Robert Nkemdiche did his whirlwind introduction at the Cardinals’ facility today. The No. 1 pick came in just for the press conference, flying back home to Los Angeles in the afternoon. He’ll return later next week with the rest of the rookies for rookie minicamp. Until then, here are some thoughts and quotes about the defensive tackle:
— Last year’s No. 1 pick D.J. Humphries came in and was almost immediately believed to be a guy who would sit and watch as a rookie. The same is definitely not the case with Nkemdiche.
“I expect Robert to come in here and be the best D-lineman we got,” defensive line coach Brentson Buckner said. “I don’t want him to come here and think he’s being redshirted.”
— That doesn’t mean he will be the best lineman, only that Buckner is expecting an effort to get there. And he’s expecting the other defensive linemen to respond in kind to fight for that playing time. “There’s no sleeping on your laurels, now,” Buckner said.
— Asked about Nkemdiche’s reputation of taking some plays off, Buckner said he didn’t see it as an obvious issue. “You show me any player in the country, especially d-linemen, that plays every snap full speed, I’ll give you a million dollars,” Buckner said, noting that the best college d-linemen are usually playing the whole game. “It depends on what your eyes see. … In the NFL you’re not going to play 90 plays. With our (roster), he’ll play 30 plays. You take that energy and condense it to 30 plays, you tell me who wouldn’t want that type of player?”
— Nkemdiche was asked when he might start shopping for that pet panther he has said he wanted to get.“I haven’t had any time to think through it yet,” he said, although that was cut off by both Bruce Arians (“Game 8”) and Michael Bidwill (“In Charlotte”) chiming in from the side of the room.
— The Cardinals understand Nkemdiche’s December incident raises questions. They aren’t shy of saying they all believe it was a one-time mistake, nor are they afraid to inject a little humor.
“I made a kind of joke about it, you get a guy who falls out of a second-story building and walks away from it, that’s my kind of guy,” Buckner said. “Because he’s not afraid of a double-team anymore, know what I mean?”
Buckner added he’s watched Nkemdiche since high school and has never heard any coaches speak poorly of him.
— When Nkemdiche first arrived at the facility Friday, after an early morning flight from Chicago, he got in, said hello to a handful of players in the building (Patrick Peterson and Tyrann Mathieu included) and then, out of nowhere, asked if it was OK if he got a workout in before his press conference. That wasn’t a good idea, he was told, since, you know, he hasn’t signed any contract or waiver or anything yet. He seemed a tad disappointed.
— He looks like he will fit in well in the locker room. He greeted everyone — from Peterson to Chris Johnson to former practice squad tackle Rob Crisp — like he had long been teammates with them already.
— He’s been compared a bit to Darnell Dockett and he will wear Dockett’s former No. 90 (which spent last season with Cory Redding). And if you look at Nkemdiche, he looks a little like Dockett, especially with his profile.
Tags: Brentson Buckner, Patrick Peterson, Robert Nkemdiche
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Earlier this offseason, Steve Keim talked about the second chances he was now willing to give to players after succeeding with Tyrann Mathieu. That was on display with the first round of Thursday’s draft when the Cards grabbed Ole Miss defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche. Nkemdiche has top-five talent in the eyes of a lot of evaluators. But he’s had off-field issues, including when he fell out of a fourth-floor hotel window while under the influence. His statistics didn’t always pile up for a guy whose talent said they should have been better.
But Nkemdiche provides a huge boost to the defensive line. It provides youth for a group that has some aging parts, and guys like Calais Campbell and Frostee Rucker are also going into the last year of their respective contracts. It’s the kind of pick that can make a good team great, if Nkemdiche does what he is supposed to do, and with leaders like Campbell, Rucker, Patrick Peterson and Mathieu in the locker room, the culture is there to keep him on the right path.
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The draft, thank goodness, is close.
There are many who love the run-up to the draft each year. I’m not really one of them. Let me know who the new Cardinals will be and we’ll go from there. It’s a little different when this franchise was picking top 10, but 29th (or 30th, we’ll get to that in a second)? There’s just so much that can happen that changes the dynamic whenever it is the Cards actually make a pick. Still, I wanted to put out some thoughts as we head into the 2016 selection process.
— I won’t be surprised if the Cardinals trade down Thursday night. Yes, Steve Keim said it’ll be harder for picks to make the team, but if they can spin the late first-rounder into an early second-rounder and maybe an early fourth, those guys are far enough up the food chain to be near-locks. So much of it has to do with who is available when the Cards are on the clock. That seems obvious but it’s also true. You figure the quarterbacks available — and teams trying to move up to get one — would influence that the most.
— The Cardinals (without a trade) will pick the 29th player but the NFL is still listing them with the 30th pick. No. 29 was supposed to be the Patriots, who lost it in DeflateGate, so if you are curious to know why the league’s draft tracker has a difference, that’s it.
— If I had to guess, I’d say the Cardinals do draft a QB at some point but it’ll be Saturday.
