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Blogs

Brown’s bomb; Sendlein hurt

Posted by Darren Urban on July 28, 2014 – 5:42 pm

The first padded practice was exactly what you’d want — eventful, with a lot of hitting. Unfortunately, such things can come with a price. Starting center Lyle Sendlein left early in the workout during one-on-one drills with the defensive line after hurting his left calf. No word on the seriousness of the injury. Ted Larsen stepped in to play center on the first unit and as 11-on-11 began, you could tell the chemistry with Larsen and QB Carson Palmer were not there. There were a couple of misplayed snaps/fumbles in the first few plays. It got ironed out. We’ll see what will happen with Sendlein.

Otherwise, the hitting was intense. During the pass protection drills between the linebackers and tight ends/running backs, it’s tough to see Bruce Arians get any more fired up than he did with that. There were some incredible collisions, including when linebacker Kenny Demens just crushed running back Damien Thigpen (who, to be fair, is only 5-8 and 180).

But it was hard not to notice that rookie wide receiver John Brown, who everyone raved about but said needed to wear pads and prove it that way, still shined. His first long pass after putting on pads, he beat cornerback Justin Bethel — who isn’t exactly slow — by a couple of steps and hauled in an 82-yard touchdown in stride. More on Brown on the homepage in a bit.

In other notes:

– Sendlein wasn’t the only injury. Defensive tackle is becoming an issue. Alameda Ta’amu is already on PUP and Dan Williams sat out with a sore left knee, so Christian Tupou stepped in in the middle of the 3-4 defense — only to leave early with what looked like some kind of right thigh injury. He walked off the field at the end of practice, though, having taken off his ice wrap, so it may not be a big deal.

– The fears of having a big hitter at safety: On one play, wide receiver Jaron Brown couldn’t hold on to a pass in the end zone with cornerback Jerraud Powers behind him and rookie safety Deone Bucannon coming at his chest. But Bucannon was a step or two away, and popped him (not full on) after Brown dropped the pass. Arians yelled across the field, “That’s a flag” so Bucannon understood that just can’t happen in today’s game. It was bang-bang, but Arians is right — it probably draws a penalty.

– The Cardinals ran a “fire” field goal drill on a “mishandled” snap. Holder Dave Zastudil rolled left and lofted a pass toward undrafted rookie tackle Kelvin Palmer. Palmer, 6-4 and 302, made a great catch while shielding the ball with his body from coverage linebacker Alex Okafor. I wish I had a picture or video. It was impressive from the big man.

– Former Cardinals offensive lineman Leonard “Bigg” Davis made an appearance on the sideline, as did former safety Kwamie Lassiter.

FirstPagBlog

 


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Arians: Pads are on to stay

Posted by Darren Urban on July 28, 2014 – 12:25 pm

Coach Bruce Arians said he was happy padded practice arrived Monday afternoon because Sunday “we were way too active to be in shorts.” The pads will make it seem a lot like football — the first two days of camp just seem like a continuation of the offseason OTAs (which gets old after a while). The pads will stay on too, Arians said.

“With the limited time you can hit now, you can’t hit enough in my opinion,” Arians said. “You only get 15 practices before you are playing games. The evaluation process … most of it has been about how mentally can they handle the job, now it’s whether they can actually play. You can’t get enough evaluations in that situation.”

Arians will dial it down when the Cardinals trim to the 53-man roster. Until then, though, let the hitting commence.

– The swollen left knee of DT Dan Williams is not serious, Arians said, stemming from an old injury. Williams is getting an MRI but he should not miss much time. Everyone else is ready to practice, save for absent LB John Abraham.

– Thus far, Logan Thomas has received all the QB 11-on-11 reps that have not gone to Carson Palmer or Drew Stanton. That will change, Arians said, but we’ll see how soon. “Ryan is going to get the short end of the stick for a little bit because Logan is new,” Arians said.

– Arians said he considered center Lyle Sendlein underrated. Sendlein does fly under the radar but he is respected by this staff, which — if you can do after a full coaching change — is impressive.

– When the pads go on, there is always the threat of a scuffle breaking out. It’s unlikely at Cards camp, though, because Arians leaves little doubt how he feels about in-fighting.

“The first thing you do is break your hand,” Arians said. “Might as well punch the wall. If you want to break your hand, break your hand. If you want to fight I’ll put boxing gloves on you and you can fight your ass off. That’s what Coach (Bear) Bryant used to do. Want to fight? Wear 18-pound gloves, and they were not allowed to stop swinging.

 

Arians was asked how it would end. “They both passed out. It only happened once. (Now,) the CBA might frown on it.”

Arians did say he wouldn’t fine a guy for fighting. “No. I’ll cut ‘em,” Arians said. “There’s always a threat of that.”

