Spirited in so many ways

Posted by Darren Urban on May 20, 2010 – 1:43 pm

One of the keys to the summer workouts — like today’s organized team activity, for instance — is to make sure the focus stays put even late in the week, when the guys are ready to blast out of town for a long weekend. So it helps to have something on the line. The Cards had their intensity at the end today when coach Ken Whisenhunt pitted offense versus defense in third-down situations. The “winner” — whichever unit did its job more often — got out of running.

So there was whooping and hollering from the defense when cornerback Greg Toler broke up the first Matt Leinart-to-Larry Fitzgerald pass. And there was the same from the offense when Fitz made a wonderful one-handed grab on the sideline. There was a lot of arguing when a first down pass from Derek Anderson to Early Doucet might have come after a “sack” of Anderson. And there was an explosion of happiness from the red shirts when Money Mike Adams broke up the final pass to Andre Roberts. The coaches from the offense had to run too, which made it even more interesting.

“From the chemistry standpoint, it shows how quickly it is building with the team,” coach Ken Whisenhunt said. “Guys are getting along. They’ve already put in eight or nine weeks and I think when they get on the field and are able to do football things, there is always a lot of excitement. I said (to the team) today, the question is can we sustain this over the next three weeks. Based on what I have seen, it looks that way. The tempo, the enthusiasm is good. Guys are competing. If that becomes our nature, then this will have been very productive for us in the long run.”

Other stuff from today:

— Among the other plays that stood out were a beautiful 40-or-so-yard bomb from Anderson to Doucet over Justin Miller and a John Skelton 20-yard lob into the outstretched hands of 6-foot-5 WR Darren Mougey in between double coverage by Miller and Herana-Daze Jones. After the latter play, the air was filled with yelps of “MOO-gee.”

— At one point early in the practice, WR Ed Gant made a catch as he headed for the sideline. He gained control and sprinted upfield to finish the play — even as he was about three yards out of bounds on the field closest to the team headquarters. “We playing on an expanded field?” linebacker Monty Beisel said, turning to Gant and adding, “Watch out for the building!”

— Former University of Arizona football coach Dick Tomey — whose son, Rich, works for the team in business development — was on hand to watch practice.

— Rookie nose tackle Dan Williams continues to work with the first-team dime unit.

— Defensive tackle Darnell Dockett was clearly exasperated that his latest back-and-forth with 49ers tight end Vernon Davis caused a stir in some places, enough so that he put out this tweet right after practice: “Lol look people me and @VernonDavis85 are cool and been friends B4 the NFL and we will be after the NFL so yall stop taking shhh so serious.”

— WR Steve Breaston was sporting some very red gloves again and I figured there had to be a reason. An ability to get the attention of the quarterback easier, perhaps? Nope. Turns out that he got them from Adams. “I wore them a lot last year,” Breaston said, unsure why I was the third or fourth person to notice them today. “Maybe it’s because they’re clean.”

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Don’t even ask

Posted by Darren Urban on May 20, 2010 – 9:44 am

I guess I should have doused this yesterday, when it picked up steam and for some unknown reason became fodder for the ESPN talking heads, but Kurt Warner isn’t going to come back. All this started, by the way, through pure rumor on, not because Kurt said something ambiguous. This is what Warner said last night on Twitter: “Why does everyone think I am coming back? Do I have the wrong definition of ‘retirement’ or has it been changed in recent years?”

He’s not Brett Favre, people.

P.S. Speaking of things that make you shake your head, there is Beanie Wells’ shaved head (which you can see in this video at the 57 second mark). It’s hot outside, right? Makes all the sense in the world. But Beanie ‘fessed up, admitting the shiny dome look wasn’t intentional. Beanie apparently cuts his own hair and apparently went a bit too far up the hairline in the front. So it all had to come off. Of course, he can pull it off. I’d be afraid to unleash that look on the world. Which is probably why I don’t try to cut my own hair.

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OTA again and a Graham honor

Posted by Darren Urban on May 19, 2010 – 1:38 pm

Little bit warmer today but the nasty temperatures have stayed away so far (it is supposed to be 98 tomorrow, so …). Cornerback Greg Toler, now working with the first unit after playing behind Michael Adams in minicamp, made a nice play to break up one pass during some skeleton 11-on-11 work, and there were a couple of impressive cut-and-bounce-upfield runs by Beanie Wells and Tim Hightower.

