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  • Sun., Nov. 30, 2014 2:05 PM MST Cardinals at Falcons Week 13 of the regular season at the Falcons
  • Sun., Dec. 07, 2014 2:05 PM MST Cardinals vs. Chiefs Week 14 of the regular season vs. the Chiefs
  • Thu., Dec. 11, 2014 6:25 PM MST Cardinals at Rams Week 15 of the regular season at the Rams
  • Sun., Dec. 21, 2014 6:30 PM MST Cardinals vs. Seahawks Week 16 of the regular season vs. the Seahawks
  • Sun., Dec. 28, 2014 2:25 PM MST Cardinals at 49ers Week 17 of the regular season at the 49ers


Hall nominees with Cards ties, and Keim’s story

Posted by Darren Urban on November 19, 2014 – 11:06 am

The Pro Football Hall of Fame has whittled its potential 2015 class to 26 names, and included in there are a three major contributors to the Cardinals over the years. One is coach Don Coryell, who was the man in charge of the Cards’ teams of the mid-1970s that was successful enough that every time the current team hits a win plateau or streak, it seems to date back to one of Coryell’s squads. The other two are part of the Cards’ Super Bowl team: quarterback Kurt Warner, and running back Edgerrin James.

(Cowboys safety Darren Woodson, who went to high school at Phoenix Maryvale, is also part of the group.)

James is probably a long shot to advance to the group of 15 that will be considered when the Hall selection committee gets together in Phoenix on Super Bowl eve to eventually name no more than five to the Hall of Fame. Coryell has got a better chance, I’d think, given his offensive innovations, especially coaching the Chargers in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Then there is Warner, who given his resume, figures to get into the Hall at some point. It would be fitting if that was this year — Warner’s first year of eligibility — with the class being named in Arizona.

– He’s not headed to the Hall of Fame anytime soon, but Steve Keim has worked hard for a long time to reach his goal of being a general manager. If you haven’t yet, check out my story about Keim’s belief even as a little kid he’d end up running a team.


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Niklas goes to IR; Vet Mulligan signed

Posted by Darren Urban on November 18, 2014 – 1:14 pm

Bruce Arians’ hope that rookie tight end Troy Niklas’ badly sprained ankle wouldn’t be season-ending was short-lived. The Cardinals put Niklas on injured reserve Tuesday, ending his first campaign. In his place, the team signed veteran tight end Matthew Mulligan, who had played two games with Chicago earlier this year and has played for the Patriots, Rams and Jets. Mulligan has 16 career receptions in 67 games. At 6-foot-4 and 267 pounds, he figures to be a blocker first, as was Niklas.

It’s a rough way for Niklas’ rough rookie season to end. He missed most of the offseason work with a broken finger. He was still dealing with that during training camp, and the ankle sprain — which first occurred earlier this season — meant he missed more games that he played. He was just starting to find his role and now he’s done. The most memorable part of the season about Niklas for me was how teammate John Carlson described him: ““He looks like a 12-year-old boy who swallowed a grizzly bear.”

Troy Niklas



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Surgery for Palmer step one in comeback

Posted by Darren Urban on November 18, 2014 – 9:53 am

The journey has a long way to go, but Carson Palmer took the first step toward coming back in 2015 by undergoing surgery Tuesday morning to repair his ACL. Palmer figures to be around the team a lot post-surgery. I wouldn’t think he’d make the trip to Seattle this weekend and Atlanta might be a little quick too, but at some point it makes sense that Palmer — like Darnell Dockett — would accompany the team to games home and away.

UPDATE: The surgery, performed by team doctors Gary Waslewski and Doug Freedberg, went “extremely well” in a statement released by the team.

It was interesting to note last week that while Palmer was waiting to have surgery, he not only was around the team facility every day, but during practice, he was in the weight room, still working out the body parts he could with strength and conditioning coach Buddy Morris. After surgery, he’ll progress the best he can. Dockett has been walking around normally for weeks now after August surgery. Palmer, who understood he faces a long road back, sounded mentally prepared — especially since he dealt with a more grueling rehab back in 2006 when he tore multiple knee ligaments. This time, everyone believes it was just the ACL (although there is always a chance they will find something extra during surgery) so rehab should be a little easier. A little.

