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 soon, 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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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.
Tags: Larry Fitzgerald, salary cap
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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.
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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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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.”
Tags: Darnell Dockett, Larry Fitzgerald, training camp
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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.
Tags: Andre Ellington, Bruce Arians, Dan Williams, John Abraham, training camp, Tyrann Mathieu
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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.
Tags: Reggie Dunn, Roster, training camp
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Optimism reigns every year when a team’s season begins and at no time does that optimism echo more than the day when training camp begins. That day, with all due respect to QB School is Friday. That’s when the Cardinals move into the hotel next to the stadium, when they take their conditioning test and when they get the speech from coach Bruce Arians about the goals for the season. They are the same goals every season — eventually ending with a title, of course — but they must be repeated all the same.
There will be ups and downs. Some players will have a bad stretch. Somebody will get hurt, and you just hope it isn’t a season-ender. Some new players might now work out. It’s how a team deals with these events that determines the course of the final won-loss record.
I think the Cardinals have a chance to be as good or better than last year. I think their defense might need some adjustments with the losses of the inside linebackers, but I think Todd Bowles can make something work. I think, assuming health, the offense will be better. I don’t think Carson Palmer is going to morph into Peyton or even Kurt Warner, but I think he will benefit by an upgraded offensive line. How this all plays out, ultimately, with a won-loss record depends on a lot of moving parts, not all of which are under the Cardinals’ control. But they have a chance to be good, and over the years, that hasn’t always been the case.
— Calais Campbell (@Campbell93) July 24, 2014
Tags: Calais Campbell, Carson Palmer, Todd Bowles, training camp
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Deone Bucannon wasn’t really thrilled about having a few weeks off. In the end, he’ll probably appreciate getting away from the grind but he was admittedly so bored he ended up working out all the time anyway. “I’d go to the gym constantly,” he said Wednesday after the rookies took part in the Cardinals’ QB School. Now is the time he has been waiting for since the Cards made him a first-round pick in May.
“It’s not really nervousness, it’s more anxious,” Bucannon said. “You want to show everybody you can play and be a part of this team.”
That’s part of the mystery right now with Bucannon. He wasn’t dropped into the starting lineup in the offseason, like 2013 first-round pick Jonathan Cooper had been. He isn’t the rookie that generated the most offseason buzz, because that was wide receiver John Brown. There were reasons for both. Cooper came into an offensive line with holes; Even with Tyrann Mathieu’s injury, the Cardinals have faith in Rashad Johnson and Tony Jefferson at safety. And in the offseason, it’s always easier for a skill guy — especially a receiver — to flash, rather than a defender. Especially when the defender’s top strength is hitting.
But Bucannon will be in the mix, and I still believe that by the end of camp, he will find his way into the lineup as the starting strong safety. He’s had the right mindset since the day he was drafted and clearly isn’t assuming anything — including an eventual starting job that seems obvious given his draft status. Let’s face it, if the No. 1 pick doesn’t start at some point, it’s a major whiff. But this is where we really get to see what Bucannon will bring in his first season. His under-the-radar time is over.
Tags: Deone Bucannon, John Brown, Jonathan Cooper, training camp
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As camp approaches, some of the Cardinals have begun to leak back into the building, getting in a morning workout. Most of the weight room has been cleared out, with the equipment moved to University of Phoenix Stadium for use at camp, but that didn’t stop guys like Lyle Sendlein, Calais Campbell, Frostee Rucker, Sam Acho and Marcus Benard (among others) today.
Also here were the two key rehabbers: safety Tyrann Mathieu and nose tackle Alameda Ta’amu. Both are expected to be on the physically unable to perform list when camp opens. It doesn’t mean their rehab has gone poorly or slow. But the reality is both ripped up their ACLs late in the season and coming back at the beginning of camp not only doesn’t make a lot of sense it’s probably not fair to ask.
The rehab from a torn ACL carries with it a lot of uncertainty. Uncertainty of a timeline, uncertainty of what you can do even when you’re out there doing it on the field. Playing in a game is one thing. But will you be Adrian Peterson, or Robert Griffin III? One-time Cardinals tight end Stephen Spach ripped up his ACL in the Carolina playoff game during the Super Bowl run. He was back on the field six months later, although he said “there is a difference between being able to play and compete and getting to where you feel like it never happened.” It took tight end Jake Ballard a couple years to feel right, although in Ballard’s case, he had other damage besides the ACL.
Ta’amu was hurt almost a month after Mathieu but his injury was only the ACL. Mathieu had other injuries, but his rehab has gone well and he has worried less about what he can do when he plays again and more how quickly he can actually play. Both guys are key pieces to the defense. The one guarantee: The Cardinals will be better when they get back on the field.
– In other news, Mathieu has decided to change agents. It’s not altogether a surprise, since Patrick Peterson — who also had Pat Lawlor as an agent when he came into the league — dropped Lawlor in favor of Joel Segal. What will be interesting to see is if Mathieu, who looks up to Peterson, decides he too will use Segal. Unlike Peterson, Mathieu is going into only his second year of a four-year contract and any new contract is much further down the road. Peterson, of course, is already in (early) talks for a contract extension.
Tags: agents, Alameda Ta'amu, Jake Ballard, Patrick Peterson, PUP, Stephen Spach, training camp, Tyrann Mathieu
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