Peterson gets the weighty message

Posted by Darren Urban on June 30, 2011 – 11:03 am

Back when he showed up at the Cards’ complex for his introductory press conference, first-round draft pick Patrick Peterson spent a good 30 minutes beforehand talking with strength and conditioning coach John Lott. Lott, who knew his time with the top rookie was going to  be severely limited this offseason, used the time to get out all the advice he’d normally deliver over a period of weeks.

Maybe that impacted Peterson, maybe not. Talking on “Chuck and Vince Live” this morning on The Fan 1060 AM, however, Peterson has trimmed some weight off his 220-pound frame and said he’d like to start off his NFL career between around 210 or 212 pounds.

“I’m kind of sick of hearing ‘You are 220, you can’t hang with the best, you might have to move to safety,’ so I kind of did it on my own,” Peterson said. “It was my decision. I want to go to camp kind of light because I know it’s a different climate in Arizona and I don’t want to be killing myself up there in the heat.”

Lott famously tells most players when he first gets them in Arizona they should drop a few pounds. Everyone has done it, from Larry Fitzgerald to Kurt Warner to Beanie Wells (pretty much every incoming rookie gets the speech). Peterson figured to be no different.

Peterson also said he worked out with Fitzgerald some  before Fitzgerald went back to Minnesota recently. And he said he is “keeping my fingers crossed” he can wear No. 21. “I gotta have 21 on my back,” he said. (That number currently is held by free-agent-to-be safety Hamza Abdullah).

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Hero in our midst

Posted by Darren Urban on June 29, 2011 – 5:00 pm

So it began, while gathered for an offseason potluck up here at our third-floor outpost, with Rolando Cantu letting us know his beloved family dog Blackie had recently passed away. It turned out to be a story about a lot more.

Rolando, the Cards’ manager of international business ventures, always seems to have good stories to tell. He’s always out doing things that provide good story fodder. This time, though, it was all because of Blackie. Originally, Rolando was going to bury the dog in his backyard — Cantu lives in Maricopa — but eventually changed his mind. He and his neighbor instead climbed in Rolando’s truck to bury Blackie in the desert. The pair headed south and got way out there — some three miles beyond Papago Road. It was desert and nothing else.

This was Sunday afternoon. Driving on the way back from laying Blackie to rest in the blazing heat, the pair came upon a car that had clearly just flipped over in the sand, far from any paved roads. An older teen — 18 or 19 — struggled to climb out with three other boys in the distance running away (it turned out later they were running for help). Rolando and his friend went to help the boy who remain. The right part of his head, was — and I don’t want to get too graphic here — separated to the point where Rolando took the kid’s shirt and the pair used it to take turns holding everything together.

Then they tried to call for help. In the 911 call, Rolando made sure the dispatcher understood they were much too far for an ambulance to help. Sammy (they were able to talk some to the kid and get his name) wouldn’t make it that long. A helicopter had to be sent for an air evacuation. When the operator asked where they were, Rolando couldn’t help much, at this nowhere place in the desert. He explained approximately where they were and left his phone on, hoping it could be tracked.

Sammy’s grandfather eventually showed up (the other boys had run some three miles in the desert back to the family’s house) and it was certainly touch-and-go as Rolando continued to both hold Sammy’s head and keep him talking. The helicopter made it — it was dark by now, so when the copter made it into view, Rolando flashed the lights of his truck and made sure they saw the scene — and Sammy was airlifted away.

As of today, Rolando didn’t know for sure how things turned out, although he was trying to track down that answer (in all the chaos, he and the boy’s grandfather never traded names). Rolando did note one thing — as difficult on his family as it was to have Blackie die, if he hadn’t, and if Rolando hadn’t decided at the last second not to bury him in the backyard, Rolando and his friend wouldn’t have been there to help save a life.

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Revisionist History: Denny’s thoughts on the Bears

Posted by Darren Urban on June 28, 2011 – 5:18 pm

The latest in a series of offseason posts looking back:

What I remember most is that it seemed to come out of nowhere.

Before the tirade that let everyone remember Denny Green was who we thought he was, we had already gone through five or six minutes of his postgame press conference on that fateful Monday night. It had been an ugly ending, but Denny – who usually was grumpy with an edge after losses – seemed calm, almost shell shocked as the questions came.

Then came the query that set him off, a question that should have led Denny to a good place – one about what the Cards saw in the Bears’ offense that allowed the defense to dominate and forced QB Rex Grossman into six turnovers. Like a boulder rolling downhill, Green started slow and as the anger built, the response grew into its epic ending, when Green bellowed how the Cards “let ‘em off the hook!”

