Teammates get Dockett here — for now

Posted by Darren Urban on April 30, 2010 – 8:07 pm

Darnell Dockett still wants a contract extension. But unlike last year, when he said a “hamstring” injury wouldn’t allow him to practice (as did fellow disgruntled teammate Anquan Boldin), Dockett showed up to work out Tuesday and is taking part in the minicamp. It begged the question, what changed?

“I (lobbied) so much to get Joey Porter in here and I talked to Adrian (Wilson),” Dockett said. “This is like a family and I wanted to put my personal issues aside and just be focused. I feel like I owe it to them. I feel like I owe it to DRC, whos been here rehabbing his injury. I’ve been constantly trading texts with him. I’ve been talking to Adrian back and forth. I want to help my guys get back to where we left off last year. That’s what leaders do. At the end of the day it’s not about the contract situation but moreso my respect for my teammate.”

That may only last so long though. After Dockett (pitcured below with Gabe Watson) expressed those thoughts, he was asked if it meant he would then remain in town for the rest of the voluntary workouts. “As of right now I am here today, tomorrow, for minicamp,” Dockett said. “We’ll call it by the day.”

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A-Dub’s “new” number

Posted by Darren Urban on April 30, 2010 – 2:18 pm

Adrian Wilson, who hasn’t practiced in his standard No. 24 jersey for as long as I can remember, has switched things up again. In the past, the Pro Bowl safety would wear the No. 2 in practice. That, he said, was to remind him he was still striving to be No. 1 (It’s all about the motivation). Then the Cards came out Friday morning and suddenly, Wilson was wearing No. 9, and I was fairly certain it wasn’t to commemorate ex-teammates Dirk Johnson or Shane Boyd. Nor did I think that suddenly, Wilson was striving to be the eighth-best safety out there.

There was, of course, a good reason. Wilson is scheduled to have his number retired by his high school in early June. And Wilson’s number in high school? He was 9, of course. “I’m going throwback,” Wilson said.

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Notes from the first practice

Posted by Darren Urban on April 30, 2010 – 12:44 pm

We’ll keep some blog items coming, but here are a few key highlights after the first (quick — they were only on the field about 90 minutes) minicamp practice:

— Everybody but G Deuce Lutui was on hand. Lutui has yet to sign his tender offer. Only LB Gerald Hayes (back) and rookie LB O’Brien Schofield (knee) sat out. CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie was in the lineup, and while he didn’t look 100 percent, it was a great sign to see him playing after his playoff knee injury.

— Coach Ken Whisenhunt passed on talking about Lutui, but did talk about how important it was for the team to be together right now. QB Matt Leinart said he hasn’t talked much to his long-time teammate. “Obviously Deuce has been a big part of this team and we hope he comes in,” Leinart said. “But you’ve got to keep moving forward. Deuce understands that. Hopefully Deuce takes care of his business and we can get him back in here.”

— Leinart seemed at ease with his first chance to be the starter at this time of year in a couple of years. “My accuracy wasn’t where I wanted it to be, but for the first day, it was good,” he said. “This is fun. This is an opportunity I’ve been waiting for for a long time.”

— Some interesting lineup points from the first run-through (with an emphasis that this is still way early in terms of worrying about the depth chart). Michael Adams was running at starting cornerback across from DRC, with Greg Toler as backup. Whisenhunt again emphasized Toler would have to earn any starting job. Rashad Barksdale is backing up DRC for now. The first five offensive linemen, from left tackle across, were Levi Brown, Alan Faneca, Lyle Sendlein, Reggie Wells and Brandon Keith. The second unit from left to right were Jeremy Bridges, Rex Hadnot, Ben Claxton, Jonathan Palmer and Herman Johnson.

— The rookies, as usual, have to fight their way up. Dan Williams is behind both Bryan Robinson and Gabe Watson, although as Robinson noted, “I told (Williams), ‘If I’m playing a lot more than you this year, that means you’re not doing your job.’ ”

— New secondary coach Donnie Henderson has no problem making sure his point gets across, even if it is to DRC or Adrian Wilson. That’s for sure.

— Larry Fitzgerald, joking around about all the new faces at the beginning of the practice, yelled out to rookie tight end Jim Dray — who is wearing No. 81 — “I see you, Q!”

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Planning to pass the torch

Posted by Darren Urban on April 30, 2010 – 10:11 am

If you haven’t had a chance to check out the rookie-reporting video, it’s a pretty good look of behind-the-scenes. The best part to me was when the camera caught veteran nose tackle Bryan Robinson meeting rookie nose tackle and first-round pick Dan Williams for the first time.

“You’re the guy I came back to mentor,” Robinson said to Williams. “You’re the guy that’s going to take my spot — and I want you to do that. I really do. I’m going to help you as much as I can.”

