LAKE FOREST – The notion of taking mental repetitions, Jordan Palmer admits, can sound a bit unconventional.
But after spending parts of three months in the offseason studying every single snap Bears quarterback Jay Cutler and former backup Josh McCown took last year, Palmer insists there is value in taking in everything he can – even when he's not on the field.
As of now, Palmer is the prime candidate to serve as Cutler's primary backup after McCown signed a free agent deal with Tampa Bay in the offseason. And yet as prepared as the five-year veteran and career reserve quarterback is to move into the No. 2 spot in his first full year in Chicago, Palmer has spent the past two weeks being forced to soak more in from the sidelines.
For the second straight week, Palmer did not participate in team drills during Wednesday's organized team activity, sidelined with a strained right pectoral muscle. Palmer referred to the injury as frustrating and said that if he played any position other than quarterback, the nagging injury wouldn't even be an issue. Jerrod Johnson took most of the second-team snaps during Wednesday's two-hour practice open to the media.
But six days before the Bears mandatory minicamp begins next week, Palmer again finds himself - for the most part - in observation mode, readying himself for what is bound to be a crowded quarterback competition.
It's a scenario Palmer – who has made four NFL starts, the last of which came in 2010 with Cincinnati – is accustomed to. Palmer saw significant time in the Bears preseason game against Cleveland last year, but was cut before the season started. He was re-signed in October, though, when Cutler sustained a groin injury against Washington. Palmer spent the remainder of the season the Bears' 53-man roster.
"In my position, I've had to compete every single year since I was in high school," Palmer said Wednesday. "I've had to compete to beat somebody out, I've had to compete to keep my job. So whatever the situation is or how everybody looks at it, I'm just focused on each day.
"Right now, I'm just trying to get back into the game."
Palmer's injury may have played a role in the Bears signing Jimmy Clausen to a one-year deal last week. The addition of Clausen puts five quarterbacks on the Bears roster between Cutler, Palmer, Clausen, rookie David Fales and Johnson.
Now as the presumed No. 2, Palmer said once he is healthy, he will be able to make the most of all of the mental reps he has gained since he arrived in Chicago last season. Palmer spent his time last year watching everything Cutler and McCown did, knowing in some way, it would one day pay off.
"It may sound dumb to the average fan when you get a rep without getting a rep," Palmer said. "But being in the league as long as I have and being in a backup role....there's kind of a course of action to that."
Bears coach Marc Trestman told the Chicago Tribune over the weekend that he told Palmer he was planning on bringing in another quarterback to enhance the competition at the position. But Palmer, who said his focus is on getting healthy by resting his shoulder before minicamp, said he can't afford to get shaken up with who the Bears put in the quarterback room, knowing ultimately that he's the one in charge of maintaining his position as Cutler's backup.
Trestman's advice: Don't get wrapped up in anything else that's going on.
"(Preparing to be the back-up) is 100 percent of my focus right now," Palmer said. "Anything else is stuff I can't control and so I'm not going to focus on that."