Former Card Ollie Matson passes away

Posted by Darren Urban on February 19, 2011 – 8:08 pm

Running back Ollie Matson, a one-time Chicago Cardinals No. 1 draft pick and Hall of Famer who made six Pro Bowls, died Saturday at the age of 80.

Matson is a member of the Cardinals’ Ring of Honor and was the star of the Chicago version of the franchise from 1952-58. He was then traded to the Los Angeles Rams for an astounding nine players prior to the 1959 season. Matson never missed a game in his six seasons with the  Cards (he sat out the 1953 season while in the military; h/t to reader Mike) and rushed for 3,331 yards and 24 touchdowns while catching 130 passes for 2,150 yards and 24 touchdowns in that span. He added nine touchdowns on kick returns. Matson also won a pair of medals as a sprinter in the 1952 Olympics.

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Getting “antsy”

Posted by Darren Urban on February 18, 2011 – 10:09 am

Coach Ken Whisenhunt was right when he noted that we are creeping into the time of the offseason where players — a few weeks removed from the season — begin to “get antsy” and begin to start coming back to the facility here and there. Now, obviously the labor issues put a crimp in that a little bit, but there have been a couple of guys making appearances, lifting weights, being around.

Normally, that’d pick up right after the combine (the offseason weight-training program usually begins in mid-to-late March, depending on how deep the team went during the season). Obviously, if there is a work stoppage, players won’t  be coming around. But for now, there is the normal curiosity. “They want information, ‘What are we going to do?’ ” Whisenhunt said. The Cards are still piecing together what they are going to do, and multiple meetings are going on now, not only to have new DC Ray Horton sketch out his new defense but for all the coaches to continue assessing the current roster through video review (as well as meetings to plan out a free agency strategy).

At this point (and doesn’t the season finale feel a lot longer ago than six weeks?) I think everybody gets  a little antsy to get going on 2011.

P.S. In a quest to find out what you guys like/want video-wise on the site, (which is the base for all the team websites) has a fan survey it is hoping you will fill out. So if you can take a moment and click here to answer a couple of questions, it’d be appreciated.

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Rhodes becomes a Hall of Famer

Posted by Darren Urban on February 17, 2011 – 10:33 am

There’s been so much talk lately about the Hall of Fame. This post isn’t about that. It’s about safety Kerry Rhodes getting his own ticket into the Hall of Fame. One for pro football too, although it’s not like he’ll have a bust next to Russ Grimm. That’s impossible, since Rhodes is still playing. No, this is for the pro football Hall of Fame in Kentucky (which is, notes the press release, the only state to have its own pro football Hall).

Rhodes, who played in college at Louisville, will be inducted in a ceremony June 24. Also in the class is former Super Bowl-winning quarterback Phil Simms, who played collegiately at Morehead State.

“It was a pretty big deal,” Rhodes said.

The Hall was started in 2003, and already has former NFL dignitaries like former Cardinals coach Buddy Ryan (who lives in Kentucky), Steelers center Dermotti Dawson, Seahawks running back Shaun Alexander and Falcons center Jeff Van Note.

“We’ll have our little enshrining moment,” Rhodes said with a smile. “I thought it was pretty cool, actually.”

From the press release about the Hall class: “KERRY RHODES is an Alabama native who played college ball at the University of Louisville, where he was one of the greatest defensive players ever to play for the school.  He was drafted by the New York Jets, and was ranked #29 of the top 500 players in the NFL by SPORTS ILLUSTRATED in 2007.  He is currently with the Arizona Cardinals.  He is known both for his work for others through his foundations, (The Rhodes Foundation to address the Reaffirming the Hopes of Dream endearing scholars IN America’s most impoverished neighborhoods) and for his fashion sense, infectious personality and TV presence.”

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The promotion of Mike Miller

Posted by Darren Urban on February 16, 2011 – 10:30 am

Coach Ken Whisenhunt will be talking to the media later today about his restructured coaching staff now that the Cards are done moving around pieces, but the news Mike Miller has been promoted to offensive coordinator — I’m sure — comes as a relief to many fans.

What does it mean?

Again, Whisenhunt will be talking about this, but I don’t know exactly how much is going to change, or significantly change. Miller was already taking turns calling plays on Sundays. Whether or not Russ Grimm remains “running game coordinator” or not probably doesn’t matter either. He’s still going to have significant say in building that game plan; I remember a couple of years ago standing in an Indianapolis hotel lobby with Grimm after we had both arrived at the scouting combine and the news had been released that “running game coordinator” had been added to his title. Grimm just kind of smiled and said it wasn’t a big deal, because his role wasn’t really changing. I expect the same now.

