It’s hard to believe, but before the Houston Texans came along and there were 31 NFL teams, there was a bye every week — including opening weekend. In 2001, that team that had to sit out the NFL’s first week of play was the Arizona Cardinals. So that “bye” week — if you can call it that, since the Cardinals last played a meaningless fourth preseason game and were mostly just waiting — came and went slowly, and the players were ready to get going with a road game against NFC East rival Washington coming up Sunday.
Back in those days, Cardinals coach Dave McGinnis met with the media daily, including the players’ off day of Tuesday, so I — working for the East Valley Tribune — was still going to be headed over to the Cards’ facility. But I was woke up a little early by my wife, who had flipped on the TV in our bedroom a little after 6 a.m. and said, “I think you want to see this.”
And on the screen, the World Trade Center, both towers, were already billowing smoke.
I ended up going over to the Cardinals’ complex earlier than I normally would’ve, because you just wanted to be around people at that point. By then, the Pentagon had been hit and you start thinking that the hotel you are going to be staying at in just a couple of days is only a couple train stops down from the Pentagon and what the hell is happening in the world? I sat staring at the TV screen in the media relations office, and at one point, Pat Tillman sat down beside me just shaking his head, and I couldn’t help but try and get a comment about the Cardinals-Redskins game that was to be played.
“The importance of football ranks zero,” Tillman said, and of course he was right. That day, so much was left unknown, but it was quickly determined that the games that weekend would be postponed and frankly, with a 2-year-old at home, flying toward all that chaos wasn’t something I really wanted to do — not that it mattered, after all air travel was grounded for the time being.
The Cardinals didn’t play a regular-season game until Denver visited the following weekend. I remember going to New York to play the Giants in December for a Saturday game, and heading out on Friday night with cohorts Kent Somers, Scott Bordow and Pedro Gomez. By the time dinner was over, it was 11:30, and we drove over to Ground Zero. For December, the weather was surprisingly mild, and I remember coming around the corner and being much closer than you’d expect to the crash site. Workers even at that hour continued to plug away at the wreckage, pieces of the bottom of the building still pointing haphazardly in the air around so much debris, the floodlights giving the whole area an eerie glow. Just outside the gates were the leftovers of all the makeshift staging areas from the disaster, hundreds of “Have you seen me?” posters still hanging from those who had hoped against hoped they hadn’t lost someone in the towers.
A few weeks later the Cardinals played their makeup game in Washington, and I ended up at the same hotel and I took the train to the Pentagon stop, seeing the damage and thinking how — the previous year — it had been so easy to walk near the Pentagon to see it up close and how that was never happening again.
Now, the Cardinals find themselves going to New York this week again, a couple of days after the anniversary. In 2005, the Cards played in New York on 9/11, which was memorable. I haven’t had a trip to New York — including one with my family — without visiting the area, and this time will be no different. Today, there are always a flood of memories that come rushing back from a day, and a time, that will always resonate.
Tags: 9/11, Dave McGinnis, Giants, Pat Tillman, Redskins
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At this point, you certainly can’t say it’s been dull around the Cardinals. Between key injuries and comebacks and starting jobs and receiver targets — and a one-point, come-from-behind win — this team has kept in the public eye. Wednesday it’s the news that linebacker John Abraham is considering retirement, as he takes leave of the team and takes another piece from the defense. He has five days to decide if he wants to stay or go, although you wonder if it’s gotten to this point, how Abraham hasn’t already given it serious thought. Funny thing, when he came back from his rehab and got to training camp, he insisted he never once thought about not playing. Football was his life, he said. Now, it may not be.
Whether Abraham would have notched a bunch of sacks eventually may never been known. He did get off to a slow start last year before eventually breaking into double digits. But in the end, I think the Cardinals find a way around this, just as they did with Darnell Dockett, and I think the defense can still play at a high level. But yes, Todd Bowles will have earned even more respect if he continues to weave his playcalling magic.
– There will be more tomorrow on Larry Fitzgerald when he speaks to the media on his normal Thursday, but this was noteworthy from Bruce Arians today: He acknowledged that Fitz’s knee issues limited him as the Cardinals headed into the first game and the reason Fitzgerald wasn’t on the field for three different passing situation third downs was because Fitzgerald hadn’t been able to practice those plays. “I learned my lesson last year not to ask (Larry) to do things in a game that you’re not practicing,” Arians said. “It’s not fair to the quarterback either.”
