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Bidwill talks training camp, BPA

Posted by Darren Urban on January 31, 2013 – 3:12 pm

Team president Michael Bidwill is in New Orleans for the Super Bowl, and during a visit to Radio Row, touched on a subject a lot of people are wondering about: Where training camp will be held in 2013. It’s no secret the team’s contract with Flagstaff ran out after next year, and the team is currently exploring options.

Bidwill talked about some of the issues the Cardinals have had with NAU, with construction and being displaced and issues of various accommodations, and he said NAU plans to address those things. “That’s real good for them,” Bidwill told “Bickley and MJ” on XTRA 910, “because there are other competitors out there we are speaking with.”

One of those competitors is Glendale, where University of Phoenix Stadium resides. That could end up being the place the Cards go for camp, using the stadium and other possible new facilities to be built.

“They are (a viable option),” Bidwill said. “We are considering both (Flagstaff and Glendale), that’s for sure.”

As for what that might mean to the fans, Bidwill said fan access will still be important, regardless of where the Cards end up.

“The whole idea behind training camp is both a football activity where we are getting players ready for the season, but it is also a fan activity where we want to bring fans in,” Bidwill said. “There are many elements where it is great about doing it in Flagstaff, but there are also great possibilities of doing it at University of Phoenix Stadium. It could be a really a fantastic site. There are a little bit of tradeoffs, but there is no doubt (the camp experience) gets better and better each year and that is something we want to continue to focus on.”

– Bidwill had an interesting quote when talking about drafting a quarterback. He reiterated that the team needed to address the quarterback situation, but was going to leave those specifics up to GM Steve Keim and coach Bruce Arians. But he talked about the things he had witnessed in the draft room over the years. “Every time we have reached, we have made a mistake. I don’t want to reach. You start reaching for a guy rather than going for best player available, you make mistakes.”

– As for free agency, he also is leaving that to Keim, but as for being tight against the salary cap, “I know we have some flexibility and there are things we can do around the cap to make room to get better,” Bidwill said.

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A chat and some other tidbits

Posted by Darren Urban on January 31, 2013 – 10:06 am

Sure, the Super Bowl is coming Sunday. But there is still time to talk about the Cardinals, so I’ll be doing that in a chat a 1 p.m. today Arizona time (3 p.m. Eastern). If you are interested, the link is right here.

– Speaking of links, here are a couple more.

* Here’s a cool highlight package of Larry Fitzgerald’s greatest hits. Don’t forget Fitz is also up for the NFL’s Man of the Year award, which will be announced Saturday night.

* Nicole Bidwill is taking part in a charity dance competition for her friend, former Cardinals great wide receiver Roy Green, who underwent a kidney transplant. Bidwill is raising money for the National Kidney Foundation of Arizona. My cohort Josh Weinfuss is working on a story for azcardinals.com that should be posted in the next day or so, but you can also watch a video with Bidwill and Green about the situation (and maybe even donate some money.)

* Here’s a quick overview of one of the new members of the front office, Debbie Pollom, who comes to the Cards to work for GM Steve Keim after two decades with the Rams.


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Suggs’ near-miss in the desert

Posted by Darren Urban on January 30, 2013 – 10:41 am

It seems now a lifetime ago, a few years before the Cardinals would even move into their new stadium and the culture shift within the organization just beginning to take root. But the Cardinals had a high pick — sixth overall — in the 2003 draft, a need for a pass rusher and a local kid who dominated on the college level who wanted very much to play for the home team. It seemed logical that the Cards would end up with Terrell Suggs.

They didn’t, of course. The Cards instead made a trade with the Saints, swapping the first-round pick for the Saints’ two first-rounders (17 and 18) and the teams also swapped second-round picks. That actually moved the Cards lower in that round as well. In the end, the Saints took defensive lineman Johnathan Sullivan, who was a wash-out. The Cardinals took defensive end Calvin Pace and wide receiver Bryant Johnson, each of whom had limited success (although Pace to parlay a decent 2007 season into a big free-agent contract with the Jets.) Of course, the Cards’ draft was made that year when, with the second-round pick, they took wide receiver Anquan Boldin, who performed like a first-rounder from jump.

Meanwhile, Suggs, who had 24 sacks in his final season at Arizona State, was taken 10th, by the Baltimore Ravens. That turned out pretty well for both him and the Ravens, and now he finds himself in the Super Bowl for the first time. That doesn’t mean the near miss with the Cardinals doesn’t still resonate, however.