Other bits and pieces:

— Remember the old punishment thought where if one guy doesn’t get it, the whole unit gets dinged? It looked like that happened to the defensive backs today, when DB coach Donnie Henderson got his guys to do pushups after someone (or someones, didn’t see who) didn’t get the drill just right.

— Speaking of DBs, we will have a live chat with new safety Kerry Rhodes sometime next week. More details to come.

— Coach Ken Whisenhunt on the importance of this year for fourth-year nose tackle Gabe Watson, especially with No. 1 pick Dan Williams here: “There’s no question it intensifies the competition. He understands where he has to be. So it is a critical year for him. Anytime you’re facing a numbers situation like we are with the numbers at that position, it forces you to work harder. That’s why you want it at every position.”

— For those yearning for some national coverage, Sports Illustrated’s Jim Trotter has been out for the last couple of days talking to many players. Expect something on as early as tomorrow, and an upcoming (smaller) piece for the magazine.

— Finally, punter Ben Graham got a hometown honor today when the deputy mayor of the Australian city of Geelong, Bruce Harwood, named Graham as an “Ambassador extraordinary and plenipotentiary” for the city. There’s no question Graham’s fame in the NFL has brought attention to Australia and Geelong, and Graham’s only the third person to be so honored. So he’s got that going for him.

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Dockett apologizes for shower

Posted by Darren Urban on May 18, 2010 – 12:43 pm

Last week, Darnell Dockett — Twitter maven that he is — decided that he would show himself taking a shower over the internet. Dockett acknowledged today he thought of it as a joke, and now understands it really wasn’t, not for someone in his position.

“I learned a lot from it,” Dockett said. “At first I thought it was a joke. Obviously it was not. I put my team in front of the media for things that weren’t appropriate. It was a learning experience. I’ve never been in trouble, I’ve never been in the news or on gossip sites or things like that. This was a new experience.

“I apologize to all the kids and the people who look up to me. I apologized to my team and all the players. I walked past every player individually and apologized. It’s behind us. It was a joke that I took out of character and it was wrong. I have to do better things. Even though I didn’t think it was serious at the time, I have to realize other people might not look at it like that.”

Dockett insisted “you’ll never see me on no news or media like that again, unless it’s for me trying to take someone’s head off (on the football field).”

Dockett said he’ll resume tweeting. He admitted he had to think about what things he was doing on social media, but “I’m still going to be me. I’m not going to change, it’s not going to change what I do on Twitter. I’m just going to be smarter.”

Coach Ken Whisenhunt said the team, not surprisingly, wasn’t thrilled when Dockett posted his video. “Darnell and I talked about it. I think he has handled it well after that. Obviously we weren’t real excited when it came out, but technology is changing every day … and we don’t discourage our players from having interaction with our fans and we think it’s important. But there is always a right way and a wrong way to do it.”

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Pieces before OTAs

Posted by Darren Urban on May 18, 2010 – 9:17 am

The Cardinals head out on to the field about 10:30 this morning, but until then …

— There was some concern about a rookie or two having to miss some time at OTAs because of their college graduation dates (like Beanie missing all of OTAs last summer) but the class looks intact. Coach Ken Whisenhunt said during minicamp the situation of quarterback John Skelton had to be “clarified” and apparently it has been, because Skelton was here yesterday.

— Seeing the new issue with Andre Johnson in Houston and his contract problems just serves as a reminder that the Cards aren’t the only team that deals with such things. Since I believe Darnell Dockett will be out there today (I would hope, after he’s shown up the last couple of weeks), it’s nice that for the most part, the Cards aren’t dealing with those problems (technically, since Deuce Lutui is unsigned, he’s not skipping anything).

—  Kurt Warner is getting his number retired. Nope, not by the Cards. By the Iowa Barnstormers, the Arena Football League team with which he jump-started his professional career. I was able to cover Warner’s last AFL game ever, an ArenaBowl loss to the Arizona Rattlers at then-America West Arena in 1994 1997 in which the game turned when Rattlers star Hunkie Cooper picked off a Warner pass over the middle and returned it for a touchdown. One of the things I always remembered was talking to Warner afterward and thinking how gracious he was in defeat. That opinion certainly never changed in covering him for five seasons as a Card.