Tags: John Abraham, Larry Fitzgerald
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I’m guessing that if Larry Fitzgerald’s one-catch game had come a couple of games down the road, his is-he-being-targeted storyline wouldn’t have been as big of a deal. But Bruce Arians talked about it today, and that came after Fitz’s dad, Larry Fitzgerald Sr. — who was at the game Monday — dropped a tweet that caught national attention:
The world saw on Monday Night Football the politics and business of football.If its been decided that you are not getting the ball just win
— Larry Fitzgerald Sr. (@FitzBeatSr) September 9, 2014
The tweet got enough attention that Fitz Jr. decided to tweet a response Tuesday night:
My fathers inflammatory comments dont reflect my feelings or mood. We’re 1-0 & working tirelessly to be 2-0 this week thats my only concern. — Larry Fitzgerald (@LarryFitzgerald) September 10, 2014
Fitz had a big smile after the win. He has a good understanding where this team and this offense is right now. “In terms of numbers and stuff, goals I would set for myself back in the day, they were realistic where I was playing,” Fitzgerald told me last week. “Now you have to adjust that based on what you are asked to do.” He’ll be asked about this Thursday, the day he normally meets with the media, and he’ll echo what he said in his tweet. That’s Fitz. I’m sure he’d like more chances, but he’s looking for the victories too, and besides, he’s not the guy who is going to raise a fuss. He never has been.
Tags: Larry Fitzgerald
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Why, Bruce Arians was asked, wasn’t wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald targeted more in the Monday night game against the Chargers?
“You have to ask the quarterback,” Arians said. “(Larry) is going out for a pass every time. I don’t look at that. We don’t design plays for guys to get the ball. That’s interceptions waiting to happen.”
In fact, Arians referred to early last season, when Carson Palmer acknowledged he had been trying to force the ball to Fitz a couple of times, with turnover-laden results. It would seem, however, that Fitzgerald would be in line to be targeted a little bit more. “I learned some lessons last year,” Palmer said. “You want to get him involved, but it can bite you in the butt. We weren’t going to do that tonight.” Arians acknowledged there were a couple of times Fitzgerald was open and Palmer threw the ball elsewhere.
“But I’m not interested in anybody’s numbers other than the ‘Ws,’ ” Arians said. “Those days are long gone.”
Fitzgerald was officially targeted four times, with one catch for 22 yards.
– Running back Andre Ellington will wear a boot on his injured left foot so it can “calm down” after playing on it and he’ll probably not practice Wednesday. Then he will try and go Thursday and Friday to get ready for the Giants game. Playing through a little pain — knowing the injury can’t get worse — is important, Arians believes. Ellington did the same thing last year, skipping the Philadelphia game after hurting his knee and then coming back to play arguably his best game, in Tennessee. “You’re never going to be 100 percent until March as a running back in the National Football League,” Arians said, adding that Ellington wanted to play Monday night.
– LB John Abraham is going through the concussion protocol, so he’ll be day to day this week. Arians said DE Frostee Rucker will not practice Wednesday with his calf injury and looks doubtful to play in New York. Punter Dave Zastudil, with his bad groin, is day to day, although Arians said he was happy with the way Drew Butler punted.
– There are going to be a lot of tense moments this season as the defensive backs — especially Patrick Peterson and Antonio Cromartie — are going to be very much on an island as the Cardinals try to bring extra guys to create a pass rush. “Where we are putting them, they are going to get beat sometimes,” Arians admitted. “The pressure better get there.”
– Guard Jonathan Cooper played one play because Paul Fanaika hurt his knee. Cooper pulled and didn’t do the best job on his block. But there won’t be any extra plays for Cooper barring injuries, Arians said.
– For a second straight press conference, Arians noted that the offensive line had some communication issues because of crowd noise at University of Phoenix Stadium. Asked if that meant the crowd needed to learn to quiet down when the Cardinals are on offense, Arians said “yeah. And keep their tickets.”
– The Cardinals made a pair of practice squad moves Tuesday, adding running back Chris Rainey, who played for the Steelers in 2012 and was with the Colts in the preseason, and bringing back cornerback Teddy Williams. The Cards released receiver Kevin Cone from the practice squad, and put running back Dominique Williams (knee) on the practice squad/injured list.