I also don’t really think (and I know I’m gonna hear about this from some of you) that Whisenhunt calling plays — when he was calling plays — really affected him as a head coach during games. You know what did affect him on game days? Quarterback play (among other things). And it’s going to directly impact Mike Miller too.

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Feely goes into labor

Posted by Darren Urban on February 15, 2011 – 3:07 pm

Cardinals kicker Jay Feely, the team’s player representative, has been part of some of the talks thus far this offseason regarding the NFL’s labor issues (including an NFLPA press conference at the Super Bowl pictured below; that’s Feely in the back row just over the left shoulder of Kevin Mawae — sorry Jay, it’s the only picture out there that included you). Some of Feely’s comments about the talks and, specifically, Panthers owner Jerry Richardson to a New York radio station, grabbed headlines. But his theme has been fairly straight-forward, a hope that reasonable minds on both sides will eventually help complete a new CBA.

That continued Tuesday when he appeared on Pro Football Talk Live, a webcasted TV show through with Mike Florio. The vast majority of Feely’s interview was about the labor situation, and he reiterated several times the need to take emotions/egos out of the discussion.

“If you go through each issue and you do it logically, you and I could sit there and we could find a way to come up with answers,” Feely said. “I did an event last week with (Cardinals president) Mr. (Michael) Bidwill after the Super Bowl out in Arizona.  We were presenting to the state legislature on a concussions bill that they are going to bring before the state senate on a return to play guideline.  Jeff Miller, who is one of the lawyers for the NFL, was out there as well.  Obviously, he and I had a lot of time to sit and talk.  You could sit there in a logical setting where you don’t have any emotions and where there are not the lawyers on both sides and come up with ideas that would be able to bridge the gap.  I just hope we are able to do that in the setting of the negotiations.”

Florio asked Feely — who is signed through the 2011 season — if he expected to return to the Cardinals. Feely said he “absolutely” did (it was a little bit of a weird question, because I don’t think there has ever been any doubt Feely will be back, especially after his excellent season) and then talked about himself in the bigger picture, having played for the Falcons, Giants and Jets, among others.

“This is interesting because I have had a great relationship with a lot of the owners on the teams that I played on,” Feely said. “I consider (Atlanta owner) Arthur Blank a friend of mine.  I consider Michael Bidwill a friend of mine.  I have a tremendous amount of respect for the Maras and for (Jets owner) Woody Johnson.

“It has changed – the feelings from 1987 to 1993 in those strike years and when that CBA was finally agreed upon.  The stories I heard from those players, there was so much hate and vitriol on both sides and so much animosity but you don’t have that anymore, for the most part, between owners and players.  You have a lot of respect.  You have a lot of mutual admiration.  You have a lot of owners and players who work together to get things done, both in the community as well as within advertising and the team structure. I am hopeful that we can go through this process without ruining these relationships.  That is part of what has made the NFL so successful is the ability for the owners and for the players to connect and to work together.”

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Cioffi officially hired as DB coach

Posted by Darren Urban on February 15, 2011 – 12:39 pm

In news that had been expected, the Cardinals have hired long-time Bengals assistant Sigismondo “Louie” Cioffi as defensive backs coach to join last week’s hire, Deshea Townsend, as the team’s new secondary bosses. Cioffi and Townsend replace Donnie Henderson (whose contract expired and was not renewed) and Rick Courtright (who had a year left on his contract but was let go).

Cioffi doesn’t turn 38 until September, but he has already coached in the NFL for 16 seasons, including with the Bengals since 1997. He spent time coaching both with new defensive coordinator Ray Horton and Dick LeBeau, so those ties remain strong. He got a chance to meet a lot of his new players Tuesday; defensive backs Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Adrian Wilson, Kerry Rhodes and A.J. Jefferson were all in the building.

I don’t expect the Cards to make any further hires on the coaching staff either.

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Immortalizing Cards

Posted by Darren Urban on February 15, 2011 – 9:25 am

While the main reason receiver Steve Breaston wanted to meet comic book icon Todd McFarlane a couple weeks ago was Breaston’s love of comics, there was a side benefit Breaston didn’t know about much before he headed over — McFarlane’s company also produces SportsPicks figures, the six-inch replicas of many sports stars. Breaston got a brief talk about how the figures are made (photo to the right) and got a chance to see examples of almost all the figures the company has created (each sport’s figures are hanging on walls inside the McFarlane offices).

Given that the Cards are in McFarlane’s backyard, it’s been natural that a few Cardinals have been immortalized in plastic. It’s been easier over the past few years with bigger names and more on-field success (the franchise has come a long way since Emmitt Smith was McFarlane’s first Cards’ choice). The picture below lays out all the past Cardinals, with the knowledge there is a new Larry Fitzgerald pose set to  be unveiled in September, on sale at McFarlane’s Westgate store next to University of Phoenix Stadium.

