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Sam Bradford’s text to Josh Rosen

Posted by Darren Urban on May 1, 2018 – 9:15 am

By now (I would hope) you’re all watching the series “Flight Plan” and how it chronicles the offseason of the Cardinals. The episode coming Wednesday night on Facebook (www.facebook.com/cardinalsflightplan) will be all about the draft, with a ton of cool behind-the-scenes stuff with number one draft pick Josh Rosen — including a text message from new teammate/competition at quarterback Sam Bradford.

The scene plays out as Rosen and his parents and agent were being driven to the Cardinals’ Tempe facility Friday for Rosen’s introductory press conference. Rosen turns to agent Ryan Williams and says, “Sam just texted me. Bradford.” Then he reads the text.

“He said, ‘Josh, what’s up, man? Welcome to Arizona,” Rosen reads. ” ‘Just wanted to let you know that I look forward to playing with you. I’ll be an open book, so if you ever need anything or have any questions, feel free to ask. Hope all is well.’ ”

You can then see Rosen writing a text back.

It’s an important tidbit given the questions some have had with how Rosen and Bradford will mesh, given that Rosen — obviously — is considered the long-term solution at quarterback. Yes, you can say Bradford is just being nice, but had he not texted and just waited to talk to Rosen when Rosen arrives next week, no one would’ve thought anything of it. It’s hard to not think the message genuine.

On Rosen’s part, he’s made it clear he’d like to play sooner rather than later, but he acknowledged at his press conference, “First and foremost, I’m an Arizona Cardinal. It’s team before everything. … I’m going to compete my butt off every single day, but then again, I’m not going to be the guy that comes in and thinks he’s the man from Day 1. It’s a long process, and you’ve got to earn it.”

All this will be on Flight Plan this week. Usually, there is a new episode debuting every two weeks, but this week is the exception. It will post Wednesday night at  6 p.m. Arizona time on Facebook Watch and then on azcardinals.com Thursday morning.


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From no QBs to now: Draft aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on April 28, 2018 – 5:18 pm

The question was about how he and General Manager Steve Keim felt Saturday, two days later, about the ability to trade up and draft potential quarterback-of-the-future Josh Rosen, and Steve Wilks took the opportunity to flash back to January, when he was first hired.

“When you go back to January 22nd, when I was hired, there were questions,” Wilks said. “Here’s a guy with no head coaching experience, you have no quarterback on the roster, the offensive line has a lot of holes, there are a lot of questions about this team. And I would say this: Sight is totally different than vision. Sometimes you have to see past the difficulties. We had a plan. We had a vision.”

Wilks noted the additions on the offensive line, with Justin Pugh and Andre Smith. He noted signing quarterbacks Sam Bradford and Mike Glennon. He reiterated the oft-used “aggressive” phrase the Cardinals have used in relation to the first-round trade and the Rosen pick.

“To be sitting in this situation now, to have what could be a future franchise quarterback for many years, you’ve got a dynamic running back who I consider to be the best in the league in David Johnson, we continue to build that offensive line, dynamic receiver (Christian Kirk) who will learn and grow from one of the best in the league in Larry Fitzgerald, so we got better,” Wilks said. “Going back and looking at it now, we’re in a great situation.”

Whether the draft class pans out is TBD. Keim has been excited about every draft class he’s had on the Saturday of the draft. Then, inevitably, some guys don’t work out. That happen with every team. But Wilks does have a point — the roster, particularly the quarterbacks, looked bleak a few months ago. Suddenly, not so much. That’s not to say Rosen — or Bradford — is a lock to star in Arizona. But they could. And if Kirk becomes the wideout the Cards want and need, if Chris Campbell fleshes out as one of Wilks’ late-round developmental gems in the secondary … yes, there are “ifs.” But the Cards are in a much different spot than they were.

— As for Keim and his Rosen reflection, he admitted “it’s a little bit of a relief” to have that future QB around. Finally.

“But at the same time, (I want) to have a little fun and watch how this thing plays out,” Keim said. “I don’t forget my evaluation on Sam Bradford, and if he can stay healthy, you could be talking about a guy who could potentially be the NFL Comeback Player of the Year. I feel that strongly about how he can throw the football.”

— The Cards are in the process of agreeing with undrafted rookies. The official list won’t be out until Monday at the earliest, but I’ll probably retweet some names on Twitter if you want to look there. The official list always ends up a little different — those guys still have to pass physicals, and sometimes, players tweet out they are “signing” with a team even when they are only invited on a tryout basis.