Those words have to be music to the ears of coach Ken Whisenhunt.

— As a P.S. for anyone coming out to Fan Fest Saturday (gates open at the Tempe complex at 9 a.m., practice is at 10:45), in addition to the normal Cards’ gear on sale, there will also be a special “historical” store for anyone interested. All proceeds will go to Cardinals Charities, so if you’re looking for, say, an Emmitt Smith autographed football (that’s been scanned with WeTrak, Emmitt’s own authentication system) or maybe an Anquan Boldin authentic jersey, those will be available.

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Schofield has a name to remember

Posted by Darren Urban on April 29, 2010 – 4:53 pm

All the players came streaming in to the complex today to get physicals, take their head shots for the media guide, and generally get prepared for minicamp, which starts tomorrow.

So it was the perfect time to ask fourth-round pick O’Brien Schofield — the linebacker who blew out his ACL and who could end up sitting all of 2010 to heal — what was the deal with his name, because even he knows the name conjures up a red-headed Irish guy. But there is a story at the heart of such a name.

To begin with, O’Brien is his middle name. His first name is Alacce, pronounced a-LAY-see-a. His father Anthony is in the military, and was stationed overseas when O’Brien was born. Anthony called back to the States to discuss his baby’s name. “He said, ‘I want you to name my son Alaceo Brian Schofield,’ ” Schofield said. “My mom heard it wrong, and made it Alacce O’Brien Schofield.

“The Schofield part is actually Irish, but not the O’Brien part,” he said.

Nobody could figure out how to pronounce Alacce, though. “My middle school and high school teachers used to butcher my name so bad,” he said. “Going to the dentist, they’d call out for Alicia or Alisha. I hated it.”

So he told people to call him O’Brien, which he still uses — although for the most part, he said, he has morphed into simply O.B., a nickname he prefers, and one he hopes sticks in the Cardinals’ locker room.

“I hope they don’t give me no crazy rookie nickname,” he added with a laugh.

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As minicamp arrives

Posted by Darren Urban on April 29, 2010 – 11:24 am

It feels like we were just here, prepping for minicamp, waiting for Beanie Wells to arrive from the airport for his introductory press conference, wondering what Fan Fest would be like coming off a Super Bowl appearance. The years certainly zoom by.

But this minicamp, for so many reasons, seems more intriguing that most. Many years there is a storyline or two that excites; in 2006, Matt Leinart’s first time on the field, last year it was about Beanie. But for sheer number of important and interesting topics to follow, this one may reign. A few of the key things to pay attention to starting tomorrow (minicamp is two practices Friday, two Saturday, one Sunday morning):

Lining up on offense: Adding Alan Faneca to the offensive line mix has really made that unit tops to watch. Faneca will be in there, that much seems obvious. How will Levi Brown do moving to left tackle from the right side? Who is the right tackle — Reggie Wells? Brandon Keith? Jeremy Bridges? Can Herman Johnson make a play? Does Deuce Lutui sign his tender and force the Cards to keep him on the field? Where does Rex Hadnot fit? Offensive line coach Russ Grimm told me “we will play the best five.” Who will that be?

Small-school corners: DRC is already a lock, hailing from Tennessee State. Now the other starting corner is probably going to be Greg Toler, from Saint Paul’s in Virginia. Toler did well in short stints as a rookie, but he has to prove he can hold up. And with Bryant McFadden gone, who steps up as a nickel guy?

Those inside ‘backers: Can Daryl Washington show something early? Will the pressure of replacing Karlos Dansby fall to Paris Lenon? And what about a guy like Ali Highsmith — can he make a run at playing time while Washington grows up in the NFL?

Oh yeah, there’s the quarterback: It’s Leinart’s time to take control of the QB position. But Derek Anderson has a little something to prove too, and he’s probably anxious to show that outside of what had become a toxic situation in Cleveland. Anderson should push Leinart. The Cards really need Leinart to respond in a good way.

There are other things to watch too, like how Dan Williams looks at nose tackle, or if Andre Roberts can outperform unknowns like Ed Gant, or even what the outside linebackers look like with Joey Porter and possibles such as Stevie Baggs and Mark Washington.

(And fans obviously can take a look at the public Saturday practice at Fan Fest; click here for all the details).

Football is here again.

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Grimm outlook on the line

Posted by Darren Urban on April 28, 2010 – 5:33 pm

I talked a little bit to offensive line coach Russ Grimm today about Alan Faneca and the offensive line. More details tomorrow after Faneca’s press conference, but here were a couple of notes:

— No shock, but even though coach Ken Whisenhunt pointed out Faneca can play other positions, Grimm said the newcomer will definitely play guard.

— Interestingly, Grimm was throwing out some possibilities out there and mentioned Reggie Wells playing tackle. With Faneca on board, it sounds like Wells could be in the right tackle mix with Brandon Keith and Jeremy Bridges.