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Cards add two to roster

Posted by Darren Urban on May 17, 2010 – 2:13 pm

With OTAs beginning tomorrow, the Cardinals have added a couple of undrafted rookies to the roster by signing them Monday. One is wide receiver Deryn Bowser, who took part in minicamp on a tryout basis. The other is linebacker Chris Johnson, who told his hometown paper a couple weeks ago he was coming to Arizona after spending minicamp with the Bears on a tryout basis.

That gives the Cards 85 possible players to come for the voluntary OTAs (plus one unsigned restricted free agent — guard Deuce Lutui).

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Let the rankings begin

Posted by Darren Urban on May 17, 2010 – 9:26 am

I’ve never been a big fan of NFL power rankings. Like any other pro sport rankings — or even the NCAA hoops rankings — they prove meaningless because of the playoffs (although at least the NCAA basketball rankings can influence seedings for said playoffs). But there is little question rankings can be a jumping-off point to debate. So SI’s Peter King decided to put out some May rankings, and has the Cardinals down at No. 22 and out of the playoffs.

His blurb on the Cards: “Let’s just say everything I hear about Matt Leinart is lukewarm. I don’t get a confident feel that he’ll be a good or long-range replacement for Kurt Warner, and without a strong passing game, the Cards can’t score enough to help an OK defense with some holes. Now, if Joey Porter can turn back the clock six years …”

Here’s the interesting part: King has the Seahawks 11th in his rankings, and tops in the division. He only has the 49ers at No. 19 — one spot above his “Wait ’til next year” group — so he doesn’t have strong feelings with San Francisco. He is calling the Seahawks his choice for “Turnaround team of the year.”

Admittedly, King had the Saints at 24th at this time last year and the Bears going to the Super Bowl, so take it with a grain of salt. Clearly, there are a lot of unknowns in the NFC West. Unknowns that can be discussed.

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Getting interactive and other stuff

Posted by Darren Urban on May 14, 2010 – 9:14 am

A few things to ponder while I wait for my new (and painfully expensive) air conditioner to arrive:

— Ron Wolfley, Paul Calvisi and I will be doing an offseason Cardinals Underground podcast early next week (Tuesday is the plan). We’d like to answer some of your questions. So if you have a question for us, e-mail me at, put “Underground” in the subject line and we will get to as many of them as we can.

— Speaking of things for the fans, if you have been looking for some new wallpapers, we finally have some up. Just go to this page for a cornucopia of choices.

— Is this where we get into the discussion of where LeBron plays next year?

— One point I meant to bring up in yesterday’s item on Deuce Lutui is that neither he nor the team could have foreseen the Faneca signing. No one thought the Jets were going to cut the guy. Once he was cut, however, the Cards — who had wanted him for a long time — got their man and changed the game. Like the unfortunate turn of events with the CBA that hurt Lutui’s leverage, the Faneca situation threw another wrench in Lutui’s situation.

— Personally, I don’t think Brian Cushing should have gotten defensive rookie of the year award after failing the test for banned substances. He’ll still serve his punishment of a four-game suspension, but that’s the regular season. Meaning the first crowd he has to deal with at a game will be at University of Phoenix Stadium — where the Texans open up the preseason against the Cards. That should be interesting.

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The wait for Deuce

Posted by Darren Urban on May 13, 2010 – 1:18 pm

I keep hearing from people wanting to know if there is an update on Deuce Lutui’s situation. And the answer, curiously, is no — and that’s been the standard answer for weeks.

Kent Somers does a good job breaking down the situation, but ultimately, there is only speculation because real information isn’t coming from Lutui’s side. The facts are these: Lutui was given a tender offer of $1.759 million as a restricted free agent — and he was restricted only because of the collective bargaining agreement, and the onset of the uncapped year. Bad timing, but timing endured by a couple hundred of his fellow players around the league (including Gabe Watson). He was not offered a new contract by any other team during the time allotted for restricted free agents, meaning he was/is locked into being a Cardinal unless they want to get rid of him.

As of now, they don’t.

I assumed — incorrectly — he would have made his point and signed by minicamp. Now, with OTAs starting Tuesday, it’s clear he probably won’t be signing until the June 15 deadline, the one on which if he is still unsigned the Cards can lower their tender to less than $600,000 for 2010 and still keep his rights.

