QB Hall passes tests, cleared to practice

Posted by Darren Urban on October 26, 2010 – 4:06 pm

Quarterback Max Hall passed his concussion tests today, meaning he has been cleared to practice Wednesday.

Coach Ken Whisenhunt already said Hall was the starter when healthy and assuming Hall responds OK he will face Tampa Bay Sunday. Given Hall’s struggles last weekend, the rookie needs all the practice time he can get.

No word on the other injured players. Linebacker Clark Haggans was the biggest concern after hurting his groin, both with how he limped off and the depth at his spot. Nose tackle Dan Williams also hurt his groin in the game.

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Jefferson signs, McDonald released

Posted by Darren Urban on October 26, 2010 – 1:29 pm

The Cardinals made a roster move Tuesday by swapping cornerbacks: rookie A.J. Jefferson was promoted from the practice squad while Brandon McDonald — who was brought in off waivers after the Browns cut him at the end of training camp — was released. Jefferson has always intrigued the Cards with his athletic ability, and this way, he can’t be signed away from the practice squad by another team.

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Hightower’s role after the fumble

Posted by Darren Urban on October 26, 2010 – 9:23 am

Tim Hightower sent out a tweet last night: “Take full accountability and full responsibility for all actions and set yourself to be better. Purpose driven”

That’s Hightower. He’s not going to shy away from things. He was there in the locker room after the game in Seattle, obviously not happy but still willing to answer questions about yet another fumble. The question is, even with Hightower taking full responsibility, will coach Ken Whisenhunt stick with him? Hightower was having a great game Sunday, with 59 yards on just six carries. But he lost another fumble, and then didn’t get another rushing attempt. It was no surprise.

“At some point, you have to say the fumbles are going to keep you from playing,” Whisenhunt said, acknowledging it is “tough” to sit a player who was effective. “If that’s the way it’s going, it’s going to curtail your play time.”

The big question is whether Whisenhunt actually makes the move to remove Hightower from the starting lineup and replace him with Beanie Wells. Wells, when healthy, usually gets more carries than Hightower anyway. Despite missing two games, Wells already has one more rushing attempt than Hightower. Hightower, however, has 115 more rushing yards.

But Whisenhunt wasn’t ready to attack that question just yet when talking about it yesterday, preferring to wait to watch video with the team and probably wanting to wait to discuss things with the players involved before making any moves — or staying status quo.

“Those are not things you want to make assessments on (too quickly),” Whisenhunt said. “I don’t even have a comment on it.”

Hightower, as everyone has noted before, is the consummate professional. He is exactly the type of player a team wants in the locker room, and he has been productive on the field. But again, like Whisenhunt had to give pause after Hightower’s two lost fumbles in the season opener, the coach has to weigh what Hightower provides against what has been a problem.

“When you are a team trying to grow together, you can’t afford to have those types of situations,” Whisenhunt said. “It just makes it too tough for you.”


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“Best team in the NFC” coming to Arizona

Posted by Darren Urban on October 25, 2010 – 4:26 pm

The Buccaneers had just beaten the Rams — improbably — Sunday when head coach Raheem Morris proclaimed “We’re the best team in the NFC. Yeah, I said it.” The Bucs are a great story with a 4-2 record, and Morris — who just turned 34 in September — probably was caught up in the heat of the moment (especially since Tampa has had two blowout losses at home and remains a half-game back in its own division). Certainly, the Cardinals wish they were 4-2 and not 3-3.

Then again, it didn’t seem to matter much to the Cardinals. I don’t expect this to be stuck on the bulletin board all week (although it might end up in a pre-game speech somewhere).

“That’s his opinion,” defensive tackle Darnell Dockett said. “He’s the coach of their team and maybe that can boost his team up. We are coming off a loss and I don’t feel we are the best team in the NFC. We are trying to work. We are trying to be the best team in our division so I know I’m not going to say we are the best team in the NFC. Right now we are in second place in our division.”

Running back Jason Wright chuckled when asked if he could ever see coach Ken Whisenhunt making such a pronouncement.