— It’s hard to argue with those who think the Cards would take center Ryan Kelly in the first round if he’s there. I don’t think he will be. I think it’ll most likely be defense — a cornerback if one is there, a defensive lineman if not. Wouldn’t rule out linebacker/pass rusher, but I’d lean toward an up-front guy.
— I don’t do mock drafts these days — I know, a crushing disappointment — but we do have a mock coming from the Cardinals, straight from the mind of safety Tony Jefferson. He has the Cards taking Clemson safety-or-corner T.J. Green. Maybe Jefferson eventually follows in the footsteps of one-time Cardinals defensive back Corey Chavous, who was a draft guru even when he was playing and continues working in that role these days.
(Cohort Kyle Odegard will have a full mock draft roundup of all the picks made across the internet for the Cardinals tomorrow.)
— The Cardinals currently have 73 players on the roster, so room for 17 right now. With six draft picks, that means 11 undrafted free agents. I think there will be more than 11 undrafted rookies signed, so I expect some cuts, and that doesn’t include the possibility of adding picks.
Even if the Cards don’t make a pick tomorrow, it’ll be an interesting night all the way around. See you then.
Tags: Corey Chavous, draft, Patriots, Ryan Kelly, Steve Keim, T.J. Green, Tony Jefferson
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It was about this time last year when rumors cropped up about the Cardinals and potentially trading wide receiver Michael Floyd, something that obviously didn’t happen. Similar rumblings have come up this week, that Floyd– heading into the final year of his contract — could be dealt draft weekend for a pick. Floyd shrugged it off last year, and he does the same now.
“I don’t worry about it at all,” Floyd said prior to throwing out the first pitch at Tuesday night’s Diamondbacks game. “It’s kind of what I saw last year too, but I don’t worry about it at all. I go into work, put my work in, watch film with my teammates and go about my day.”
Floyd would seem to be more likely than not to stay a Cardinal, but the speculation about his future isn’t going to fade. He’s due a little more than $7 million this year and then the Cards will have to determine if they want to get a long-term deal done and Floyd will have to decide if it makes sense to stay. The 2012 first-round pick has been good the last couple of years but hasn’t reached the level that the Cards had hoped by now. As a free agent, Floyd figures to be primed to make a lot on the open market — perhaps more than the Cards will be willing to spend. There’s also the puzzle piece that is Larry Fitzgerald and Fitz’s impending free agency as well.
Tags: Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd
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When the schedule came out, it was hard not to look first at the Cardinals’ opener — against the Patriots at University of Phoenix Stadium on “Sunday Night Football.” As glitzy as an opener can get. Monday, the glitz was dimmed. Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, who had been suspended last year for four games after deflategate before winning an appeal, is suspended again.
After Brady won an appeal on the suspension, the NFL took its turn to appeal one step up the legal food chain. Monday, the United States Court of Appeals in the Second Circuit ruled in favor of the NFL. According to the court’s ruling, “We hold that the Commissioner properly exercised his broad discretion under the collective bargaining agreement and that his procedural rulings were properly grounded in that agreement and did not deprive Brady of fundamental fairness.”
In short, Roger Goodell has the power — broadly given under the current collective bargaining agreement — to suspend Brady under the circumstances. It would be hard to believe Brady wouldn’t appeal again, so we’ll see what the next step would be. It’s possible the sides could negotiate a lower suspension, although that would still mean sitting out against Arizona. Legal maneuverings could still mean Brady finds a way on to the field in Arizona Sept. 11. For now though, he will not play.
After the Cardinals, the Patriots have three straight home games on the schedule against the Dolphins, Texans and Bills.
Tags: CBA, Patriots, Sunday Night Football, Tom Brady
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Tyrann Mathieu had thought about taking part in the annual Pat’s Run in the past, but injuries have gotten in the way — including this year, after tearing his ACL late last season. But the all-pro safety will still be there bright and early Saturday morning on the campus of Arizona State University, serving as the official starter to the 4.2-mile race that honors the legacy of former Cardinals safety Pat Tillman.
“It’s a tremendous honor,” Mathieu said. “I was speechless when they came to me. Obviously I know about Pat and his story, how he sacrificed and what he gave for this country and what he gave for this team. For me to be the starter at his run, it means everything.
“It’s a good thing for me to go out there and just be a part of it.”
Even though the race is tomorrow, there is still time to sign up if you do it today. Go here for details. (I too will be running the race, my 11th Pat’s Run.) Someday, Mathieu — sporting this year’s race shirt in the picture below (thanks Bruce Yeung) — will do more than start the other athletes.
“Hopefully next year,” Mathieu said, pausing to knock on the wood of his locker, “I can run in it.”
Tags: Pat's Run, Tyrann Mathieu
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Larry Fitzgerald has more football left in him (although I do feel for him a bit this season — these potential retirement questions probably aren’t going away), but first, softball. Fitz is hosting his annual charity softball game Saturday night at Salt River Fields in Scottsdale. Friday, he’s also hosting a charity golf tournament. (Click here for all the details.)
The events benefit Fitzgerald’s First Down Fund, which helps “kids and their families by funding positive activities for kids during the summer and throughout the year, supporting kids and families in crisis, and supporting health-related organizations that work with families.” (That’s straight off Fitz’s website.) The softball game has grown bigger every year and, not surprisingly with Fitz, has been a big success.
