Kent Somers has some comments from safety Adrian Wilson this morning about Cards vets — notably Wilson and Larry Fitzgerald, but including guys like Levi Brown and Jeremy Bridges — trying to organize a three-day “minicamp” for the players as they wait out what is hopefully the final stretch of the labor impasse.
“We’re trying to get three days in, or three practices in, depending on what guys have to do,” Wilson told Somers. “We’re not trying to take up guys’ time but we are trying to get better as a team, get better as individual units.”
There is only so much the Cards can do, assuming Wilson and Fitz can gather the troops. There are only so many troops to gather (do potential free agents like Steve Breaston and Deuce Lutui, for example, take part?) and with the knowledge the probable starting quarterback isn’t even on the roster yet makes for an interesting dynamic. Then again, it doesn’t surprise me that Wilson, etc., don’t want to sit idly by.
— The news came down yesterday that because Qwest is being merged into CenturyLink, the Seahawks’ home field is no longer Qwest Field but CenturyLink Field. I re-tweeted this info yesterday, leading follower @ethanpoulsen to say “False Start Field was it’s name before…and always will be it’s name.”
As I noted on Twitter, however, the Cards have done a good job with that. The Cards have only been nailed for five false starts total in the last three visits to Seattle, and none last year (despite a bad, bad game offensively). Two other ones came from tight ends, both in 2008, by Stephen Spach and Leonard Pope. The other three were in 2009 — two by RT Levi Brown and one from LT Mike Gandy.
— Matt Williamson of Scouts Inc. breaks down the Cards’ receivers. He has interesting takes on both Breaston and Andre Roberts.
Tags: Adrian Wilson, Andre Roberts, Deuce Lutui, Jeremy Bridges, Larry Fitzgerald, Leonard Pope, Levi Brown, Mike Gandy, offseason, Seahawks, Stephen Spach, Steve Breaston
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Coach Ken Whisenhunt was on Sirius XM NFL radio today with Adam Schein and Rich Gannon, talking not only about his upcoming trip to the Persian Gulf, but also his team. Not surprisingly, he was asked about the quarterback situation. Also not surprisingly, no names were specifically mentioned, save for John Skelton, whom the coach did not rule out as potential 2011 QB. Whisenhunt did say, however, the Cards will be adding a quarterback (of course) and that when the labor stoppage ends, the Cards will be ready and need to be ready to make a move quickly.
As for who, “We are going to get the best player we can get based on how we have them rated,” Whisenhunt said, “and then we will have to adjust (the playbook) based on what kind of time frame we are looking at.” Whiz added later, “If you had a chance to get a young quarterback you think could develop into a great player for you for a decade, as opposed to a veteran player you think could come in and help you right now, you’ve got to go with your evaluation and the player you have rated higher.”
Could that mean Kevin Kolb? It could, but obviously, lots of room for speculation, since it’s impossible to know how the Cards have the (potential available) QBs ranked. Whisenhunt said a labor stoppage into August “possibly could” affect what quarterback the Cardinals chase. But “let’s say your number one(-rated) player is a player you think can help that position for a long time to come, you’ve got to take that shot. It’s hard to find a guy to play that position in this league. … Whether that player is already on the team, I don’t know.”
Whiz said he still “feels good” about Skelton. He also wouldn’t touch the recent comparison of Kolb to Tom Brady, made by current Kolb teammate/Eagles defensive end Trent Cole. All Whisenhunt has, he said, was evaluation from game video and what little he had gleaned talking about Kolb with people before the lockout started.
A few other tidbits from the interview:
— Whisenhunt said the Cards are “going to pick our spots” in free agency. The successful teams he has been a part of historically build teams through the draft and add a couple of critical free agents. That isn’t going to change. “We’re not going to go overboard,” Whisenhunt said, adding “it’s always good when you can get a couple of free agents who can make an impact not only as a player but as a leader.” The Cards will “aggressively pursue” what is needed to return to the playoffs, he said.