Quick side story – Denny had a similar moment in training camp that year. The day rookie holdout Matt Leinart finally signed, two weeks into camp, tension was building on when he would do so. I was told Green was going to go off on Leinart in his lunchtime presser, and lo and behold, that’s what happened. Denny was asked about how linebacker Karlos Dansby’s injury was doing. A five-minute monologue later, Green was talking about what a shame it was that Leinart wouldn’t play in New England that weekend for the preseason game, when Kurt Warner would and when Tom Brady would, and Green clearly was irritated Leinart wasn’t there. Wonder if Denny knew Leinart was about to sign? Regardless, I don’t see the Bears’ rant as that calculated.

But back to the crowning moment in Denny’s Arizona tenure. The roots of the speech came back in August – a week after that New England trip – when the Cards beat the Bears in the third preseason game in Chicago and both Warner and Leinart played well. Grossman was terrible against the Cards, so much so that the Chicago fans booed him relentlessly. That was what was rattling around Green’s mind less than two months later.

The Cards were already ornery because of how things were going. After winning the first regular-season game at University of Phoenix Stadium, the Cards had lost four straight. Warner had been benched for Leinart. The Bears were coming to town with a 5-0 record. The big story during the week was actually Darnell Dockett signing a contract extension (although Leinart’s first start the previous week against the Chiefs caught everyone’s attention.)

Bears coach Lovie Smith was asked about Leinart’s good game in the preseason and talked about that game meaning nothing, as a “glorified practice.” Green, hearing this, clearly didn’t agree and said as much, although it wasn’t exactly “who takes the third game of the preseason like it’s bull.” At least, not yet.

Then came the game. The Cards dominated, and they lost. Green calmly answered most of the questions and then the one hit him the wrong way, especially with the leftover irritation with Smith’s comments percolating all week and the frustration of the season building (for instance, kicker Neil Rackers missing what should have been a game-winning field goal that night).

While the world watched – over and over – Denny’s rant and it was repeated everywhere, the fallout was quick. Offensive coordinator Keith Rowen was demoted the next day. The Cards’ season ran off the rails, and by the time the Bears made it to the Super Bowl, Green was out and Ken Whisenhunt was the coach. Super week, Denny’s words continued to echo, as everyone kept saying, in some way shape or form, the Bears were who we thought they were.

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Some room for “The Plan”

Posted by Darren Urban on June 27, 2011 – 2:23 pm

Several times this offseason both general manager Rod Graves and coach Ken Whisenhunt (and president Michael Bidwill, for that matter) have talked about the plan the team has in place once the offseason starts. Both Whisenhunt and Bidwill have used the term “aggressive” when it comes to free agency, and that will help given the situation that the Cards have a lot of work to do to firm up a roster in what figures to be a short time period.

It’s impossible to know what is “aggressive” and how the plan will play out (and part of that includes the moving parts once everything is able to begin; for instance, a trade for a quarterback complicates/affects things more than a straight free-agent signing of a QB would). The Cardinals will have some room to maneuver, however. ESPN’s John Clayton, in fact, thinks the Cards are one of the teams best suited to get things done given their potential salary-cap room (and every labor report seems to believe there indeed will be a salary cap once football resumes).

Writes Clayton, “The Cardinals are in great position to be players in free agency and the trade market. They have $37.38 million of cap room along with a current payroll of $85.76 million. They have the fourth most cap room of any team in football, giving them plenty of incentive to trade for quarterback Kevin Kolb and give him a huge long-term contract.”

The other teams in good shape, according to Clayton are the Redskins, Seahawks, Panthers and Eagles. The teams not in such good shape? Bengals, Bucs, Raiders, Cowboys and Jets — although it’s funny, the Bucs and Bengals land on the list not because they have poor cap room but actually because they may have too much, given their current roster situations.

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It’s official: Fitz lands at No. 14

Posted by Darren Urban on June 26, 2011 – 6:06 pm

I know many people were wondering, but wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald finally landed on the NFL Network’s Top 100 current players at No. 14. I think that speaks to how well Fitz is respected around the league, especially since the Cards had a down year last season. Not shockingly, the presenter for Fitz’s video segment was Chiefs head coach and former Cards offensive coordinator Todd Haley, who developed a special bond with Fitz during Haley’s two seasons in Arizona.

“One of the hurdles we had to get over with Kurt (Warner) was to get him to throw the ball up to Larry even when he’s not open and he’ll make the play,” Haley said. “Those ball skills, along with the great hands, allow him to come down with the ball when others don’t.”

