With a successful rookie season in the books, Los Angeles Chargers wide receiver Joshua Palmer is getting a head start on tackling the off-season schedule that comes with being an NFL player.
First up is a two-day event in Los Angeles where the Brampton, Ont., native will come together with other first-year players to sign their first batch of rookie trading cards. Palmer is still getting used to seeing his image on a trading card but is thankful for the opportunity to meet with other players and build his brand.
"Oh, it's fun. Coming to sign these cards is a great opportunity for me to get my name out there,” Palmer told TSN. “The best part is to be able to read the back of the cards and see all the different things that are written there."
Working with American trading card company Panini, Palmer‘s first set of rookie cards will detail a season where he finished with 353 receiving yards and four touchdowns. Drafted in the third round (77th overall) by the Chargers in the 2021 NFL Draft, the 22-year-old finished 10th among rookie receivers in reception yards and seventh in touchdowns.
Detroit Lions’ Amon-Ra St. Brown, Philadelphia Eagles’ DeVonta Smith, and Miami Dolphins’ Jaylen Waddle are some of the other rookie receivers who will be releasing cards at the two-day event. While Palmer has yet to speak with his contemporaries, he has had the opportunity to interact with the fans at the event and has been blown away by the response.
"It's pretty cool, there's not much talking going on yet but I think once we get started it's going to be a lot of fun,” said Palmer.
"It's quite a thing to see. Sometimes I see people with the cards and I say 'Damn, there are really people out there collecting my card.’ It's a great experience and great thing to know that people actually care."
Palmer also took time to reflect further on his rookie season, thanking veteran receivers Keenan Allen and Mike Williams multiple times for mentoring him through his first year in the NFL.
"It was definitely exciting. And challenging. I was surrounded by great teammates in Keenan and Mike,” said Palmer, on his first year with the Chargers. “They helped me from the very first scrimmage all the way to the last game. I'm very grateful to be a part of this program and I look forward to being here for the long run.”
Palmer’s first season did not get off to a fast start, as the Tennessee product caught just 15 passes over his first 11 games. As the Chargers dealt with injuries later in the season, Palmer was given a chance to step up, earning his first NFL start on Dec. 5. Over the final five games of the season, the 6-foot-1, 210-pound wideout caught 18 passes for 185 yards and three touchdowns.
Palmer once again credited Allen and Williams for showing him the ropes and helping his confidence grow alongside his amplified role in the offence.
“My confidence definitely grew. Keenan and Mike were always there telling me not to think too much about it and just to play,” said Palmer. “The nerves would hit me less and less as the weeks went on [especially] those games where I had to start, just knowing that I was able to play and compete with these guys.”
Williams, 27, is set to become an unrestricted free agent this off-season. While Palmer hopes the Chargers can keep their receiving corps intact, he says he is ready for whatever role the Chargers will trust him with if Williams ends up with another team.
“I hope Mike is back. We love Mike. But if he doesn't decide to come back, I'm ready to step up and do whatever the team needs me to do,” said Palmer. “Whether that's being the two spot or the three spot or special teams. I'm just grateful to be part of the team. And I'm grateful that they trust me so much to put me in and make plays. I look forward to whatever is going to happen.”
The Chargers’ season came to a heartbreaking end in the final game of the season, as a 35-32 overtime loss to their division rivals, the Las Vegas Raiders, eliminated them from playoff contention.
It was a tough pill to swallow but Palmer says that experience will help the team grow and come back stronger for the 2022 season.
“That game will give us a great boost going into next fall camp, knowing that we have with the guys coming back,” said Palmer. “We look forward to growing off of that last game and seeing what's going to happen next season.”
With the Chargers out of playoff contention, Palmer abstained from making a pick for Super Bowl LVI, choosing instead to focus on the 2022 season. While he didn’t have a statistical milestone in mind for his next set of Panini trading cards, he expressed his desire for constant improvement and once again thanked fans in Los Angeles, and those back in Canada, for their support.
“I just want to continue to grow and get better with certain aspects of my game. I'm not a huge stat guy in particular,” said Palmer. “My goal last season was to continue to get better every week, and as that happen my stats continued to rise. I go into every season with the same type of mindset, to consistently get better.
“I want to thank everyone for the support. It's going to be a heck of a journey and I can't wait to see what's going to happen down the road.”