— Based on the length of the labor stoppage and how long teams will have training camp, the Cards have a number of different installation plans for their playbook, and the Cards are ready to pare down the playbook depending on prep time for the season. Probably obvious, but always interesting to hear.
— As for the doubters about the in-flux offensive line, “quite frankly, I like what I hear about our offensive line being poor and not being able to play very well because that’s going to motivate our guys.”
Tags: free agency, John Skelton, Ken Whisenhunt, Kevin Kolb, Tom Brady, Trent Cole
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The latest in a series of offseason posts looking back:
For this installment, we check out what was being said on the day some current Cards were drafted …
— Back in 2001, Adrian Wilson was kind of an afterthought on the first day of the draft. Back then, there were two days of the draft, with rounds one through three on Saturday. The Cardinals had the second pick overall, so offensive lineman Leonard Davis was the BIG story. The Cards also took defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch – who turned out to be a pretty good player, but after two blown-out knees and a coaching change sent him packing from Arizona – and cornerback Michael Stone. I wonder how A-Dub feels when he thinks how the great Michael Stone has a better draft pedigree than him.
Wilson was a surprise pick in some ways, because the Cards needed defensive line help more. He was raw. The Cards even briefly considered using him at cornerback at the time, believe it or not. I love the jump headline – “Could be a keeper for the Cardinals.” Uh, yeah.
— There was no question that first day of the 2004 draft turned out awesome – Larry Fitzgerald, Karlos Dansby, Darnell Dockett – but that was what was thought at the time, too. While Fitz was celebrated, looking at Dockett’s quotes from the day resonate. “I’m going to be the next Anquan Boldin,” Dockett said, referencing Boldin’s outplaying of his draft status. And he was “disgusted” that teams passed on him before he went as the first pick of the third round. Turns out Darnell was right.
— The Cards traded up in 2007 to get Alan Branch, although it seems that it took until the end of 2009 and 2010 for Branch to really hit his stride. Of course, the big story of 2007 was the decision to take Levi Brown fifth overall (part one and part two here), but at the time, it didn’t seem as big of a deal as hindsight has portrayed. Of course, that draft was also highlighted by the late pick of Steve Breaston. It’s funny to see I thought Breaston’s big competition to make the team was LeRon McCoy.
— Then there was 2008, when the Cards got DRC and Calais Campbell on the first day. Apparently, one kidney and a small school wasn’t going to scare off the Cards from Rodgers-Cromartie, and his speed didn’t hurt. All things considered, that’s been a good pick – although we all understand DRC’s need for a big 2011.
Tags: Adrian Wilson, Alan Branch, Anquan Boldin, Calais Campbell, Darnell Dockett, draft, DRC, Karlos Dansby, Kyle Vanden Bosch, Larry Fitzgerald, Leonard Davis, Levi Brown, Michael Stone, Revisionist history, Steve Breaston
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Apropos of nothing, I noticed Larry Fitzgerald re-tweeting this video the other day, and it’s fascinating. It’s a TV piece run when Fitz was a Pitt sophomore (right before he came out of school) gunning for the Heisman Trophy in 2003 (he finished second behind Oklahoma QB Jason White). More importantly, it traces Fitz’s life at the end of high school and for his year in a military prep school because he didn’t have the grades to go to college. There’s also good stuff of Fitz talking about his mother’s (ultimately losing) battle with breast cancer.
Oh, and there are lots of good pictures of Fitz with very short hair, long before the dreads.