— Last season, then-rookie safety Budda Baker missed all the offseason work other than the rookie minicamp because of an arcane NFL rule that prevented rookies from taking part until after graduation of their school. (The rule was in place to make sure guys could graduate without the pressure of having to miss time, although the reality is guys who are drafted most of the time are ready to go play football anyway.) There were a handful of schools that are on quarter systems and don’t graduate until mid-June. UCLA is one, meaning Rosen normally would have been out like Baker was. But the NFL changed the rule last fall, and Rosen will be able to be around.

“We all know you can’t get that time back,” Wilks said.


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With Warner history, Christian Kirk picks 13

Posted by Darren Urban on April 28, 2018 – 12:34 pm

Christian Kirk, the Cardinals’ newest wide receiver from down the street, wore the No. 3 in college and that can’t happen in the NFL, one because it is against the rules, and two, because new teammate Josh Rosen has it anyway. So he went with the next best thing, choosing No. 13.

“Wore 3 in college and 13 was there, and it was a no-brainer,” Kirk said.

Most recently, 13 was wide receiver Jaron Brown’s number, but Brown departed as a free agent to Seattle. Before Brown, it was Hall of Famer Kurt Warner’s jersey.

“So I’ve got to rock it well,” Kirk said with a smile. “I’ve got a lot to live up to.”

As a Valley kid, Kirk knows all about Warner. That goes beyond what Warner did for the Cardinals. When he was young, Kirk actually played youth football with Warner’s son. Kurt would attend games and sometimes bring Larry Fitzgerald, and that’s also when Kirk’s relationship with his new teammate began. (Kirk said he was probably in fourth grade at the time, which can’t make Fitz feel great, can it?)

Warner even weighed in with the number choice, telling Kent Somers ““I love Christian as a person and a player! I would love to have him join the Cards 13 club!”


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Draft day two, and Deuce Lutui’s impact

Posted by Darren Urban on April 27, 2018 – 8:54 pm

The long day ended with a pick of an offensive lineman and, more entertainingly, an ex-offensive lineman dancing his way to the announcement.

“I don’t know if I’m more excited about (our) last two selections or Deuce Lutui’s announcement of our pick,” GM Steve Keim said after the Cardinals took OL Mason Cole following the pick of WR Christian Kirk earlier in the day.

The Cardinals have three picks left, one each in the fourth, sixth and seventh rounds, none of which are the Cardinals’ original 2018 picks. The fourth- and seventh-rounders are compensatory picks, the sixth-rounder the selection given by the Broncos in the Jared Veldheer trade. What might be the Cardinals looking for? Well, they could still take another offensive lineman, maybe a defensive lineman, and definitely a cornerback. Although both Keim and Steve Wilks insisted they won’t push anything.

Thus far, “we didn’t veer because of grades or because of positional need,” Keim said. “We stuck to value and we stuck to the person.”

— With the last day of the draft, “we’re going to have some players who have some holes,” Keim added. “We have to find certain traits we can hang our hat on.”

— When it comes to cornerback — the most glaring need the Cardinals have — do not forget that Wilks, a former defensive backs coach, frequently used and used successfully cornerbacks with perhaps not the highest draft pedigree. He can make different pieces work (Josh Norman, don’t forget, was a fifth-rounder.)

— Keim was asked about the first three picks thus far, which includes a QB, a receiver and offensive lineman. “Other than Coach kept staring at me talking about defensive players, it was good,” Keim deadpanned.

But he said Wilks has been “unbelievable” in understanding how defense hasn’t gotten a pick, and Wilks said he’s always been able to see the big picture in team building. Then he reiterated the need to build both the offensive and defensive lines, so again, a pick there wouldn’t be a surprise.

— As for that trade for Josh Rosen and the surrendered third-round pick, 79th overall?

“We got to the 79th pick and Coach and I looked at each other and we saw the players who were left on the board and I said, ‘I’m glad we have a potential franchise quarterback versus what was left,’ ” Keim said. “Not to take anything away with what was left on the board, but I would certainly do that again over and over.”


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Josh Rosen goes with No. 3

Posted by Darren Urban on April 27, 2018 – 3:21 pm

Carson Palmer retired, meaning the No. 3 was now available. And that fits perfectly with first-round pick Josh Rosen — who picked the number Friday.