“I know one thing and that’s to work hard and grind and get after it, and this won’t be as intense because my knee was locked out for the first six weeks after that surgery,” Palmer said last week. “This surgery, right after surgery you’re supposed to get range of motion back right away and work for that. I’m mentally prepared, I’m mentally strong and I’m going to grind this thing out. I know the mindset you need to take, and that’s the one day at a time thing.

“It’s baby steps and it’s doing calf raises and small, little incremental movements and all these little tedious things that you don’t feel like are doing anything, but you have to do them and you have to do what they tell you to do. You take it one day at a time and I know that and I’m going to grind it out and I’m going to be back, like I said, hopefully by OTAs.”

Even if Palmer comes back at the end of OTAs, that’s early June — or less than seven months. That’s awful quick. But it’s something to shoot for.


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Fitzgerald MCL sprain, but still could play

Posted by Darren Urban on November 17, 2014 – 1:27 pm

Bruce Arians is optimistic that wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, who suffered a Grade 2 MCL sprain Sunday on his left knee, will still be able to play Sunday. Fitzgerald hurt the knee near the end of the first half, but he came back in the second half to play and made the game-clinching first-down catch. He still played 56 of a possible 62 offensive snaps. Fitz is the type of guy who doesn’t miss — he’s played through knee injuries before. At the end of the preseason and the start of the regular season, Fitz was dealing with a sprain in his right knee. He hasn’t missed a game since Dec. 2, 2007. That’s 110 straight regular-season games.

The news wasn’t nearly as optimistic for tight end Troy Niklas. He had the same ankle that kept him out a few games earlier this season get rolled up again, and Arians said he’s doubtful for this week and that the team will monitor the injury. There is a possibility he could end up being done for the season. Darren Fells becomes the third tight end behind John Carlson and Rob Housler for now.


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Keim: It’s about being proactive and aggressive

Posted by Darren Urban on November 17, 2014 – 8:09 am

General Manager Steve Keim didn’t have a whole lot of newsy things to say during his weekly appearance on the “Doug and Wolf” show on Arizona Sports 98.7, but that’s probably a good thing. He did talk a little bit about giving the contract extension to defensive coordinator Todd Bowles — who just happened to have his unit play excellent in the first game since signing.

Keim said Bowles had obviously earned it. But bigger picture, Keim said the mindset he and the new football staff had when being hired was that with every decision “we wanted to be proactive and we wanted to be aggressive, to change the culture.” That means locking up quality assistants. Keim reiterated that it won’t (and can’t) stop Bowles from taking a head coaching job after the season. But, Keim added, in talking with Bowles on the subject, “I know it will take a special opportunity for him to leave us.”

Other quick hits from Keim:

– Asked to pick one player who stood out against the Lions, Keim didn’t hesitate in naming cornerback Patrick Peterson. Peterson’s play has no doubt jumped over the past three games. Now we get Richard Sherman week!

– Keim raved about the physical nature of safety Deone Bucannon’s play. I know there was one early running play, when the Cards were in nickel and Bucannon just shot the gap to make a tackle for loss. An excellent effort.

– With two more sacks, linebacker Alex Okafor has “brought a pass rush we’re desperately seeking,” Keim said. Keim added Okafor has “probably missed four or five” more sacks the last few games on technique errors that he should clean up.

– The pass protection was excellent, Keim said, and he praised the interior of the offensive line for their play against a stellar defensive front. That was a big deal after the microscope was on the interior for the last week.

– Keim noted Larry Fitzgerald was able to come back and play after his knee was “dinged up” and said overall injury-wise, “on the surface it seemed like we came out OK.”

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Getting defensive with Lions aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on November 16, 2014 – 8:30 pm

It could have been any other game, any other result. Todd Bowles isn’t getting too high, or too low. And the defensive coordinator isn’t going to overreach with his praise either. His unit simply shut down the Lions Sunday, but Bowles will be Bowles.

“I thought they played hard,” Bowles said. “We did good in the process of understanding about not giving up the big play. We missed quite a few tackles, but we played hard and we played together. Biggest thing we did was finish the ballgame. The last two weeks we kind of took the foot off the pedal.”