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For now, business as usual — mostly

Posted by Darren Urban on February 14, 2011 – 9:55 am

Last week, the scouts for the Cardinals all came to Tempe for their normal pre-combine meetings. The pro personnel department still is meeting daily to talk about potential free agents, and coaches are prepping as if there will be a minicamp after the April draft. At this point, they can’t do anything else.

Obviously, there is a lot of talk of what is — and what isn’t — being accomplished between the NFL owners and players when it comes to a new collective bargaining agreement. Sometimes it’s hard not to feel pessimistic about a work stoppage. But until there actually is such a thing, each team (including the Cardinals) has to prep like free agency, for example is going to start at 10 p.m. Arizona time the night of March 3.

(Draft prep wouldn’t change anyway, because there will be a draft regardless — although it will be interesting to see if the back part of the draft changes at all. Since no players would be able to sign a contract in the event of a lack of a CBA, there would be no undrafted rookie classes until that was worked out. Each team would have their draft picks, and every other rookie would remain in limbo.)

Because there is prepping as usual, I suppose in that light it still makes sense to speculate about trades, like the fact Eagles quarterback Kevin Kolb now is on record as saying he’d like for the Cardinals to be a part of trade talks for him. So speculation and preparation will remain. Until it doesn’t.

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Talk of the tag

Posted by Darren Urban on February 10, 2011 – 4:53 pm

Today is the first day teams can place the franchise tag on potential free agents (it’s a two-week window) and it may not mean much — with the knowledge the current CBA is expiring, the NFLPA is insisting that the end of the CBA also means any tag applied now goes away without a new agreement by March 4. Nevertheless, stars like Colts QB Peyton Manning and Ravens NT Haloti Hgata are expected to get tags, just so their teams can protect themselves in case.

With the Cardinals, it’s unlikely the tag will get used. The Cards didn’t use it last year (after putting it on Karlos Dansby the previous two seasons) and  looking over the current unrestricted free agents doesn’t seem to hold any names that would draw attention. The money for a franchised player is fairly hefty (average of the top five salaries the previous year at that position), and I don’t see the Cards guaranteeing that kind of dough for a Steve Breaston, a Deuce Lutui or a Lyle Sendlein. You never know, but that how it looks from here.

And besides, it may not matter who is tagged or not.

P.S. Ron Wolfley did a long sit-down interview with new DC Ray Horton that will be posted tomorrow morning on So keep an eye out for that. (And here it is.)

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“Players make it come to life”

Posted by Darren Urban on February 10, 2011 – 1:59 pm

During Super Bowl week, Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau was talking about why his defensive schemes were so successful. There were a few reasons, but LeBeau came back a couple of times to one in particular: “The players make it come to life.”

So as Ray Horton takes over as defensive coordinator, that’s the question: What players does he have in place to have his defense – which he clearly will pattern after LeBeau’s – work? He wasn’t real specific talking about the players yesterday (and that’s only fair, he had only begun to analyze what he had). He mentioned that technique and fundamentals got sloppy at the end of the season. That can happen, but that obviously has to change.

(For now, we won’t talk about the possible short time window of the offseason due to labor problems; if there is a work stoppage, Horton won’t be able to talk to the players until it’s over. “That’s my biggest challenge, getting information to the players in a short, concise amount of time.” But that’s a topic to be attacked on another day.)

Horton also said the system was going to be “very demanding” and “very precise.”

Here’s the key, and we have talked about this before: The good players have to play good (and yes, I just butchered the English language. Making a point here). If Horton can get Adrian Wilson and Calais Campbell and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Darnell Dockett to play at a consistently high level – which I still believe all are capable of doing – then the defense is already better without any moves. If Daryl Washington, Dan Williams and O’Brien Schofield make a jump because they got playing time, you have the same thing (although you still need more linebackers).

I’ve mentioned Horton may have an advantage as a former player communicating with these guys, and he agreed that helps. “It gives you some credibility that you have sat in the same chairs they’re in,” Horton said. “It helps until they say, ‘Why’d you call that?!?’ ”

In other words, there’s a lot more that goes into the equation than similar backgrounds. We know that. Again, the cliché is that “It’s more about the jimmys and joes than the x’s and o’s.” The players, as LeBeau said, make the defense come to life. So do the Cards have the players?

“That remains to be seen, every situation is different,” LeBeau said. “But whenever you can add a person to your organization that has the depth of experience at both levels – playing and coaching – that (Ray) has, and he has been a major contributor to our success in Pittsburgh … there is no reason why, those ideas he shared with us can’t be equally effective out there.”

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