 


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Keim perspective as pads go on

Posted by Darren Urban on July 28, 2014 – 9:25 am

The Cardinals will put on the pads for the first time this afternoon, which changes the dynamic of training camp. That was part of the theme today when GM Steve Keim went on the Doug and Wolf show on Arizona Sports 620 this morning — what will happen when the pads go on.

– Keim wants to see rookie WR John Brown in pads, and see what the kid can do coming across the middle when, say safety Deone Bucannon is about to drill him. That’s not a big surprise, since it’s what everyone has been saying about Brown. He’s been impressive. “We haven’t been able to cover him,” Keim said. But that could change when the pads go on. As Patrick Peterson said, after Brown burned him on a play, “I told him he’s not going to be that much faster than me when he’s got those shoulder pads on.”

– Keim said he thought right tackle Bobby Massie looks like he’s in the best shape of his career (and I have always thought Massie was in pretty good shape anyway) and “he looks focused.” But Keim wants to see Massie in pads too, and frankly, that’s the only real way to judge linemen.

– The GM admitted to having a concern in the offseason for guard Jonathan Cooper after noticing a “little limp,” but the first two practices have erased those concerns.

– Keim acknowledged that taking Patrick Peterson off punt returns is in part because the Cardinals haven’t had as much return success with Peterson doing that job the last couple of years.

– Asked about absent linebacker John Abraham, Keim said “I’m not concerned at all. He’ll be back at some point here and Bruce (Arians) has excused him for personal matters.”

– With Aeneas Williams going into the Hall of Fame Saturday, we have created a page for Aeneas (azcardinals.com/aeneas) where all the stories and videos about Williams will live. Check it out.

 


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Massie in pole position and Peterson contract

Posted by Darren Urban on July 27, 2014 – 12:35 pm

Bruce Arians said today that the starting right tackle and starting right guard positions are Bobby Massie’s and Paul Fanaika’s to lose, which he also said has more to do with how well they are doing than what Bradley Sowell and Earl Watford are not doing. Arians even said Massie did not show up on the mental-error sheet from Saturday’s first practice, which is a big deal. “We’re not going to shuffle a lot anymore,”Arians said, although he emphasized “there is plenty of time to win or lose a job once we start hitting.”

The pads go on Monday.

Watford is “more than ready” to contend for a starting job, Arians said but Fanaika is playing well. And again, things can change. “If anyone says they are starting you are writing the wrong thing,” Arians said with a chuckle.

In other news:

Much more in a Patrick Peterson story here, but the Pro Bowl cornerback will not be playing receiver or returning punts this season. Neither move is a surprise, although Arians said Tyrann Mathieu’s injury did not play a factor. Peterson also said he is not unhappy he doesn’t yet have a new contract. “Those guys are still talking,” Peterson said, in reference to ongoing contract negotiations. “I’m here to play football. I have two years left on my deal and I want to do the best I can to help this team win. I haven’t been to the playoffs since I’ve been here and that’s my first goal.”

– Tight end Jake Ballard is the first injury of camp, although Arians said his thigh bruise is minor. He’ll skip today’s practice but could be back Monday.

– Arians said he was disappointed in the number of mental errors committed by offensive veterans on Saturday.

– LB John Abraham remains absent. “I won’t really comment on it,” Arians said. “I won’t get into personal things. He’s got my blessing.”

– Arians did say he has been impressed with the work second-year OLB Alex Okafor has done since he got hurt last season as a rookie. Okafor is working with the first unit in place of Abraham.

 

 

 


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The price of Fitzgerald’s future

Posted by Darren Urban on July 27, 2014 – 9:43 am

For awhile, Larry Fitzgerald was the only one on the field.

It was Friday, and the Cardinals were scheduled to have their conditioning test in a matter of minutes and Fitz was out, warming up by his lonesome. Turned out that the strength and conditioning staff had their own warmup planned, and the Cardinals were going to come out on the field together led by Bruce Arians. But Fitz didn’t know that yet and he wanted to make sure he was ready to run. In the end, he didn’t have to run as much as the other receivers — those long-time vets were subtly pulled out by Arians — but Fitz was ready. He is still driven to be as good as he ever was, and that includes running at the outset of camp.

But the NFL isn’t just about work ethic and talent. It’s about business and the salary cap and the puzzle that is a pro roster. So the months are going by and Fitzgerald’s future in Arizona is coming to a watershed moment. This is a subject that has been touched on many times, by myself and others. Kent Somers has a quality, detailed breakdown of Fitzgerald’s bulky contract right here.