Speaking of Fitz with dreads, he is back in Minnesota as usual this time of year working out with various fellow NFLers. Why, just this morning he put out the picture below of this morning’s workout partners — including, standing next to Fitz, Broncos quarterback Kyle Orton … wait, what?!? I mean, if Donovan McNabb was coming to the Cardinals just because he happened to work out with Fitz and the Cards at Arizona State, then Orton flying to Minnesota just to be with Fitz must mean …
OK, I can’t do it. Orton apparently has known Fitz for a long time and besides, this happens all the time (Greg Jennings has long been a regular with Fitz in Minny; why doesn’t anyone peg Jennings as a future Card?). It’s probably not a coincidence that Orton’s Broncos teammate and one-time University of Minnesota Gopher, receiver Eric Decker, is also in the picture having worked out. Maybe that’s the real Orton connection?
Orton’s dad is the fourth guy to make it into Fitz’s shot, leading to the Tweet of the day by @ScottHoward42: “Based on that Larry Fitzgerald twitpic I now think there’s a strong chance Kyle Orton’s Dad will be the Cards QB. Thoughts?”
Tags: Donovan McNabb, Eric Decker, Greg Jennings, Kyle Orton, Larry Fitzgerald
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With not much else going on, the breakdowns by sites like profootballfocus.com have been interesting reads (not that they aren’t always) and as they have gotten into pass blocking of late, some Cards have taken their lumps, most notably tackles Levi Brown and Brandon Keith (Brown was ranked as second-worstleft tackle in the NFL last season, although Jeremy Bridges’ time as pass-protecting right tackle went pretty well).
Then PFF looked at guards and centers. The Cards’ guards, in terms of pass protection, weren’t in the top 15 or the bottom 15. But center Lyle Sendlein was rated as the third-best center — behind Pro Bowlers Jeff Saturday and Matt Birk — and was caught author Khaled Elsaye’s attention enough that he noted Sendlein’s spot:
“The real surprise name near the top is Lyle Sendlein. The Cardinal isn’t surrounded by the best pass protecting talent, but he gave up just two sacks and seven total quarterback disruptions. That put him ahead of (the Jets’) Nick Mangold, who may be the best center of this generation, but finished ‘only’ sixth in this look (though how much of that can be put down to injury we’ll leave to your judgment).”
Mangold, by the way, is still in the top 10 list. I’d be curious to know how Alan Faneca — who is good friends with Mangold from their days with the Jets — would compare/contrast Mangold and Sendlein.
That said, it’s no shock the Cards have liked Sendlein so much. He is way off the radar, even though he was offensive captain this past season along with Fitz. His roughest season was 2008, and he was dealing with a shoulder injury the whole time. You can debate Brown’s status, or whether Deuce Lutui would/should be re-signed, or if Keith will make it as a right tackle. There is little question, though, the Cardinals want to keep Sendlein around (his contract has expired) and I think Sendlein would like to stick around.
Tags: Alan Faneca, Brandon Keith, Deuce Lutui, Jeff Saturday, Jeremy Bridges, Levi Brown, Lyle Sendlein, Matt Birk, Nick Mangold, offensive line
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Running back Beanie Wells was on “The Chuck and Vince Live” show this morning on The Fan AM 1060, and while he’s obviously going to portray confidence, he also made it clear he understands his opportunities to show something — at least in Arizona — are probably dwindling.
“This is definitely going to be my year without a doubt,” Wells said. “This is my third year and three strikes and you’re out, and I’m definitely not striking out. I am ready to tear it up. It’s my time and I am ready to go out and prove that.”
The funny thing is, Beanie getting off-track is really confined just to last season. He played well as a rookie and was clearly improving as the 2009 season went along. It was hard to think of him as anything but a potential breakout star as the Cards went to training camp last season. Then came the preseason knee injury in the fourth preseason game, and with the overall issues on offense all the way around, no offensive player had the kind of year they wanted to in 2010. Does Beanie take more criticism because of his high-profile and draft status? Probably. That’s how it work, however.
Like everyone else, though, Wells admitted he was “surprised” and thought it was “shocking” when the Cards took running back Ryan Williams with their second-round pick.