“It’s what I wore in college, and it’s just kind of been a lucky number for me,” Rosen said. “Count to three … I don’t know. Three has just kind of been with me my whole life.”

Rosen also has a connection to Palmer, at least from afar.

“I looked up to Carson,” Rosen said. “When he played for the Bengals, him and Chad Johnson or Ochocinco, were two of my favorite players. It’s an honor to wear his jersey. Hopefully I can do him proud.”


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Josh Rosen draft aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on April 26, 2018 – 8:59 pm

Whatever concerns others might have had about Josh Rosen’s personality or leadership skills, the Cardinals don’t have them. They wouldn’t have traded up Thursday night to get the quarterback, otherwise. GM Steve Keim was feeling good about it, having his own mic-drop moment to close out his Rosen press conference after he was asked about the fact Rosen had a hot tub (inflatable) in his dorm room at UCLA.

“Wish I had one,” Keim deadpanned.

Keim used to say that about a (potential) long-term answer at quarterback. He doesn’t have to wish anymore.

For all the slings and arrows the GM has absorbed — and many are fair criticisms — the biggest was that he didn’t find a successor for Carson Palmer. And while there was a certain amount of good fortune that played into it Thursday, Keim indeed found that guy only a few months after Palmer retired, and he has a bridge guy in Sam Bradford to help the Cardinals in the short term. That the Cards didn’t have to spend their second-round pick or next year’s first rounder was simply the best-case scenario. The Cards still have two picks Friday thanks to that third-round compensatory selection earned from losing Calais Campbell as a free agent.

As for Rosen, nothing has changed from all the speculation prior to the draft. No one knows for sure who the best QB will be from the five selected in the first round. Maybe Rosen will be it. He certainly made no bones about the fact he thought he should’ve been the first picked. He’ll have a chance to show everyone why. (Really, to “drop” to 10 isn’t horrible. It wasn’t like Aaron Rodgers dropping to 24 when he thought he should go first. Rodgers turned out to be right.)

He’s known for being outspoken, but Steve Wilks said he loves Rosen’s personality. Rosen isn’t stupid. He knows what he’s walking into, and his place as a rookie. He’s not going to sit in a corner in silence, but he’s smart enough to get it.

“I want to be me and the Arizona Cardinals know what they are getting,” Rosen said. “They are not getting a kid that is going to say stupid things and piss people off unnecessarily.”

They are getting a kid who might just be that quarterback everyone has been waiting for.


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The draft from Winslow, Az (and a draft show)

Posted by Darren Urban on April 24, 2018 – 1:09 pm

All NFL teams will have a “hook” for Day Three of the draft — Saturday — and the Cardinals are going to Winslow, Arizona, for theirs. Three of their Day Three picks will be announced from Standin’ on the Corner Park in downtown Winslow. The park, which opened in 1999, was opened to commemorate the famous song by the Eagles, “Take It Easy,” which features the line, “Standin’ on a corner in Winslow, Arizona.” Fans are welcome, with the draft starting at 9 a.m. that day.

Last year, the Cardinals did a similar announcing of picks at the Grand Canyon.

A pair of former Cardinals, wide receiver Frank Sanders and kicker Neil Rackers, will be there to announce the team’s fourth-round pick. The fifth-round pick will be announced by Winslow mayor Robin Boyd and the sixth-round pick will be announced by the Winslow High School football team. Barring any trades, of course. (The seventh-round pick will be announced in Dallas by season ticket members Robert and Marcia Fischer.

Then, Saturday night, Channel 12 will host a draft special at 8 p.m. (following the NHL playoff game.) that will feature Ron Wolfley along with Paul Gerke and Kristen Keogh. The joint production between the team and 12 News will have, among other things, a review and analysis of the Cards’ picks, a look inside the Cardinals’ draft room, and segments on Larry Fitzgerald, Steve Wilks and David Johnson. The show will be 90 minutes.

 


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The picks at 15, and Steve Little

Posted by Darren Urban on April 23, 2018 – 4:51 pm

Every draft is different, but with the Cardinals selecting at 15 overall, it’s a good time to see what players have been chosen in the NFL’s 15th slot over the recent past. The last time the Cardinals picked 15th — and it’s been 40 years — it didn’t go all that well. The then-St. Louis Cardinals actually selected a kicker/punter when they took Steve Little. Little missed 14 of his 27 NFL field-goal attempts and 10 extra-points — the shorter ones — in less than three seasons. (Little was released six games into the 1980 season and was paralyzed in an accident soon after.)