Next year, Fitz’s salary is more than $15 million. He also is due a roster bonus in early March of $8 million, a mechanism used in many contracts in large part to force a decision by the team. Something will have to happen by then. Those two numbers are how his cap figure  jumps to more $23 million next year. (A trade isn’t happening, by the way. The Cardinals absorb more than $14 million in dead cap money whether they trade him or cut him, but a trade means the new team has to inherit that contract. I don’t see anyone taking on such a contract.) Kent suggests a new deal paying Fitz between $6M and $8M could make it work. I guess the question would be what Fitz might make on the open market.

None of this is new news, really, other than the passage of time. This was created not just when Fitz signed his last contract extension in 2011 but also when he got his previous one in 2008 and even when he signed his rookie deal. That the Cardinals will have made it through 11 seasons is impressive in itself. The new CBA of 2011, which flattened the cap, and the reality of Fitz simply getting older also are factors.

So much depends on what Fitz will want to do. I don’t see a scenario other that a pay reduction in which Fitz stays in Arizona. I think it’ll matter how he does this season, his second in Arians’ offense. I think how the team does will matter. I truly believe the decision won’t just be about money with him. Once, I don’t think I would have said that. But he is and always will be a megastar in Arizona, regardless of what happens on the field, and if he went elsewhere, it wouldn’t be the same.

The Cardinals want Fitz to stay around. I think Fitz wants to stay around. I think Fitz would rather think about where his name might be emblazoned in University of Phoenix Stadium for the Ring of Honor rather than his contract. We’ll see. There’s a season to play, and Fitz is focused on getting ready for that. But the future eventually becomes the present.

FitzBySelf

 


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First practice, first thoughts

Posted by Darren Urban on July 26, 2014 – 5:43 pm

The first practice for the Cardinals is over. With that, a few observations I made today, knowing that the Cardinals still aren’t wearing pads:

– The first units were how the Cardinals ended the offseason work. Bobby Massie and Paul Fanaika were running first-unit right tackle and right guard respectively. With LB John Abraham still absent, Alex Okafor ran with the first team on the other side from Matt Shaughnessy. In nickel defense, as expected, rookie safety Deone Bucannon was essentially the second linebacker along with Larry Foote as the Cardinals used six defensive backs.

– Justin Bethel had a good start to camp and it’s easy to see why Bruce Arians has been impressed with his play. He is definitely coming along as a cornerback.

– That said, a play after Bethel won a battle with Michael Floyd, Floyd came right back and beat Bethel on the sideline. Floyd continues to look like a beast, using his big body to make plays. It will be interesting to see him in pads.

– CB Antonio Cromartie has a good day in his Cardinals’ camp debut.

– Injured safety Tyrann Mathieu came on to the field after practice was well underway, and was greeted with loud cheers from the fans as he crossed the sideline.

– Rookie wide receiver Walt Powell made an impressive full-speed fingertip grab of a Logan Thomas bomb and managed to keep his feet to complete the 60-or-so yard TD pass.

– The Cardinals worked on a lot of screens, and there is little question the plays will be in the arsenal for the tight ends this season if Arians chooses to dial them up.

– Thomas had his moments, good and bad, as has been his reputation. In one early drill with no defense, rookie tight end Troy Niklas didn’t get his head around on a Thomas bullet and the pass slammed against the side of Niklas’ head. On this first day, Thomas got almost all of the third-team reps as Ryan Lindley did a lot of watching.

– The Cardinals announced that about 10,000 fans showed up to the first day of practice at University of Phoenix Stadium.

FitzForDay1Blog

 


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“All mental camp” and Arians notes

Posted by Darren Urban on July 26, 2014 – 12:48 pm

Bruce Arians met with the media after the morning walkthrough with the first practice of camp — remember, no pads until Monday — coming this afternoon. It’s that schedule that leaves the old school Arians shaking his head a bit. “It’s really hard to call this ‘camp’ anymore,” Arians said. “There’s no physical grind to this stuff like their used to be. It’s all mental.”

With that, Arians said he expects his team to be on the top of its game mentally. There were too many penalties in the spring, he said, and when it comes to pre-snap penalties, that’s a very bad thing . (Hopefully, B.A. doesn’t decide to do what the Jets have done, which means any practice offside forces everyone — media relations people, other team staff included — to do pushups.)

“(Mental mistakes) have to decrease and it really should now that we’ve been in this a year,” Arians said.

On to the other notable things from the media session:

– QB Carson Palmer, evaluating the roster: “This is by far the most talented team I’ve been on.”

– Palmer and Arians have discussed using the no-huddle more this season. The Cardinals didn’t use it much at all last year. Palmer ran it successfully many years in Cincinnati and now that the Cards understand the offense better, it may be a better fit.

– When Arians talks about RB Robert Hughes, fourth on the depth chart behind Ellington, Taylor and Dwyer, you get the sense he likes him a lot. He thinks he’s an excellent blocker, which is a big deal to Arians. It’ll be a surprise if Hughes doesn’t make the roster as a fourth back, especially because Hughes can play special teams.