The eerie ending: Haley talks about how sure he would have been that, had Warner been able to get off that last Hail Mary pass in the Super Bowl — Warner was sacked and fumbled — Fitz would have come down with the jump ball and provided a miracle finish for the Cards. I don’t know if that would have been the case, but gosh, it would have been nice to see how it developed.

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Scheduling a look back for a look ahead

Posted by Darren Urban on June 24, 2011 – 9:11 am

Our own Jim Omohundro will be putting together a series of web videos starting today that highlight the Cards’ 2011 schedule by looking back at a few of the highlights from games against that team in recent years past. For instance, Jim’s first piece is about the Cards and Panthers, who will visit University of Phoenix Stadium Sept. 11 to open the 2011 season (and yes, I am staying optimistic it happens). On the video are looking at three Panthers’ games of the past — wins in Carolina in 2001 and 2002 (Jake Plummer! Pat Tillman! Freddie Jones!) along with the game no one will forget, the playoff road trip against Carolina after the 2008 season. That game, of course, brings up one of the best quotes ever — Panthers coach John Fox about QB Jake Delhomme, after the Cards forced Delhomme into six turnovers. “He picked a bad day to have a bad day.”

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Revisionist History: Whiz’s arrival

Posted by Darren Urban on June 23, 2011 – 4:23 pm

The latest in a series of offseason posts looking back:

Despite the results of 2010, the Cards are still in the midst of their best stretch of football since moving to Arizona – which, of course, coincided with the hire of Ken Whisenhunt as head coach.

It came together relatively quickly. Dennis Green was fired the day after the 2006 season ended, and even though the players did their due diligence in taking the blame, ownership clearly had their thoughts on how the Cards had evolved – letting Green go, but extending the contract of GM Rod Graves and basically saying the roster was good enough with which to win, whoever the new coach was going to be.

Whisenhunt was one of the first candidates in to talk to the Cards – among the other candidates were new Panthers coach Ron Rivera and current Colts coach Jim Caldwell – and when Whiz first showed up, Bill Cowher hadn’t yet resigned (that was to come a day or so later, with Whiz as a potential replacement) and the Falcons were still considering him. By the time Russ Grimm arrived for an interview himself, Cowher had stepped down and Grimm was also a Steeler possibility.

Eventually, the Steelers moved in a different direction and Whisenhunt was brought back for a second interview, along with Mike Sherman (who has since become a college head coach). Rumors were flying that the Cards wanted Sherman, but that never happened and in fact, the Cards insisted Whisenhunt had already become the top choice. Less than two weeks after Green was fired, Whisenhunt was named the new coach and, as then-tackle Reggie Wells said, the Cards could “move on to the next phase.”

When the process started, the Cards were likely third on Whiz’s list. He was considered, after all, for the Falcons’ job and he was from the area, and he was considered for the Steelers’ job, and he had been there for six seasons already. But he insisted that after considering everything, he liked what the Cards had to offer an incoming coach. He didn’t come in boasting about potential playoff wins (like his predecessor) but a quiet confidence, saying, “we’re not trying to change the world.” His key players, part of the process in talking to Whiz ahead of time, were on board.

Then, under Whisenhunt, the Cards did some unprecedented winning, the most important aspect of the hire. And the reason that proved the decision to be the right one.

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The DRC speculation

Posted by Darren Urban on June 23, 2011 – 1:43 pm

So the latest speculation — because again, that’s all that’s available right now — is that the Cardinals could end up with Kevin Kolb as their quarterback by trading not a draft pick but cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. That was the talk a couple of days ago on Philadelphia radio station WIP (H/T to Paul Calvisi and Dave Burns on Sports 620 KTAR for the heads-up) and frankly, it’s not the first time DRC’s name has come up in such speculation. Around the draft, people were spitballing the idea the Cards would send Patrick Peterson to Philly for Kolb, and that morphed into DRC.

Some of that is connecting of the dots. The Cards need a QB and most assume Kolb is the most reasonable target. The Eagles need a cornerback. The Eagles won’t benefit from a draft pick this season, so maybe a player is a better choice. And there is no doubting that DRC’s game — at this point — doesn’t exactly fit the mentality of new defensive coordinator Ray Horton.

All that said, I would be surprised if such a deal was made.

To begin with, the Cards, who have been looking to solidify their third cornerback spot, finally seem to have that lined up with Peterson, DRC and Greg Toler. That becomes an issue all over again if DRC is dealt. Peterson hasn’t even proven he can play cornerback yet — remember, there are some who think he’ll be better suited as a safety, a la Antrel Rolle — and giving up the team’s best current corner is a pretty big risk in today’s pass-happy NFL. Also, for whatever DRC’s faults might be, his resume is still more complete than Kolb.