— Grimm smiled when asked about all the linemen at his disposal. He loves the idea of competition, perhaps even more than Whisenhunt does. Watching Grimm work his new group of guys might be the most interesting part of the offseason.

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Leinart’s new address

Posted by Darren Urban on April 28, 2010 – 2:32 pm

Matt Leinart has moved into a different neighborhood.

The Cardinals’ locker room is, for the most part, separated into positions. Leinart has long been along the wall closest to the equipment room, tucked between Kurt Warner on the end and Brian St. Pierre among the quarterbacks. But Warner is gone — Derek Anderson took that stall — and St. Pierre isn’t coming back. And that gave Leinart a chance to search for different real estate. He’d wanted to move in with the offensive linemen. He’s often done sprints with the linemen since he arrived in Arizona (he still had to make quarterback times) and this was just another angle.

“I just wanted to be with my lineman — simple as that,” Leinart said. “Now it’s all business. I’m not trying to do it to make a statement or anything, I’m just doing it because these are my guys. I just want them to know I’ll be a leader and I’ll have their back too. We can’t be an offense without them.”

So in the corner where the offensive linemen call home, Leinart is now between Brandon Keith — who may be his blind-side protector at right tackle — and Jeremy Bridges — who will battle Keith for that starting job.

“We welcome him with open arms,” Keith said. “He’s our quarterback. It’s weird he has moved, you have the big guys and the little skinny beanpole in between. It’s kind of funny.” (What’s also funny is that a 6-foot-5, 232-pound man can be considered a skinny beanpole, but that’s a blog for another day.)

Keith said Leinart has had a good relationship with the line, spending more time with them last season as well as the runs, “getting a feel for how all of us are.”

But does that mean Leinart has to start lifting like the linemen?

“We won’t put that on him,” Keith said. “He needs his arm for a special purpose, other than lifting weights. So he’s cool.”

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Bryan Robinson returns

Posted by Darren Urban on April 28, 2010 – 9:10 am

The roster keeps getting bigger.

The Cardinals and veteran starting nose tackle Bryan Robinson have agreed to a one-year contract, bolstering the depth at the position. Robinson is a great presence in the locker room because of his experience, and assuming he remains the starter, he can bridge the gap for rookie Dan Williams to eventually take that role. There was talk about Robinson retiring — a couple of players I talked to thought he was leaning that way — but again, it’s made a difference on the defensive line to have Robinson there to talk to about things.

Having him at nose tackle also puts some pressure on Gabe Watson to up his game, now that Williams is around. And it should do the same for Alan Branch, who is better served at end anyway.

There is still a chance the Cards bring back fullback Dan Kreider, I think, but other than that, I believe the roster is fairly set for minicamp. You know, unless the Cards surprise me again.

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What now for the O-line

Posted by Darren Urban on April 27, 2010 – 9:27 pm

The numbers don’t work.

That’s the first thing you think of: The Cards actually have too many offensive linemen. Someone is going to be left out, especially now that the Cards have signed Pro Bowler Alan Faneca. It’ll be sorted out as we go through the offseason work and then into training camp. Coach Ken Whisenhunt insisted Faneca will have to compete for his job, but of course, it’s hard to believe Faneca won’t have a starting job unless he woefully underperforms. And they wouldn’t have signed him if they thought that could happen.

So I would guess Faneca will end up at the left guard spot where he has been a long-term fixture. That displaces Reggie Wells, but Wells — who has been a regular at offseason work — could move to the right side. Yes, that’s where Deuce Lutui is, or at least, has been. This is a total guess on my part, but I wonder if Faneca would have been signed if Lutui had signed his tender and had been in place. Maybe he would have been (Whiz did say the Faneca signing was “meant to be”) but Lutui’s absence has been glaring.

If Lutui comes in and plays well, maybe Wells can play some right tackle. I doubt that, however. Brandon Keith is going to be given a shot at right tackle. Jeremy Bridges is there to compete, but I think Keith ends up there. As much as Russ Grimm has always liked Lyle Sendlein, I don’t think he’s going anywhere even with Rex Hadnot around. Levi Brown will be the left tackle.

So that’s my guess at the line, left to right: Brown, Faneca, Sendlein, Wells, Keith. I could be off-base. I’ve been before (as many of you have pointed out with my thought the Cards wouldn’t sign in Arizona). Offensive line coach Russ Grimm, with Whisenhunt, have significantly overhauled the line. It certainly looks more like a mauling line used for running now with Faneca on board, the reason Grimm wanted Faneca back after spending so much time together in Pittsburgh (pictured below).

It’s going to be an interesting path to the regular season. By the time final cuts are made, someone who I expected to be on the roster won’t be. Numbers alone won’t let that happen.

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