“There is a difference in personality,” Wright said. “Whiz is always trying to make us better, and I think he knows if you give too much credit too early, you aren’t as likely to improve. So he’d probably wouldn’t say that, even if he felt that way.”

Wright added that players “don’t usually hear” such chatter, spending more time concerning themselves with video of the other team rather than their quotes.

Besides, at this point, there may not be a great team in the NFC. I’m sure the Falcons — the aforementioned 5-2 team ahead of the Bucs in the NFC South — would disagree, but the conference certainly has a wide-open feel.

“You really can’t tell who the best team is until February when the Super Bowl comes,” Dockett said. “That’s the best team, who represents the NFC. You just hope your words don’t come back to bite you when you say stuff like that. We’re going to stay humble and that’s our main focus.”

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Whiz’s day-after thoughts

Posted by Darren Urban on October 25, 2010 – 11:33 am

Wanted to throw up some of coach Ken Whisenhunt’s thoughts the day after, before we head to the locker room to talk to some players:

— QB Max Hall will undergo the normal NFL procedures for a concussion this week (starting tomorrow). If he passes the tests and is cleared, he will start against Tampa Bay. If not, Derek Anderson waits in the wings.

— The fumble cost Tim Hightower playing time. But not only did Whisenhunt say it was too early to talk about whether Hightower’s playing time would be cut going forward (or even possibly losing his starting job) because he had yet to watch the tape with the team, it was too early to even comment on the entire situation for now.

— He doesn’t sound down on cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (who apologized for his FG block offsides that cost the Cards a first down), saying DRC was in good position a few times but that Seattle wideout Mike Williams simply made the play.

— No new updates on the two defenders with groin injuries, LB Clark Haggans or NT Dan Williams.

— He will talk to Hall about wearing gloves (not sure if that’s for all the time or just bad weather), although Hall has never worn gloves.

Much more later today.

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Seahawks aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on October 24, 2010 – 10:47 pm

Another airplane Aftermath, writing this one through the turbulence of the bumpiest charter flight I can remember (and it’s not all that fun, especially that drop we just endured). Heck, given the turbulence of today’s game, it makes sense that’s how we end up the night.

What have we learned after this trip to Seattle? Well, the defense of the last two games is what I expected. Not a second coming of the Steel Curtain, but pretty solid. I’m still not sure why the meltdowns in Atlanta and San Diego occurred, although it doesn’t matter much. Maybe it was just the idea they needed to figure out how to play with each other. Bottom line, they have to keep playing this way.

That’s because of the second major point to come out of Sunday, which is that Max Hall has quite a ways to go. The wet ball did affect him – that first interception, despite it being an admitted “bad decision,” slipped out of Hall’s hand – but that didn’t explain everything.

— Coach Ken Whisenhunt is sticking with Hall as starter, which makes sense. If you want him to learn, pulling the rug out from under him now probably makes it a major setback. Besides, Derek Anderson looks like he can flourish in the no-pressure backup role if needed.

But if this plane ride is bumpy, it’s probably nothing compared to the ride the Cards will go on with Hall as he learns.

— Alan Branch wasn’t patting himself on the back, but he looked excellent Sunday. He is playing like a guy you would trade up in the second round to choose, even if the Cards did so back in 2007 and are just now seeing major results. Branch is scheduled to be a free agent this offseason, however (as soon as a new CBA is in place), so here’s hoping this maturity and not just “Hey, I need to make sure I get a solid new contract.”

— Not sure what’s next for Tim Hightower. He disappeared, not surprisingly, after his latest fumble. He was running so well too. With one fewer carry that Beanie Wells this season (53-52), Hightower has rushed for 115 more yards (298-183). You can’t turn the ball over, though.

— Special teams captain Jason Wright is one of the smartest guys on the team. The entire NFL, I would guess. But he made a mental error Sunday. “I was supposed to let that go back to LaRod (Stephens-Howling),” Wright said of the squibbed kickoff that he tried to field at his shoetops and instead kicked it forward for yet another crucial turnover.

— The Cardinals have fumbled the ball 19 times already this season, losing 11.

— Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie was picked on Sunday as Mike Williams ended up with 11 catches for 87 yards and a touchdown (although it may be time to acknowledge the Seahawks got a steal when the 6-foot-5 former 10th overall pick Williams decided to get serious, because his size makes it a bit… uh, makes it very difficult to cover him on short routes). “If they continue to throw at (DRC) I believe he will make plays for us,” Whisenhunt said. “That’s life as a cornerback.”

— DRC has to be smarter too, twice jumping offsides on field-goal tries. One negated a block (although he probably doesn’t block it without jumping) and the other gave Seattle a first down. Whisenhunt didn’t sound overly concerned, saying pressure from the field-goal block team is one of the reasons he thinks opponents have missed some this season.

(Just not Olindo Mare, who, including kicks called back because of penalty Sunday, made seven field goals in seven tries).

— Anderson said he didn’t really have internal bleeding earlier this season, contrary to a newspaper report late last week. He said a comment was “misconstrued.”

— In case you didn’t already know, the Cards will be wearing their black uniforms against Tampa Bay in a week (and seats are still available, FYI). And yes, the black uniforms-for-Tampa is official.

That’s about all for tonight. The plane has settled down as we come in for Phoenix, the depressing day in the rain up in Seattle (and game, perfectly pictured below by cornerback Greg Toler) just about over. So we leave you with some Jason Wright optimism.

“Maybe it is a blind faith thing, but I really have confidence in guys we have,” Wright said. “I really feel things will click soon.”

Let’s hope so. Nobody wants to feel queasy. It’s already been bumpy enough.

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Breaston inactive, Doucet plays, Roberts to start at WR

Posted by Darren Urban on October 24, 2010 – 11:34 am

Early Doucet is playing but Steve Breaston is not, now that the inactive list has been announced for today’s game. Interestingly, with Breaston and Stephen Williams (back) inactive, it is rookie Andre Roberts and not Doucet who will be starting with Larry Fitzgerald.

Nose tackle Gabe Watson is also back to inactive now that Kenny Iwebema is healthy again. The rest of the inactive list:

  • QB John Skelton
  • S Hamza Abdullah
  • CB Trumaine McBride
  • C Ben Claxton
  • LB Alex Hall

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No Hayes, Schofield this week

Posted by Darren Urban on October 23, 2010 – 1:34 pm

The Cardinals did not activate linebackers Gerald Hayes or O’Brien Schofield this week — the deadline to bring them off the physically-unable-to-perform list and the reserve/non-football injury list, respectively, was 1 p.m. Saturday — so neither will be playing Sunday in Seattle. It’s really no surprise. Schofield in particular wasn’t ready. Hayes certainly hasn’t had much practice time, not with back problems/surgery that had kept him off the practice field since before the playoff game in New Orleans in January. Waiting an extra week isn’t a surprise.

Still no word on receivers Steve Breaston and Early Doucet. They were going to be a game-day decision all along.

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Friday before the Seahawks

Posted by Darren Urban on October 22, 2010 – 3:51 pm

It was suggested the Cardinals this season were a “mysterious” team. Ken Whisenhunt said that was a “fair assessment.”

“We’re working to try and figure that out,” the coach said. “Changing the quarterback sometimes changes your team and sometimes the way the games have gone have determined who we are. Hopefully we’ll build off what we did against New Orleans and play better football. That’s all we can try to do.”

Well, Max Hall, what do you think? “Yeah, I think we’re still maturing, still growing,” he said. “There is still a lot to figure out, a lot to learn. I think we are headed in the right direction.”

So here we are, about to go to Seattle (the team leaves early afternoon tomorrow) not knowing exactly who the Cards are. The bye is great when you are coming off a victory, but the extra time off always lets the previous game settle a bit. You lose, and by the time the next game arrives you realize things aren’t necessarily as bad as you thought. You win, and the opposite is true – the euphoria is gone, and you adjust to reality.

The reality is that this game against the Seahawks means a lot. It means a lot in Hall’s development as a starter. It means a lot in the Seahawks’ quest (pun intended) to regain a footing as a division power, and a lot in the Cards’ efforts to show Atlanta and San Diego were more fluke than fact.