“I was disappointed because I did want to play at home,” Suggs said during media day Tuesday on the Cards passing on him, “but it worked out better for everybody.”

Suggs began his prep career at Chandler High School a few miles from the Cardinals’ facility, eventually transferring to new (and burgeoning football powerhouse) Chandler Hamilton High School where he starred as both a defensive end and running back. Then he went to ASU where he dominated. The Cardinals were still battling perception around the league as a franchise, but Suggs wanted to stay right where he had made a name for himself.

The trade didn’t come out of nowhere — rumors of the Saints deal were floating around a day or two before the draft commenced — but it did leave an impact locally. Obviously, in hindsight, Pace (or even Pace plus Johnson) didn’t equal Suggs. On the flip side, no one would have guessed that day the Cards would have actually reached the Super Bowl before the Suggs-infused Ravens. (From the file of storylines-that-could-have-been: The Ravens and Suggs lost to the Steelers in the AFC Championship the year the Cards made it to the Super Bowl.)

“We had a hint that they might do (a trade), but I was thinking that they wouldn’t,” Suggs said. “I wasn’t surprised, but like I said, it was a rumor that they might do it so it didn’t catch me all off-guard. I was disappointed when they did, but like I said, that was 10 years ago and it all worked out for the best now.”

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The chaos of media day

Posted by Darren Urban on January 29, 2013 – 12:34 pm

I have been fortunate enough to have covered a bunch of Super Bowls in the past, and plenty of media days — nine all told. On days like today, when the 49ers and Ravens are in the Superdome talking about Sunday’s game (and many, many other things), it naturally reminds me of those other times — like waiting for Cards-turned-Buccaneers defensive end Simeon Rice before he arrived some fashionably late by about 10 or 15 minutes, or bumping into Cardinals-turned-Seahawks running back Josh Scobey wandering around the sideline (the same Scobey now working here as a scouting assistant), or asking Bears linebacker Lance Briggs about Denny Green’s Monday night speech that had been made just a couple of months before.

Then there was the last one I attended, of course, in Tampa in January of 2009 with the Cardinals.

There is little question it’s a circus on media day, but in the end, it doesn’t really impact anything. It is so early in the week — and don’t forget, Tuesday is the day these players normally have off anyway — and before any practice that by the time the game rolls around, media day is a distant memory. (The players do have media sessions on Wednesday and Thursday, but those are held at the team hotels, they tend to be more low-key, and the newness factor of the week is long over.)

Maybe it’s because of the way the Super Bowl is covered/portrayed these days, but it always feels like media day is what truly kicks off Super Bowl week. So here we go.

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Reading the options of the future of offense

Posted by Darren Urban on January 28, 2013 – 10:48 am

The Super Bowl run-up this week — on both TV and in print — will be filled with a handful of the obvious stories this week: The last game for Ray Lewis, the Harbaugh brothers, and, with the 49ers becoming explosive on offense with new quarterback Colin Kaepernick, there will be plenty written and said about the read-option offense.

The conventional wisdom has long been that running quarterbacks will have a hard time having long-term success in the NFL. Defenders are faster and stronger in the pros than college. The chances of a quarterback getting hurt — and the chances that a coach wants to make sure his quarterback doesn’t get hurt — are high. Of course, that all got turned on its head this season, with Kaepernick and Robert Griffin III and Russell Wilson (to a lesser degree) all making the read-option incredibly dangerous to opposing defenses.

Where does it go from here?

It’s impossible to know for sure. I do know that defensive coordinators are going to have an entire offseason to prepare to defend it. If you are Cardinals defensive coordinator Todd Bowles, who could/will see some version of it up to seven times in 2013 — the Niners twice, the Seahawks twice, the Panthers (Cam Newton), Titans (Jake Locker) and Eagles (with new coach Chip Kelly) — you know the Cards are going to study the strengths and weaknesses carefully. There have been comparisons made to the Wildcat offense, and that version became a lot less effective the year after it hit the scene hard.

Then again, the Wildcat was done in a situation where the main ballhandler wasn’t a quarterback. The threat of the pass was only that, a threat. It wasn’t normal. That’s what makes the read-option so difficult, because the quarterback could instead fade for a quick throw. That’s why Kaepernick and Griffin and Wilson have been so good. It’s not because they run the ball well — although they do do that — but because they are accurate passers and can make defenses pay through conventional ways too. (In other words, Tim Tebow they are not.) As more and more college quarterbacks find ways to do both, it will inevitably find its way into the pro game.