“I didn’t think we really needed a running back, especially in the second round,” Wells said. “But obviously they did. I just take it on as more competition and prepare the same way.” Later he added, “I wasn’t angry. You know the ins and outs of the business. If they don’t like the production at a position, they’re probably going to get another one. this game is like a candy store — if you don’t like the candy you taste, you get another piece.”
Interesting, when Beanie was asked about what he thought this meant for his job, he chuckled. “I didn’t really have a job. I wasn’t the starting running back, Tim (Hightower) was. I was just trying to compete to become the starting running back.”
We’ve talked about this before, but Williams’ arrival certainly clogs up the backfield situation. Until Williams can prove himself on the field, I expect everyone to stick around, but with Hightower’s fumbles and Wells’ apparent step-back last season, you could make the argument LaRod Stephens-Howling is the Cards’ running back on the sturdiest ground as we stand here on
July June (thanks Sando) 16.
Beanie sounded like he’s about wait-and-see too. “I don’t know what to really think about (Williams’ arrival), other than to take it in stride.”
Tags: Beanie Wells, LaRod Stephens-Howling, Ryan Williams, Tim Hightower
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The news came out today that coach Ken Whisenhunt will be one of four NFL coaches, present and past (Gary Kubiak and father and son Mora as well) heading to the Persian Gulf to visit U.S. military troops and help boost morale while they are over there serving our country. Obviously, many connect the Cardinals with the military because of Pat Tillman, but former safety/general manager Larry Wilson was one of the first players to take part in one of these USO tours (I’ve repeated posting Wilson’s Vietnam picture below, with the Rams’ Dick Bass in the middle with the beret and Dandy Don Meredith on the far right. Wilson is second from the left).
It’s different than back in Vietnam. Doing some research for this, I came across an article that quoted former Steelers linebacker Andy Russell, who apparently was in the service before going to the NFL and then went to Vietnam in 1968 for one of these trips. Russell was actually handed a machine gun and asked to ride shotgun because they didn’t have anyone else to spare. Russell even did a two-hour guard shift at the hotel, M-16 at the ready.
I am guessing Whisenhunt won’t have to deal with that, although he did say things have changed in the region — after the raid on bin Laden — since he said he’d take the trip. It was low-key for Larry Fitzgerald back in 2009 when he went too.
In the end, it doesn’t really matter how you stand on why soldiers are where they are in the world. It matters that they are willing to do a job many, frankly, aren’t. For what they do for us, it makes sense to send over celebrities — in this case, NFL coaches — to remind them their work isn’t forgotten.
Tags: Andy Russell, Don Meredith, Gary Kubiak, Ken Whisenhunt, Larry Wilson, Pat Tillman
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The latest in a series of offseason posts looking back:
“And so it ends, not with a bang, but without a kicker.”
Whenever I think back to the infamous Bill Gramatica-blows-out-his-knee game, that’s the line I remember – the lead to the column of my co-worker at the time, Scott Bordow. The play itself – which came after Gramatica booted a 42-yard field goal and then celebrated in the first quarter in New York against the Giants – has become a punchline. It’s funny though, because I remember that game for so many reasons, and Gramatica was just one.
It was 2001, after all, and a Saturday game. The night before, just about three months after the 9/11 attacks, four of us – myself and Scott, and the Republic’s Pedro Gomez and Kent Somers – went to Ground Zero after a late dinner. It was jacket weather but remarkably warm for December, and I just remember the eerie glow of the artificial lights as workers (still going around the clock) cleared debris while a small part of one of the towers remained sticking in the air. Some windows on the surrounding buildings that stayed erect were still broken.
Then came the game the next day, when the 5-7 Cards were still breathing for a playoff spot and dominated the game – only to find themselves unable to score enough to win. That wasn’t helped by the early injury to Gramatica.
He wasn’t out for the game. That’s a false memory many have. He even somehow booted a 23-yard field goal after the injury. But he tried to kick off (pictured) and couldn’t, leading to another memory – Pat Tillman as emergency kickoff man (I tried to find video. Promise. Couldn’t.) and Tillman admitted he was “stoked” to get a chance to kick. (He wasn’t very good at it though. I’ll take Tim Hightower every time.)