That’s the only time in the modern draft (since the 1970 NFL-AFL merger) that the Cards have picked 15th.

As with most draft spots, the selections have been hit or miss in terms of success, although it does seem to be weighted toward the “hit” side overall. A sampling of the last 15 years:

2017   S Malik Hooker (Colts)
2016   WR Corey Coleman (Browns)
2015   RB Melvin Gordon (Chargers)
2014   LB Ryan Shazier (Steelers)
2013   S Kenny Vaccaro (Saints)
2012   LB Bruce Irvin (Seahawks)
2011   G Mike Pouncey (Dolphins)
2010   DE Jason Pierre-Paul (Giants)
2009   LB Brian Cushing (Texans)
2008   T Branden Albert (Chiefs)
2007   LB Lawrence Timmons (Steelers)
2006   CB Tye Hill (Rams)
2005   LB Derrick Johnson (Chiefs)
2004   WR Michael Clayton (Bucs)
2003   DE Jerome McDougal (Eagles)

The last time the Cardinals picked 47th — their second-round slot this year — it was an unquestioned hit, with an asterisk: LB Daryl Washington.

 


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The day Pat Tillman died

Posted by Darren Urban on April 22, 2018 – 9:22 am

My kids were 4 and 2 so I was up early to help feed them breakfast with my wife when my cell phone rang. It was the producer at a local TV station I knew. She wanted to know if I had heard anything about Pat Tillman being killed in combat. I hadn’t, but my mind flashed back to Pat’s surprise visit to the Cardinals in their final 2003 road trip — to Seattle, near where Tillman was based after his initial Middle East tour — and the knowledge he had re-upped for another tour, even though he had finished out his mandatory service.

It was true, of course. Tillman was killed on April 22, and the news had trickled back as April 23 began in Arizona. It was Friday, the day before the draft. I had been planning only on writing a story that day about the Cardinals picking third (and, even with the top quarterbacks available, it seemed pretty clear the Cards would select Larry Fitzgerald with their first-round pick.) Instead, it was about helping produce a special section for the East Valley Tribune about Tillman’s life and his time at ASU and with the Cardinals, and a Sports Illustrated cover story that should’ve just been about something else, I don’t know, maybe the Eli Manning-Chargers dust-up. Certainly not the passing of such a promising man.

The Cardinals had then-VP Michael Bidwill and offensive lineman Pete Kendall (pictured) come out and speak, and also Anthony Edwards, the team’s director of player programs and one-time receiver. It was such an odd day, with the overwhelming sadness contrasted with the fact the draft — the NFL’s annual rebirth for teams — coming the next two days. The coaches that knew him the best were not around, with Denny Green having taken over just a few months before. But because Tillman had been a part of the Arizona landscape for so long, everyone in the Valley knew him. These are the things I think about — as well as 9/11 — when I take part in Pat’s Run every year, as thousands did so yesterday.

It’s been 14 years. On this day, though, it feels like it just happened.


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Nkemdiche optimism returns

Posted by Darren Urban on April 20, 2018 – 9:51 am

In the brief time Steve Wilks has been head coach of the Cardinals, he does not come across as someone prone to hyperbole. So when he praises 2016 first-round draft pick Robert Nkemdiche after Nkemdiche’s first two underwhelming NFL seasons, it’s easy to take note.

“Robert is a very intriguing guy,” Wilks said of the defensive tackle. “I constantly talk to Robert all week about tempo … (because) I really have to slow Robert down. We don’t have on pads. And that’s a great thing. That’s a real good thing. You want to be able to slow guys down, not tell them to pick it up. Robert is going to be tremendous for us this year. He’s locked in, he’s focused, he came back in shape, he’s ready to go.”

Nkemdiche needs to do more on the field. He has acknowledged that. But all last season, his work ethic and practice habits earned him praise from coaches. Now he’s getting more from a new staff. He just needs to translate it to the football field. At this point, his draft status doesn’t mean much — one-time undrafted DT Olsen Pierre, who had a very nice breakout season last year, was more effective than Nkemdiche — but he still has a ton of tools.

He’s also now playing for a coach who is known for getting different personalities to play well (right, Josh Norman?) and for honing in on developing players. A big step forward by Nkemdiche would be an awesome way for Wilks to immediately put that player-development stamp on his new team.

“He said, ‘Coach, I’m committed to excellence this year,’ ” Wilks said. “So far, he’s been a plus on the football field. I’m excited about him.”

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