Among the players scheduled to attend: Broncos WR Demaryius Thomas, Archie Goodwin and P.J. Tucker of the Phoenix Suns, former Cardinals wide receivers Anquan Boldin and Andre Roberts, Bills receiver Sammy Watkins, ex-NFL wideout Terrell Owens, and current Cardinals Michael Floyd, Calais Campbell and Andre Ellington.
Tags: Larry Fitzgerald
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As if the Eagles-Browns trade wasn’t big enough news for the NFL Wednesday, this afternoon the Panthers in a stunning move rescinded the franchise tag from all-pro cornerback Josh Norman. Norman is now free to sign anywhere, and while in theory that includes back with the Panthers, it’s hard to see a scenario where that happens.
Norman had not signed his tender offer — worth nearly $14 million — and was in a position where he and Carolina had until July 15 to sign a long-term deal. Reportedly, Norman, 28, was looking for around $16M a year. Panthers GM Dave Gettleman said today it had become clear to him the team and Norman would never reach a long-term contract. Still, it’s odd the team would just let him go. Norman might have threatened to sit out (without signing the tender, he wasn’t obligated to show up, even to training camp) but he wouldn’t be the first, and he just said last month he was willing to play under the tag this season.
How does this impact the Cardinals? Not directly. Norman is a free agent, but the Cards a) only have about $6.5 million of cap space, b) are already paying a cornerback a ton of money (Patrick Peterson)and c) are on deck to pay another secondary member (Tyrann Mathieu) a lot of money. Norman isn’t coming here. But the Cardinals do visit the Panthers in 2016, so no Norman figures to help the Cards’ deep receiving corps.
That doesn’t mean the Cardinals won’t see Norman. Both the 49ers and Rams had been trying to sign premier cornerbacks in free agency, and the 49ers especially ($52 million in cap space) would seem to have the resources to give Norman what he wants.
Tags: 49ers, free agency, Josh Norman, Panthers, Patrick Peterson, Rams, Tyrann Mathieu
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Earlier this month, Justin Bethel was at his former high school in South Carolina, giving them a $100,000 check as a way to give back. He did so while on crutches, telling reporters it was a foot injury but that he would be back for training camp. So it wasn’t a surprise when Bethel was one of the few who has yet to be at the voluntary work that began this week. Another guy who is sidelined, according to Kent Somers, is Patrick Peterson, who also had surgery (ankle) and is hopeful to be back for some of the organized team activities later in the offseason. (Peterson later tweeted out the news.)
Neither situation is expected to sideline them for training camp. But it does emphasize the need for cornerbacks, at least in the short term. Right now, if you include Tyrann Mathieu’s slot work, the Cardinals won’t have their top four cornerbacks from last season for at least some of the offseason on-field work: Peterson, Bethel, Mathieu and free agent Jerraud Powers. (Powers, unsigned, still could return, although at this point nothing is expected to happen before the draft.)
The other cornerbacks on the roster: Cariel Brooks (whom the coaches like), Carrington Byndom, Asa Jackson, Shaun Prater, Kevin White and former Australian Rules Football player Joel Wilkinson.
Tags: Asa Jackson, Cariel Brooks, Carrington Byndom, Jerraud Powers, Joel Wilkinson, Justin Bethel, Kevin White, Patrick Peterson, Shaun Prater, Tyrann Mathieu
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Lyle Sendlein and Ted Larsen are gone. And while A.Q. Shipley remains and the Cardinals have signed a couple of other street free agents in Taylor Boggs and Valerian Ume-Ezeoke, it’s pretty clear the Cardinals are on course to draft a center at some point. Maybe it’s the first round, a guy like Alabama’s Ryan Kelly (who has been a favorite for mock drafters to scribble next to the Cardinals at 29th overall.) But it won’t be a surprise, even though the Cards don’t have a second-round pick, if they wait. After listening to both Steve Keim and Bruce Arians Tuesday, it shouldn’t even be a surprise if one comes later — and isn’t even technically a center. Not yet.
“In this draft, there are several opportunities to draft centers in all rounds,” Keim said. “Some of those guys are projections. There are some guys in the second, third, fourth rounds, who are going to be guys who played left tackle or they played guard at the collegiate level, who we worked out at center or they played center previously in their career that we think has the skill set. There are going to be opportunities to address that position if we feel necessary.”
Arians noted a couple of very good NFL centers like Jeff Hartings of the Steelers and Tim Grunhard of the Chiefs (Grunhard played guard in college, Hartings started his NFL career at guard before moving to center) that made the move. “When you say a college center, there might be three college centers, but there are 15 potential centers,” Arians said.
Options obviously open up a lot of possibilities for that first pick. Waiting on a center makes it easier to take a cornerback. Or a defensive lineman. Whatever Keim might want.
Tags: A.Q. Shipley, Bruce Arians, draft, Jeff Hartings, Lyle Sendlein, Steve Keim, Ted Larsen, Tim Grunhard
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