Tags: Andre Ellington, Antonio Cromartie, Bruce Arians, Chris Rainey, Dave Zastudil, John Abraham, Jonathan Cooper, Larry Fitzgerald, Patrick Peterson, Teddy Williams
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Jonathan Dwyer had just run up the gut for a first down to clinch the win Monday night, and it was hard not to notice the player who looked like he had the biggest grin on the field: Larry Fitzgerald. Yes, Fitzgerald only had one catch on the night but it was a doozy, a 22-yarder that he hauled in to put the Cardinals into San Diego territory on the game-winning drive. Fitzgerald’s targets — four of them officially — will be a topic of conversation, but the Cardinals won and so those things move into the background. Hard to argue when the quarterback still gets 300 yards and there are enough others to make the plays when Fitz isn’t (Michael Floyd, 5 for 119 to start what I’m guessing will be a very big year.)
Besides, it’s tough to get that smile out of my head as the clock ticked down.
– The Cardinals look like they are going to be fine on defense. Yes, Todd Bowles is going to have to dial up some different things. The pass rush on some plays was, match up with receivers one-on-one across the board and send everyone else. That’ll be tough against Detroit with Calvin Johnson, but Bowles sees what he has and goes with it. He lost two more pieces during the game when linebacker John Abraham (concussion) and defensive end Frostee Rucker (calf) went out. Oh well. “Survival of the fittest,” Bowles said. “Your healthy, you play.”
– One of those guys who is playing is Larry Foote. No, he’s not Daryl Washington. But a good camp was followed up with a good opening game, something that brought a smile to Bruce Arians’ face. “He’s going to be the bellcow for us all year,” Arians said.
– The good was Deone Bucannon looked comfortable and solid as that dollar linebacker in the nickel defense. The bad was him missing the block that allowed new punter Drew Butler to get one blocked. “I was just overexcited,” Bucannon said. “I was trying to get out too soon, trying to get down there to make a tackle. Totally stupid. Selfish by me.”
– Overall, the “kicking game hurt us more than it should have,” Arians said. Besides the block, Ted Ginn did not have a good opening game returning kickoffs. Field position wasn’t great much of the time. Chandler Catanzaro, however, held his own as kicker. The Cardinals look like they made a good choice with the rookie.
– Arians didn’t seem that bothered by the fact right tackle Bobby Massie didn’t just fall on the Andre Ellington fumble, which ended up with the Chargers and cost the Cardinals an early scoring chance. The cast on Massie’s hand — which he apparently has — was the culprit, Arians said. “He tried to pick it up and run with it,” Arians said. “The cast dropped it.”
– Safety Tony Jefferson said he got props from both San Diego quarterback Philip Rivers and tight end Antonio Gates after the game, after Jefferson chased Gates around much of the game. Still, Jefferson was still irritated with the defensive holding he was called for on a play he ended up getting an interception on. He didn’t feel he held, although he admitted he needed to look at the video.
– Andre Ellington wasn’t at full speed, but that was still good enough. That 18-yard run he made on the game-winning drive was a huge play and if he can muddle through his tendon injury, the Cardinals will be much better off with him in there.
OK, that’s that. I’ll be doing a chat tomorrow (Tuesday) at 2 p.m. on this short week, if you want to take part. But now, it’s time to go home.
Tags: Andre Ellington, Bobby Massie, Chargers, Deone Bucannon, Drew Butler, Jonathan Dwyer, Larry Fitzgerald, Larry Foote, Ted Ginn, Todd Bowles, Tony Jefferson
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Running back Andre Ellington is active tonight against the Chargers, which is a big deal for the Cardinals. Andre, as you see in the tweet below, forecasted the good news. We’ll see if he is limited or if he’s able to be a full part of the offense. Also active is punter Dave Zastudil, which means the Cardinals will have two active punters tonight. Zastudil could end up just holding on place kicks.
Of the inactives, one surprise is rookie defensive end Kareem Martin. The arrival of new defensive linemen Tommy Kelly and the waiver pickup of former Charger pass rusher Thomas Keiser, both of whom are playing, has impacted Martin’s situation.
One guy that is not a surprise to be sitting is safety Tyrann Mathieu, whose debut remains up in the air as he comes back from knee surgery. Aside from Martin and Mathieu, the inactive list:
– QB Logan Thomas
– LB Glenn Carson
– LB Alex Okafor (thigh)
– G Earl Watford
– TE Darren Fells
That leaves the Cardinals with three active tight ends too.
As a quick aside, not only is Kurt Warner going into the Ring of Honor at halftime, but the Cardinals have another former player cranking the “Big Red Siren” as kickoff approaches: Adrian Wilson, who was a practice visitor earlier this week.