And we get to do it in the rain …

— Whisenhunt and Hall (and everyone) seem to be confident Hall got better as the game went. You figure they want to avoid early mistakes. You want to anyway, but a) the Seahawks get a big boost when the crowd is behind them and early mistakes help that (Tim Hightower pointed out the fast starts by the Cards the last two years in Seattle pretty much killed the crowd) and b) Hall’s mistakes seem to come early anyway, so if you can dodge the landmines …

— The Seahawks have the second-ranked rush defense and the 30th-ranked pass defense. Not sure that really means anything other than they have played pass-happy Chicago and San Diego already among their five games. The Cards have to run, both because of the weather issues and because of Hall. But bottom line, the Cards have playmakers like Larry Fitzgerald and Steve Breaston, and they get the ball through passing. They can’t – and shouldn’t — be ignored.

— Hall, on the mini-version of Max mania in the Valley: “I don’t make it bigger than it needs to be. It’s fun to get it. It’s fun to be recognized and to say hi to people going to the store, but I still have to keep my head down and work. I have a long way to go.”

— The Cards have benefitted from a gimpy Matt Hasselbeck the last couple of years. He is healthy now. He also has Marshawn Lynch in the backfield. Yet Hasselbeck doesn’t feel totally comfortable, and the Cards have to use that. “I’m trying to get caught up with this first-year offense,” Hasselbeck said. “It’s been a get-to-know-you situation.”

— How much have the Seahawks changed under Pete Carroll? They have made an amazing 219 roster moves from the time Carroll took over in January, including 13 trades involving 16 players and 21 draft picks. I honestly thought it would take them longer to get their act together with so many new people.

— Guys in the spotlight Sunday: Tackles Brandon Keith and Levi Brown (because of the noise issues) and the front seven on defense. The Cards need to make the Seahawks work on offense because, frankly, that unit is still not consistent enough.

— If the Cards can win the special teams battle – and make sure Leon Washington doesn’t hurt them in the return game – it’d be a huge advantage.

— Finally, Hall was asked if he has been working on his sliding. “Work on sliding, you know, yeah … I’ll just leave it at that.” Let’s hope he gets down.  We don’t need to see any more of  Brown’s “scoop-and-score” moves this season.

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Noise and practice, signifying nothing (with the rehabbed)

Posted by Darren Urban on October 22, 2010 – 1:14 pm

No announcements yet on who is playing and who isn’t playing, which really is no surprise. Coach Ken Whisenhunt said after practice wide receivers Steve Breaston and Early Doucet will be checked out both Saturday and before the game before a decision is made. As for linebacker Gerald Hayes, he has to be put on the active roster first, and that can come no later than 1 p.m. Saturday. My guess? If Hayes is activated, he’s going to play, because otherwise, you might as well keep the roster flexibility another week while Hayes sits.

I am still pretty confident Breaston plays. Doucet has looked better, but I want to wait and see. And I wouldn’t be surprised if they hold off on Hayes for a week (although I won’t be shocked to see him play either).

— LB Will Davis (groin) was added to the injury report as questionable. Also questionable besides Breaston and Doucet are DE Kenny Iwebema (knee) and LB Reggie Walker (ankle).

— When everyone starts getting healthy, however, the eight-man inactive list (OK, seven, since third QB John Skelton will always be there) will be difficult to make.

“That’s a good problem to have,” Whisenhunt said. When you look at inactive list, especially with receivers, you think back to the first game. Larry (Fitzgerald) wasn’t 100 percent and three rookies were running around. It’s a lot different. Those (rookies) are a lot more comfortable, have a lot of plays under their belt. The decisions will be tough because now, you’re not sitting down a rookie, you are sitting down someone who has gotten reps and who you are comfortable with.”

— The Cardinals spend part of practices every week with simulated crowd noise, but they did try to ramp it up a little this week with the trip to Seattle (nice job, king of fake crowd Nate LoCascio).

“We’ve obviously tried to make it as loud as we could, to simulate it and make it as tough as you can,” Whisenhunt said. “We didn’t handle the noise as well earlier this year (on the road) and you could see as the week progressed that we got a little better in practice. That doesn’t mean we will do well in the game, but it at least helped prepare us.”

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