stands and I felt like I wasn't a part of the team. There were a lot of things that happened down there ... it just wasn't a good fit for me at the time. I was struggling coming back from injury, I was already frustrated with the season. There was a lot of stuff that kept piling on. Great city. Love the city, love the people. It was kind of hard to get fans out to the games."
Did the Dolphins-Incognito-Martin bullying scene go too far?
"I saw it, but I didn't think it was as bad. I don't want to take a side because bullying is such a serious thing. I believe if you're over 300 pounds and you're 6-3, you should never be bullied. I will not lie. It all goes back to a fraternity. There are things that go on in the fraternity that people don't agree with. Maybe it was just how I was raised, but somebody will only do as much as you allow them to. Me being a little guy, I'm not going to let a big guy ... I don't care if he's big, short, small, same size as me, if you say something my mom or sister or my family that I don't want to be said, I'll let you know."
Did Jonathan Martin break the NFL "code" with his actions/reactions?
"Yes. Anybody that knows anything about football knows the O-line is the closest knit group. Anytime you can't talk in the O-line, something is wrong. Those are the guys, they will fight any other team, they will fight any teammate together. Come out to any football practice ... college, high school ... the O-line sticks together. You might see one wide receiver get in a fight with somebody and none of the other wide receivers will join in. If an O-lineman gets in a fight, they all are in. No question. And to be honest, that's when you see problems, that's why sacks happen because they weren't close. If you looked at the text messages that go back between me and Ricky Jean (Francois) or TY (T.Y. Hilton of the Colts) you wouldn't think we were friends sometimes. It goes back to a thousand text messages between two males, grown males that have families ... That's no enemy. I respect the situation, I see the sensitivity in the situation, but I just can't respect a guy like that in the locker room."
What's the prospect for staying with Denver?
"I got a chance to get a spot. As long as I stay healthy and do what I need to do. That's been the whole thing, to get Peyton (Manning) to believe in me and to be comfortable with him being out there. I've got to work on the same things from college ... catching the ball consistently. I think I did a lot better this year and people tell me I look a lot better, the best they've seen. It's getting Peyton to be like, 'OK, I can throw the ball anywhere to this guy and he'll make that grab. I'll throw it into double-coverage and he's going to go in there and get it. That's the kind of confidence he has to have in me. With me, I have to expand my catch radius. Like Demaryius Thomas, you throw it three feet in the air and he's going to go get it or you could throw it almost down to the turf and he's going to go down and get it. That's something I struggled with."
You weren't on the Broncos long, but how tough was the Super Bowl loss?
"Anytime you watch is hard. I'm the kind of guy where I've always wanted to help. You see how hard they all worked leading up to the Super Bowl and you see the result we put out there. It was very disappointing. For guys like Champ (Bailey), he's not coming back. Guys like Dominque Rogers-Cromartie, Peyton Manning, guys I grew up watching, you never want to see them not be able to win the big game. I asked myself, 'What could I have done better to help?' I definitely shed a tear after that game."