– LB John Abraham has not yet returned from his personal business and will miss practice Saturday.

– How much the Cardinals use Patrick Peterson in the return game “remains to be seen,” Arians said.

– Arians isn’t a fan of the officials being able to call penalties for things said on the field, just because it’s a heat of the moment situation.

– Arians said he’s looking forward to the kicking competition, especially since preseason extra points will be moved back and will be more like field goal tries. Rookie Chandler Catanzaro is intriguing, Arians said. Asked if he would worry about having a rookie kicker, Arians didn’t flinch. “I don’t give a (expletive), whatever position it is,” Arians said. “If they can play, they can play. Everybody has got to be a rookie sometime.”


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Dock’s unique (*@!%) perspective on Fitz

Posted by Darren Urban on July 25, 2014 – 4:44 pm

Darnell Dockett was talking Friday about being a veteran and whether the window was closing on players like himself and Larry Fitzgerald, both of whom are going into their 11th season. “The position I play is the most physical position on the field,” Dockett said. “Can’t do it 20, 21 years.”

Then Dockett decided to have a little fun at Fitzgerald’s expense, punctuated with a few words that won’t be able to be played over the air.

“Larry, that’s a different position,” Dockett said. “He plays wide receiver. Play that (expletive) as long as you want. Jerry Rice played, what, 18 years? Larry is always in shape, Larry will probably be 20 (seasons) in the (expletive) league. He never gets hit, he always falls down, he don’t get tackled.”

Dockett was smiling and he got chuckles from those listening. Someone chimed in that Fitz was also everybody’s friend in the league too, which may or may not help him from taking the particularly nasty hits.

“Of course, he gets Pro Bowl votes, (and) with 600 receiving yards he’s the starting wide receiver in the Pro Bowl,” Dockett continued, smile still in place. “He’s the friendliest guy I’ve ever (expletive) met in my life.

“My position, you ain’t gonna have no friends. You shake hands after the game but during the game you’re trying to kill each other. I’m fortunate to be playing the position at the highest level. I don’t look at the years as far as the window closing. I look at it the opportunities to play the snaps. I’m blessed. Unfortunately I’m not 185 and 6-3 and run and catch fade routes all game. I do the dirty work. I’m all good. I’m thankful. Somebody’s got to do it.”

DockForBlog


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No Dobermans here, and other camp-open notes

Posted by Darren Urban on July 25, 2014 – 2:35 pm

Here’s how you know it’s time for football again — Bruce Arians is on top of his game. Asked if the change in strength and conditioning coaches to Buddy Morris meant Arians’ stance had changed in terms of incorporating stretching into practice, the Cardinals’ coach gave a definitive no. Stretching still must be done by players before practice is scheduled to start.

“If a Doberman jumped out of a car with a gun, you wouldn’t be stretching,” Arians said. “When the horn blows, we’re practicing.”

And away we go.

Some other notes and quotes from the first day of camp, which was essentially multiple 60-yard sprints and about 30 minutes out on the field:

– Everyone passed. “I thought (314-pound nose tackle) Dan Williams looked as sexy in a run test as he’s ever looked,” Arians said. That’s Williams below, second from left (with Frostee Rucker, Darnell Dockett and Calais Campbell.)

– Everyone was at University of Phoenix Stadium except for veteran linebacker John Abraham. Abraham was excused, Arians said, and would be back as soon as possible.

– Tyrann Mathieu, on the PUP list, isn’t close to returning although Arians said the safety would be ready in “a day” if he needed to be. Mathieu said he figures he’s still more than a month away, noting that oft-discussed bye week after three games but hopefully before that.

– Arians said Andre Ellington’s weight isn’t up that much but the running back’s strength has improved and he is ready to be both a leader and the “bell cow” of the offense.

– Per CBA rules, the Cardinals won’t wear pads this weekend. First padded practice is Monday.

DL1runblog

 


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Cardinals add wide receiver

Posted by Darren Urban on July 25, 2014 – 9:29 am

After cutting undrafted rookie receiver Kelsey Pope earlier this week, the Cardinals had a roster spot open. It’s now been filled. The team signed wide receiver Reggie Dunn Friday. Dunn was undrafted out of Utah last year, and has already spent time with the Patriots, Browns, Packers, Dolphins and Steelers in his short time in the NFL. At 5-foot-9 and 180 pounds, he’s another of the small, quick guys the Cards have looked at, and he will likely end up being a camp body. Dunn, however, was one of the most successful kickoff return men in college, returning four for touchdowns in 2012 and five in his collegiate career.

The Cardinals are in good shape at receiver, in all actuality. Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd, Ted Ginn and John Brown are basically locked into the top four spots, and that doesn’t include what they could get from Jaron Brown, rookie Walt Powell and Brittan Golden.


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