I thank God for these blessings!
— Andre Ellington (@AEllington38) September 9, 2014
Tags: Adrian Wilson, Andre Ellington, Chargers, inactives, Tyrann Mathieu
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With Dave Zastudil hurting with a groin injury, the Cardinals today filled their empty space on the roster (opened when Desmond Bishop was cut) by signing punter Drew Butler. Butler, the son of long-time Chicago Bears kicker Kevin Butler, was with the Detroit Lions during the preseason before being released. He was with the Bears in the offseason of 2013, but in 2012, he punted for the Pittsburgh Steelers, averaging 43.8 yards a kick.
I am not sure if this is strictly a backup plan if Zastudil can’t go tonight, or if Zastudil already is going to miss. Butler has punted before, so that isn’t really a concern. What will be interesting to see is what happens on field goals and extra points, because Zastudil is the holder for kicker Chandler Catanzaro. There is not a backup holder listed on the depth chart and truth be told, I don’t recall seeing a backup working in practice (that doesn’t mean it didn’t happen, just that I have not seen it). Don’t know if it would be Butler automatically, or Drew Stanton or someone else. Butler did hold for field goals and extra points when he was in Pittsburgh, so he can do the job if needed.
Tags: Dave Zastudil, Drew Butler
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Well, everyone in the Valley woke up to the massive rain and flooding, and that tends to hold the attention right now. Even Cardinals General Manager Steve Keim, on his weekly “Doug and Wolf” appearance on Arizona Sports 98.7, did his call from home because he said he had a foot of water in his basement. Not good. The I-10 freeway is flooded in spots too. We’ll have updates on azcardinals.com and on Twitter if needed as we get closer to the game. Nothing to report right now in terms of it impacting the game, but be sure to keep checking.
“Hopefully,” Keim said, “all our fans can make it out there.”
As for a little bit of football:
– Keim said running back Andre Ellington (foot) was limited again Sunday in the work the Cardinals did. That said, Keim said the medical and training staff will put Ellington through the paces pre-game to determine if he plays. My gut, based on pure speculation? I’d say they hold him out. But we’ll see.
– Same goes for safety Tyrann Mathieu. I did find it interesting that Keim noted how well Jerraud Powers and Tony Jefferson have been playing and Mathieu’s status is “just whether he fits in to the particular scheme this week.” Again, my gut would say Mathieu sits. Powers and Jefferson can do the job.
– Keim said guard Jonathan Cooper (toe) is taking reps with the first unit. Ted Larsen is still the starter, but clearly, the Cardinals aren’t going to shove Cooper in the corner. Keim said it would be up to Bruce Arians whether Cooper would get any actual work in the game.
– Keim said the decision to release linebacker Desmond Bishop was a “numbers decision.” Bishop’s salary is not guaranteed now, even if they were to bring him back. Although listening to Keim, I’m not sure that would happen anyway. “(Bishop) had a nice preseason but quite frankly (undrafted rookie) Glenn Carson did as well,” Keim said. “Carson is the fourth inside linebacker at this point and we don’t see that changing anytime soon.”
– The Cardinals have not yet filled the open roster spot created with Bishop’s release. I’d guess one would happen today, but we’ll see. You could add a running back with Ellington’s iffy situation, or a punter if ailing Dave Zastudil (groin) isn’t ready.
Tags: Andre Ellington, Dave Zastudil, Desmond Bishop, Glenn Carson, Jonathan Cooper, Steve Keim, Tyrann Mathieu
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Will he or won’t he? I’m sure the last thing the Cardinals wanted going into the opener was having their key offensive piece be a game-day decision, but that’s where we are left with running back Andre Ellington and his pesky foot problem. Bruce Arians said Ellington did enough in practice Saturday (pictured right) to convince him that Ellington could possibly play Monday, so there is that.
“We can’t worry about injuries,” Arians said. “Nobody cares but us.”
Even if he doesn’t play, the beat moves on. If you look at the key guys not playing in total that you had hoped would – Washington and Mathieu and Dockett and Cooper, aside from Ellington – it can be a daunting list. But these are things that don’t make Bruce Arians flinch. He will forever have that 2012 season with the Colts burned on his brain, when everyone seemed to get hurt for Indy (except for Andrew Luck) and they still won 11 games. That will be the memory Arians will fall back upon, and why his “Next Man Up” battle cry isn’t just lip service. Whether the Cardinals can too make it work, we’ll see. The Chargers are just the first in a tough schedule.