Injury concerns are legitimate. The Redskins understand this. The more hits a QB takes, the more chance he gets hurt. Simple math. Maybe the success can be sustained on a football level, but on a player level, the quarterback won’t last as long. Or maybe the QB has to morph after a few years, like Michael Jordan went from going to the hoop every time into one of the best jump shooters. Pocket passers aren’t going away. It’s really about what the talent is coming from colleges and what coaches are willing to do to adapt. I doubt every team suddenly starts running the read-option, but I don’t see it going away.

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Coaching staff roundup, as of now

Posted by Darren Urban on January 24, 2013 – 11:11 am

The Cardinals still have not officially announced their full coaching staff, past the the three top assistants. Usually the team likes to wait until everything is finalized with everyone before putting out the full list, as opposed to putting it all out piecemeal. But that doesn’t mean word hasn’t gotten out here and there as coaches are at the Senior Bowl or talk to hometown newspapers or the like. So, from that, here are the names circulating in various spots:

– Wide receivers: Darryl Drake, long-time receivers coach for the Bears;

– Running back: Todd McNair, former USC running backs coach who played in the NFL and for Arians at Temple;

– Tight ends: Rick Christophel, who had been head coach at Austin Peay;

– Defensive line: Brentson Buckner, a former 12-year defensive lineman in the NFL in his first NFL job (he interned with the Steelers from 2010 to 2012, and Arians was there a couple of those years);

– Linebackers: Mike Caldwell, who had been on the Eagles’ staff with new DC Todd Bowles and played for the Cardinals in 1997;

– Pass rush: Tom Pratt, who has been working with potential draftees at IMG in recent years;

– Defensive backs: Nick Rapone, who had been DC at the University of Deleware and coached with Arians at Temple;

– Special teams: Amos Jones, who worked with Arians in Pittsburgh;

– Offensive quality control: Kevin Garver, formerly of Alabama.

There is also holdover coach Freddie Kitchens, who was coaching tight ends but now is expected to coach quarterbacks. Kitchens played quarterback at Alabama and was a senior starter there when Arians was offensive coordinator in 1997. There are other spots still open, too, obviously, as we wait for official word.


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Dockett expects to be dominant after Arians talk

Posted by Darren Urban on January 23, 2013 – 3:35 pm

His first conversation with new head coach Bruce Arians sparked hope with defensive lineman Darnell Dockett that he will be used more in positions that will allow him to be more effective and make more plays, Dockett said Wednesday, making him sound a lot more optimistic about his future with the team than he did as the season was wrapping up.

“It was a great, positive conversation,” said Dockett during an XTRA 910 interview  with “Bickley and MJ.” “He got me excited, not just or me personally, but for the team.

“He told me I was going to play some of my regular positions, positions I played when I was a dominant force in the middle, and that got me fired up.”

It was always known that Dockett’s role in Ray Horton’s scheme wasn’t what he really wanted to be doing — it took some doing to convince Dockett — and it probably didn’t play to Dockett’s true strengths. But the defense became successful and Dockett was able to

“When you play against teams the last couple years and you play against individuals you know you are better than, but you are neutralized, you can’t do what you normally do because of the scheme of the defense, people kind of forget about you,” Dockett said. “I never wanted to be an Albert Haynesworth, one of those guys who get paid a lot of money and get into the media and complain about his position. I sucked it up. I did my best at a position I was never really great at. I wanted to put the team first.”

Playing in a 4-3 or as a 4-3 under tackle, Dockett said, gives him chances to go 1-on-1 against a blocker, which didn’t happen a lot in Horton’s scheme. If Horton had remained in one way or the other, Dockett’s future with the Cardinals would have been a legitimate question. For the money he is making, the 1.5 sacks he produced probably wouldn’t have been enough even if he was doing exactly the job he was being asked to do. That changes now as Arians tries to figure out how his pieces fit.

Dockett also believes Calais Campbell would flourish more in a 4-3, even after Campbell played well in Horton’s scheme. Arians said the Cards weren’t committing to a 4-3 or a 3-4, but would use both. Dockett admitted he has yet to talk to defensive coordinator Todd Bowles and doesn’t know a lot about him, but he plans on doing that soon and is optimistic about his role. Dockett said he will be at the Super Bowl and meet with Arians in New Orleans as well.