The Cards got a miracle fourth-and-forever touchdown pass from Jake Plummer to tight end Tywan Mitchell to take the lead (After Mitchell made his improbable catch, TV reporter Lesley Visser, who was to do postgame, leaned over the very high row above us writers in the press box and yelled, “Who was that?” She had no idea who Mitchell was. Few did). But the Giants drove down and scored with 25 seconds left for a heartbreaking loss.
Afterward, the specter of the Gramatica injury hovered over everything.
Bill was not happy with the way the whole thing was covered. He and brother Martin had always taken grief about the way they jumped for joy over every single kick, so it was natural they got jabbed for it when it turned into an injury. A couple days later, Gramatica came to talk to a couple of beat writers, but I always sensed he was pretty ticked at the media.
He seemed to get past it the following training camp, when he was remarkably back to kick. He had booted game-winners against Oakland and San Diego the year before prior to the injury, and the next year, he did the same against Dallas and Carolina when the Cards got out to a 3-2 start. Everybody got injured on the Cards that season, however, including Gramatica (his back this time) and his time in Arizona faded quickly – early in the 2003 season, he was gone. It ended, not with a bang, but without a kicker (who is most famously known for a celebration gone wrong).
Tags: Bill Gramatica, Giants, Jake Plummer, Pat Tillman, Revisionist history, Tywan Mitchell
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Figures on a day where I escaped up to Flagstaff with family to visit a life-long friend, there have been a smattering of news and notes from the Cards that I feel the need to string together in a post:
— The biggest news of the day? Adrian Wilson is on Twitter (@adrian_wilson24, and his avatar is priceless as he tries to get the point across that it is indeed his account and not a fake). When I talked to Adrian last offseason about the Twitter back-and-forth between Darnell Dockett and Vernon Davis, it was an arena he swore he’d never be a part of. Things change.
— OK, maybe that wasn’t the biggest news. It was the newest news. But Wilson also did an interview with XTRA 910’s Mike Jurecki, talking about that abductor injury he suffered last season and its affect on his 2010 season. The Pro Bowl safety said he suffered the injury “probably at the middle to the end of October” but, as expected, refused to blame the injury for any troubles he might have had on the field. That said, he noted a couple of times, “I’m a pretty good player” as an answer to the notion he was losing a step.
“It wasn’t as bad as it first happened as it was as the season went on. I’m not making excuses for the type of season I had because it was definitely unacceptable from my standards, coach (Ken) Whisenhunt’s standards and definitely the fans’ standards. I understand the fans’ frustrations … I’m not out to really to prove anyone wrong. I am a star in this league, period, so there is no question about what I can do. I am just staying focus and trying not to listen to what everyone is saying. The injury had nothing to do with the type of season I had, to be honest with you. I decided to play on it and that was my decision. At the end of the day I had to go out and produce and I didn’t produce.”
He added he will use it as motivation. “One bad season isn’t going to erase all the good things I’ve done,” Wilson said.
— By the way, USA Today rated A-Dub the fifth-best safety in the NFL, behind Troy Polamalu, Ed Reed, Nick Collins and Eric Berry.
— Wide receiver Steve Breaston, hitting it big last week with his poem about the lockout (the man is flat-talented as a writer and he can deliver a poem too), went on ESPN’s “First Take” to talk about “A League Deferred.” “Stevie Phantom” said he was frustrated with the labor situation and wanted “to get some emotions out.” About his poetry, Breaston said he’s been writing since seventh grade and performed some spoken word in New York recently. “It helps me express my feelings and is a stress reliever.”
— Former Cards tight end Leonard Pope, now with the Chiefs, saved a child from drowning.