– Punter Dave Zastudil was added to the injury list as questionable Saturday with a groin injury. That’s not good, obviously. The Cardinals did cut linebacker Desmond Bishop Saturday, so maybe the Cardinals fill that spot with a new punter if Zastudil can’t go. (Kicker Chandler Catanzaro punted once last season in college at Clemson.)
– If I had to pick just one major key to the game Monday, I’d have to go with the pressure the Cardinals need to put on Philip Rivers. There are other important aspects, of course. The Cardinals need to show they can stop the run again, and they need to protect Carson Palmer as promised. But after the vanilla preseason, it’s important that the Cards can hurry Rivers in the pocket. Once in a while without a blitz, preferably.
– Here is not a surprise in the least: The presence of new left tackle Jared Veldheer has completely changed the tension level for offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin.
“For me, for Carson, it’s about being comfortable,” Goodwin said. “For me, I can worry about other things. I don’t have to worry about chip-help for the tackle all the time. That relieves a whole lot of stress.”
No question Veldheer gives the Cardinals something Levi Brown simply did not, and that Bradley Sowell can not. In the end, Veldheer is seen by many fans as a savior to that position, although Veldheer isn’t all that comfortable with the notion.
“I guess that’s an OK thing, but to me, the biggest thing is being accountable to the guys on the line and the offense and the team,” he said. “And that’s me doing my job.”
– Got a chance to catch up briefly with Darnell Dockett yesterday, and he was as Darnell as always. He’s already pushing himself hard on his knee, even this early.
“You put the time in, got nothing else to do,” he said. “My coaches are supporting me, they know my work so they give me the green light to do everything I can to come back faster. There can’t be a better situation other than not being in this situation in the first place.”
– I’ve had many people ask me what the ramifications might be for suspended linebacker Daryl Washington if the new drug policy – rumored to be close – is passed. The truth is, I have no idea. Part of the problem is that it hasn’t publicly been said why Washington was suspended. He said in his statement it was for marijuana, but you’d need more details than that. Let’s put it this way, first this new policy actually has to be put in place – and it hasn’t yet. I still wouldn’t hold my breath for Washington even if it does.
– It’ll be an emotional night Monday. Aside from the game itself and the knowledge it is on national television, Kurt Warner gets inducted into the Ring of Honor at halftime. I’d guess there will be some well-remembered highlights played too. Don’t leave your seats.
– Carparks open at 3 p.m. Monday. Don’t forget your clear bags.
– With all the Ellington news, the possibility of Tyrann Mathieu playing has seemingly been pushed to the background. I still think the Cardinals are going to err on the side of caution and keep him out for now, but Arians said again it’ll be a game-day thing.
– Crazy to think Alameda Ta’amu is fine after tearing his ACL in the 2013 season finale, but the nose tackle should be in the defensive line rotation and his biggest issue is his stamina. “He’s full go. He runs on and off the field and gets out of gas. That’s a lot of ass to carry back and forth out there.”
So, on that note, on to Monday night.
Tags: Alameda Ta'amu, Andre Ellington, Chargers, Darnell Dockett, Daryl Washington, Dave Zastudil, Harold Goodwin, Jared Veldheer, Kurt Warner, Philip Rivers, Tyrann Mathieu
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The Cardinals released linebacker Desmond Bishop Saturday, and given the glut of linebackers on the roster, dropping one can’t be a shock. It leaves an opening on the roster, which tends to make you think with the status of Andre Ellington in doubt, but there was no one added to the 53-man squad yet. Coach Bruce Arians said Saturday Ellington did enough in his limited practice work that he thinks he would be able to play Monday, but it will be a game-day decision.
It’s also important to note that letting a guy like Bishop go – a vested veteran – before the first game means that his salary is not guaranteed. If he were brought back at a later date, the Cardinals would have more flexibility to let him go down the road if they needed a roster spot again or if he just wasn’t working out.
Even with Alex Okafor not expected to play Monday with a thigh injury, the Cardinals still have nine linebackers at their disposal, including Glenn Carson, Larry Foote, Kevin Minter and Kenny Demens on the inside.
UPDATE: Punter Dave Zastudil was also added to the injury report as limited/questionable with a groin issue. That’s another roster spot that might need help Monday if Zastudil can’t go.
Tags: Alex Okafor, Dave Zastudil, Desmond Bishop, Glenn Carson, Kenny Demens, Kevin Minter, Larry Foote
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