Dockett did tell a funny story about getting a text from Arians: “Hey it’s BA, give me a call, I want to talk to you ASAP.” Dockett raised an eyebrow. “I’m looking at the text thinking, ‘I don’t even know who this is,’ ” Dockett said. “I’m not calling him back.” Arians tried again the next day, this time explaining he was the new head coach. Dockett realized his faux pas, and ended up talking to Arians for about a half-hour.

“I am training hard,” Dockett said. “I want to get back and I am doing everything I can to do that. I am coming back to my dominant ways. That’s what I am excited about.”

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Whither Fitz? Look to Wayne

Posted by Darren Urban on January 23, 2013 – 11:03 am

The numbers weren’t great for the Pro Bowl receiver — 75 catches, less than 1,000 yards, four touchdowns — but then again, the quarterback situation wasn’t great either.

It was difficult for Reggie Wayne.

Wait, you thought I was talking about Larry Fitzgerald? Well, part of the story plays out as a parallel for sure. Wayne, the Colts’ veteran, had statistics (75-960-4) in 2011 that mirrored what Fitz dealt with in 2012 (71-798-4). But when Bruce Arians came in to Indianapolis as offensive coordinator before the 2012 season, one of his goals was to make Wayne the impact player he had always been. Now that Arians is head coach of the Cardinals, he has the same plans for Fitz.

“As a receiver, you can’t hand it to them, you have to throw it to them,” Arians said. “They can double-cover him, and you don’t throw it to him if he is double-covered and someone else is single-covered. You’ve got to take what is there as a quarterback, but you do have to get him the ball because he is such a tremendous talent.

“When I first met with Reggie, Reggie had been on the left side for 10 years. The first day of spring I put him over there on the right, and he looked like he had palsy. I said, ‘It’ll come. You have to retrain your body here. Wait until I put you in the slot.’ There was buy-in.”

Now, Fitzgerald is ahead of the curve there. The Cardinals have been moving him around for a while now, just to get him open. Wayne’s resurgence not coincidentally benefited from the arrival of Andrew Luck at quarterback, and as of today, it doesn’t look like a Luck-type will end up behind center for the Cardinals this season. But Arians understands the ball must end up with Fitz more often than it did last season.

Wayne, by the way, had 106 catches for 1,355 yards and five touchdowns in 2012.

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Licht gets promoted

Posted by Darren Urban on January 22, 2013 – 12:08 pm

New general manager Steve Keim made it clear when he got his new post that he wanted to continue to work with Jason Licht. So it wasn’t a stretch to think Licht too would end up with a promotion — assuming he didn’t go somewhere else with a bigger title in the meantime, which could have happened after Licht was named a finalist for the Bears’ GM job last year — and that’s exactly what happened.

Licht was bumped up to vice president of player personnel Tuesday, the job title previously held by Keim. Not only will Licht have a greater say in personnel decisions, but he will also take part in contract negotiations — more groundwork for Licht too to eventually get his own general manager spot.

Licht and Keim work well together and Licht has already put together his own long impressive resume, working in the front office of the Eagles and Patriots. Now he and Keim must find a way to upgrade the Cardinals’ roster. I’d expect someone to eventually get Licht’s old job, so you’d figure the Cards will add at least one more body in the front office, somewhere.

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After all that, Fitzgerald makes another Pro Bowl

Posted by Darren Urban on January 22, 2013 – 11:01 am

It wasn’t Larry Fitzgerald’s finest year in the NFL — not with 71 catches, 798 yards and four touchdowns, all well below his regular output — but his reputation around the league has always been good. So it wasn’t a shock to see that Fitzgerald was still an alternate for the Pro Bowl when those announcements came out at the end of the season. And, with the many players who end up missing the Pro Bowl, it wasn’t a shock to see Tuesday that Fitz will once again be a Pro Bowler, replacing Chicago’s Brandon Marshall. Marshall reportedly needs hip surgery, and he becomes the second Pro Bowl wideout to have to give up his spot because of health reasons (Detroit’s Calvin Johnson is the other.) Tampa’s Vincent Jackson replaced Johnson. The other NFC receivers are Atlanta’s Julio Jones and the Giants’ Victor Cruz.

It will be Fitzgerald’s seventh Pro Bowl in nine NFL seasons. He joins fellow Cardinals Patrick Peterson and Daryl Washington in Hawaii.

The berth will give Fitzgerald a chance to extend his NFL record of career touchdown receptions in the league’s all-star game. Fitzgerald already has seven TD catches. Last year, he had six catches for 111 yards and three scores.

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