— Former Cards defensive tackle Mao Tosi — now we are going way, way back — was featured on the “Today Show” for founding “Alaska Pride,” which raises money to help kids in need reach their potential. Tosi is from Alaska. It’s great Mao has gotten to this point in his life. I remember him as the big defensive tackle in the “crazy name” draft of 2000 (Jabari Issa? Sekou Sanyika?) and the fact he broke his tooth on Thanksgiving one year while having dinner at teammate Russell Davis’ house, and Davis made sure everyone knew it was coincidence and not his wife’s cooking that caused the dental damage.
Tags: Adrian Wilson, Darnell Dockett, Ed Reed, Eric Berry, Jabari Issa, Leonard Pope, Mao Tosi, Nick Collins, Russell Davis, Sekou Sanyika, Steve Breaston, Troy Polamalu, Vernon Davis
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The latest in a series of offseason posts looking back:
Now, there is a game in England every year, as much a part of the NFL landscape as Bill Belichick’s dry press conferences or James Harrison’s fines. Once, though, it was a big deal that the Cardinals and the 49ers were going to play the first NFL regular-season game out of the country, in Mexico City.
Back in 2005, we had the NFL’s then-COO, Roger Goodell, talking about wanting to see how a game outside the U.S would work. In a lot of ways, the Cards were a natural fit. A game against the 49ers at Sun Devil Stadium usually would only draw 35,000 or so and it would be half-empty; with the Cards set to move into University of Phoenix Stadium the next year, it made sense they would be the team to surrender a home game for the cause. That didn’t necessarily work for the Cardinals’ players, but in the big picture that usually doesn’t matter.
There were other reasons why the Cards were a match. On the practice squad was offensive lineman Rolando Cantu, the first Mexican citizen (non-kicker) ever to play in the NFL (Rolando is now a co-worker, his desk just a few cubicles down from me) wasn’t playing in the game but he was already a virtual rock star in Mexico because of his spot with the Cards. (Cantu officially played in the NFL the final game of the 2005 season in Indianapolis, cementing his legacy.)
The Cards tried to approach the journey to Mexico as just another road trip. Don’t forget, it was mixed in with the Cards’ poor 0-3 start, including an groin strain the week before in Seattle for first-year quarterback Kurt Warner. Josh McCown was back at QB, facing future Card Tim Rattay as the 49ers QB, since rookie Alex Smith had yet to win the job. Ideally, the Cards wouldn’t have given up a home game, especially since most of the 100,000-plus fans (final attendance was officially 103,467) who had a rooting interest would be rooting for the 49ers.
That changed quickly, when veteran safety Robert Griffith came charging out during introductions waving a huge Mexican flag. Suddenly, many fans who hadn’t cared about who won and who lost now took a liking to the Cards. The game started horribly, with the Cards fumbling on each of their first two possessions, both of which were returned for touchdowns. It was a 14-0 hole and San Francisco hadn’t even been on offense. But the Cards rallied, and rallied big.
McCown ended up with arguably his best day as a Cardinal (32-for-46, 385 yards, two touchdowns, no interceptions) and kicker Neil Rackers had his best day of his best season, making all six of his field-goal attempts (Rackers set an NFL record with 40 field goals, in 42 attempts, that season.) The game, by all accounts, was a success (OK, maybe the 49ers wouldn’t agree) and paved the way for the future games outside the U.S.
My lingering memory, aside from Griffith’s run? My paper at the time was still backward in its technology and I may have been the only one without a wireless capability on my laptop. I was worried about getting a landline at the stadium (The NFL did a great job of hooking me up despite those nasty long-distance rates) and it paid off – stadium workers breaking down after the game kept shutting off the wireless connections, leaving only backwards-me uninterrupted access to the internet on deadline.
Tags: Josh McCown, Mexico, Neil Rackers, Revisionist history, Robert Griffith, Roger Goodell, Rolando Cantu, Sun Devil Stadium, Tim Rattay
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