Rich Bartel had been stewing about it since January, when he got in his first NFL game and had Larry Fitzgerald down the field on a double-move and couldn’t complete the bomb. He thought he was going to have a touchdown on that play.
He thought about that Sunday, when, once again, he came in in relief of John Skelton in San Francisco. This time, the quarterback was able to hook up with Fitzgerald for what was finally his first NFL touchdown pass.
“It was ironic the way it worked out,” Bartel said.
Bartel tried to savor the moment. Fitzgerald gave him the ball (Fitz is good at that; he caught and then delivered after the first NFL TD pass for ex-third-stringer Brian St. Pierre too) and in private moments with his wife, Bartel said, there is celebration. Mostly though, it’s difficult when the team has just lost, and when reality sets in that his chances are few and far between.
“Moments like that help you get through it, honestly,” Bartel said. “It’s hard, week after week, you’re not dressing, or if you are active and you look at the sheet after and you are the only player on the team that didn’t get to participate. It is tough, especially when we are having the season we are having. You want to help.”
Bartel’s story is a good one, having bounced around to a handful of organizations before sticking with Arizona and getting – albeit brief – playing time. He had an idea, as Skelton’s game went sideways Sunday, he might get chance to play for a second time this season (he didn’t do much in an appearance in Minnesota).
“You just know when things are running away a little bit,” Bartel said. “Creeps up on you like a sixth sense.”
But there has to be patience there too. The backup can’t just start warming up when he hasn’t been called upon. He was encouraging to John Skelton, but as the game slipped, he realized he needed to start getting his mind right if he did have to go in.
“I was sitting on the sideline thinking, ‘Good Lord, I wish there was a switch I could flip,’ ” Bartel said. “I was cold, wet, my lower back was stiff. It isn’t easy to just get into the flow of the game.”
Bartel will take what he can get in terms of playing time. He felt he was close to making something happen in San Francisco, and there is more to lament after a third-down pass to Early Doucet in the end zone glanced off Doucet’s hands with a little more than three minutes left, a second TD pass that could have made the end of the game a bit more interesting.
For now, he just has the one, getting the ball he expected to get since Fitz “has enough of his own.” He’ll have the ball painted to commemorate the occasion, and put it up … well, somewhere, since it’s lonesome, with Bartel’s milestone memorabilia sparse.
He plans on getting more, though.
“It won’t,” Bartel said, “be the last one.”
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