Finally, this kind of talk — that the Cards are “close” to getting Kolb — seems so out of place. In theory, such discussions have been on hold for such a long time I don’t see how anything could be nailed down. If the Eagles want to let Kolb go, would they rather have DRC than a draft pick? That makes a lot of sense. It also doesn’t mean the Cards would be willing to do it. Could they? I suppose. There is little question that the lure of getting a good quarterback (assuming, of course, that’s how the Cards see Kolb) could be too strong to resist, despite such a price.

DRC talked, in that brief window when he came to the facility back before the draft when the lockout was lifted for a matter of hours, that he had gained muscle and was ready to take on Horton’s new defense. I still think the plan is to revamp DRC and make him a part of potentially a very good cornerback corps.

I also still think that we’re going to continue to talk about stuff like this until the labor deal is settled and we know for whom Kolb is going to play in 2011.

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Adams is money when it comes to tackling

Posted by Darren Urban on June 22, 2011 – 11:25 am

It’s been mentioned more than a few times that cornerback Michael Adams is pound-for-pound perhaps the best tackler the Cards have on defense. Now there are some stats to back it up. A new study by shows the defensive players who are most effective in making the tackle after a pass reception, and “Money Mike” is listed as the second-best cornerback in the NFL, percentage-wise, in 2010. Adams is credited with 47 percent “successful” tackle rate (14 in 30 chances), behind only the Eagles’ Asante Samuel.

(Clarification: The success rate means of the 30 tackles Adams made on pass catchers, 14 were considered successes. FO’s Aaron Schatz said Adams had three missed tackles last year, about average.)

Adams has shortcomings because of his size, but there are good reasons why he has stuck on the roster. One is his superb special teams play. Another is his fundamental tackling skills, which would only seem to help in his quest to stick around seeing that new defensive coordinator Ray Horton has professed his love for defensive backs who can tackle.

The Cards actually had a handful of defenders who landed on the “best” lists for tackling on pass plays. Adrian Wilson was on the best list for safeties (although third safety Rashad Johnson was on the “worst” side) while Paris Lenon tied for the best percentage (54) among linebackers and Daryl Washington also ended up on the best linebackers list.

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Revisionist History: Aeneas authors Young’s last chapter

Posted by Darren Urban on June 21, 2011 – 4:17 pm

The latest in a series of offseason posts looking back:

It was the hit that changed a little history, at least for the 49ers, and the Cardinals were the ones that delivered it.  There is some irony there, given that the two are rivals now, because back in 1999, they most certainly weren’t.

Still, the concussion-inducing shot absorbed by then-49ers quarterback Steve Young by cornerback Aeneas Williams ended Young’s career, and hasn’t been forgotten.

Back in 1999, the Cards were coming off their magical 1998 playoff appearance. The 49ers were still one of the best teams in the league. San Francisco was due to visit Sun Devil Stadium in a game that was rare on many levels. It was “Monday Night Football,” only the third time the Cards had been on MNF since coming to Arizona (and long before 49er-Cardinal games became practically annual Monday night viewing). Playing the 49ers didn’t happen often. The Cards were still in the NFC East. The 1999 game was only the third time SF would play in Arizona – although the first one remained (and still remains) a classic for Cards fans.

Then came the game. Young had piloted the Niners to a 17-0 when, late in the first half, Young was sandwiched by cornerbacks Williams and J.J. McCleskey coming on blitzes from each side. Williams drilled Young in the chest, and Young’s head banged into a teammate’s knee on his way to the turf. He was down and out, replaced by an unknown named Jeff Garcia, who threw for just 30 yards while the Niners held on to a 24-10 win.

Young was worried about his future, but wanted to keep playing football. Even the following June, Williams talked about how he wanted Young to keep playing. But a few days later, Young finally was forced to admit his career was over, while Williams recounted that night. “I remember it being really quiet, and seeing him laid out on the field,” Williams said. Young never did play again after Williams hit him.

In 2008, the Niners came to play the Cards in Arizona for “Monday Night Football.” Williams was there as alumni captain, and Young was too as part of the ESPN television crew. It made sense to bring up the story, and Young was asked if he would talk about that night at Sun Devil Stadium. He made clear it wasn’t a subject he wanted to re-visit. I’d imagine if the same scenario came up again, in the context of today’s Cardinals-49ers relationship, it’d be an even bigger sore spot.

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