Kent made the point and it bears repeating: Once the Cards signed Alan Faneca, Deuce became a luxury. They still want him and I think they still think he can be part of their long-term plans, but short-term, if Lutui didn’t show up at all, the Cards are still fine on the offensive line. They have veterans, they have all the positions covered. If anything, those guys will have to fight for playing time — which is why it is odd Deuce hasn’t signed to try and get in his two cents.

I’ve had fans openly wonder about other reasons Lutui might not be in, besides his contract status. I can say, talking to Deuce the day after the season ended about his impending RFA status, he was deadly serious about his future and looking for a deal. Usually, Deuce is good for a smile, but in that case, it was clearly a serious topic for him. What does it all mean? Well, if he waits until June 15, OTAs will be over and the offseason strength and conditioning program will basically be over as well — meaning Lutui will have essentially skipped the offseason. That means he’ll have a lot to prove when he shows up to training camp.

In the end, he still may do just that, and be in the lineup when the Cards go to St. Louis Sept. 12. But, given the abundance of offensive linemen, his decision may undercut what he has built in his first four years here.

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The rivalry according to Dockett

Posted by Darren Urban on May 12, 2010 – 4:38 pm

This is a story about a man, his tweets, and the perceived “hatred” of his rival that really isn’t.

Darnell Dockett certainly has kept things lively between the Cardinals and 49ers, recently jumping on something Niners tight end Vernon Davis said on Twitter about dominating opponents and turning it into a back-and-forth about Davis, Adrian Wilson and the Cards/Niners rivalry.

Dockett was backing up his man Wilson until some Niners’ fans got into the fray, letting Davis lob an insult and Dockett firing back. Dockett certainly hasn’t held back this offseason, talking a lot about getting another shot at the 49ers.

But here’s the thing, which Dockett laid out in a lengthy explanation in the locker room today following his workout: He wants to beat the 49ers. Bad. He’ll make that clear on Twitter often. Hate them, though? Not really.

“I don’t hate them,” Dockett said. “Actually I have a lot of respect for them. I remind my teammates all the time, when we’re out there running (in the offseason) and you’re tired, I tell ‘em, ‘Think about what it’s going to feel like in Monster Park in the third quarter and they are trying to run the ball down our throat.’ Guys who have been in that fight before, it’s like, bam, the switch turns on.”

Rather than pare down too much of what Dockett said, I’d rather let him tell the story.

— On the perception he hates the 49ers: “I am cool with a lot of their team. You don’t know that if you look at Twitter and you’ll be like, ‘Man, you really hate them.’ But I just feel like we are the best two teams in the division, a lot of people say they are going to win the division, we won it the last two years … I know what type of games they will be. I’m not crazy. I think if they played every game like they played us, they’d be undefeated. I feel if we played every game with a certain intensity that we play (against) them, we’d be undefeated.”

— On losing to San Francisco: “If you lose to a team back to back and (the games) are so competitive and you know you’ll play your best game and they’ll play their best game and they beat you, you take that personal. Especially if you are a winner in your heart. … We lost (last year). They kicked our ass. It don’t matter how we lost. I don’t plan on losing to them again.”

— On hearing from 49ers’ fans on Twitter: “I love their fans because they’ve got some ride-or-die fans. I actually enjoy reading some of their fans’ tweets because they are really disrespectful and I actually wish some of our fans would be like that sometimes too. … They say, ‘We got all these Super Bowl wins.’ I just respond, ‘Ya’ll had Super Bowl wins before I even got in the league, I don’t care about that. That ain’t got nothing to do with me.”

— On Vernon Davis and having Adrian Wilson’s back: “Vernon, you see the trash he is talking, he and Adrian, they have their own vendetta against each other. But me? I’m cool with Vernon. I see him all the time. We’re from the same area (in Maryland), I just saw him this weekend. But I’m going to ride-or-die for my teammates too. I am as loyal as they come. I’m going to have my boy’s back, because he’s not on Twitter and I know if Adrian had been on Twitter he would have spoken up. Adrian was in the weight room the other day and I told him what Vernon said and all of a sudden, he’s got 525 pounds on the squat with no hesitation.”

— On what it’s like to play the 49ers: “They’ve got street dudes on that team, they’ve got dudes that don’t give a damn, they’ve got dudes who will curse, they’ve got dudes who are going to be disrespectful, they’ve got dudes who will hold, scratch, spit on you, talk (crap) to you, be dirty —  it’s a backyard fight. To me, I love those types of games. It’s like, ‘Let the games begin.”

Is it Nov. 29th yet?

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