Forget for a moment the Cardinals closed with a nasty fourth quarter last week (two touchdowns against the Rams), or that the TD allowed late in Dallas was completely meaningless. That’s why Bowles will keep getting the best from his unit. All his players joked this week after Bowles signed his extension that it wasn’t a big deal because they all feel his days are numbered anyway, and it does seem likely he’ll have a shot at a head coaching job if he wants it.

But in the first game A.C. (after Carson), the Cardinals won they way they have won all season. They did enough on offense, and the defense was stout. And lookee here: They have a three-game lead in the NFC West with six to play.

– Drew Stanton, for the first two-and-most-of-a-third possessions, made the Cards’ offense look excellent. The Cards were moving toward a third TD in a row until Stanton threw his first interception (Stanton said he never saw the linebacker.) How about the offensive line making sure Stanton wasn’t sacked, especially against that defense? I do think this offense will be OK with Stanton. I want to see how they run next week in Seattle – the Chiefs made the Seahawks’ run D look very ordinary Sunday.

– It was the play of the game but it wasn’t. Drew Butler’s punt was about to be downed at the Detroit 1-yard line, but Justin Bethel tossed the ball back as he was falling into the end zone. Mike Leach and Rob Housler couldn’t grab it, but the Lions’ Jeremy Ross did. It’s one of those quirky NFL rules – once a punting team touches the ball, if it is not downed, the receiving team can pick it up and return it with no fear of turning it over. Once it is touched, even if it is subsequently fumbled, the receiving team keeps it. So Ross had nothing to lose and he took it back to the Arizona 46.

Detroit was only down eight at the time. Smartly, Bruce Arians challenged, saying Bethel had possession before he tossed it back and it should’ve been whistled dead. Lo and behold, the play was overturned. A huge moment.

“I was like, ‘No, I was in the end zone! This is a touchback!’ ” Bethel said. “Then I said, ‘Darn, my good feet.’ … It turned in our favor. We got the call.”

– Larry Fitzgerald will get an MRI after hurting his left knee but he returned to the game to make the game-clinching first-down catch and he was walking around in the locker room pretty well after the game.

– Andre Ellington also got up slowly a couple of times after carries, but he said he was fine. “It’s one of those things, guys fall on me,” Ellington said. “They try and find ways to slow me down. It was one of those late falldowns on the pile.”

– Welcome back, Michael Floyd.

– Four more sacks for the Cardinals after six last week. Alex Okafor had two and looks more and more like a guy who can help off the edge long-term. I think he’s played well and it will be interesting to see what the Cards do with the lineup when Matt Shaughnessy – who can return to practice this week – can play again in three weeks.

– You can live with interceptions from Stanton but watching him make the tackles on both is kind of scary.

– That last Drew Butler end-over-end punt that pinned the Lions on their own 11? He almost dropped the snap. Yeah, that would’ve been a mess. “I looked up and it slipped out of my hands,” Butler said. “I just let it out. In those situations, you just want to put them inside the 20.”

– Big one in Seattle next week. The Cardinals win, they would all but eliminate the Seahawks. Never thought I’d be saying that in November.


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All three QBs active for Cards

Posted by Darren Urban on November 16, 2014 – 12:54 pm

The first game of the post-Carson Palmer part of the season will feature three active quarterbacks. Drew Stanton starts, with Logan Thomas No. 2 and Ryan Lindley No. 3. It makes a lot of sense. While Thomas will go in if something happens to Stanton, Lindley provides a little bit of a safety net with a player who at least has starting experience.

Alameda Ta’amu is also active, since DT Ed Stinson is sitting with his toe injury.

The full inactive list:

– RB Kerwynn Williams

– LB Desmond Bishop

– LB Glenn Carson

– DT Ed Stinson (toe)

– DE Josh Mauro

– G Earl Watford

– TE Darren Fells

The Lions are without starting running back Reggie Bush and starting tight end Brandon Pettigrew today.

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Friday before the Lions, Stanton leads the way

Posted by Darren Urban on November 14, 2014 – 4:25 pm

Fitting, perhaps, that the first game of the defining portion of Drew Stanton’s career will be against the team he grew up watching and then playing for. Stanton moved to Michigan while in high school and later played at Michigan State, and then the Detroit Lions drafted him.

It never quite worked out with the Lions, and then Matthew Stafford showed up. He went to the Jets – briefly – until Tim Tebow showed up. He went to the Colts, and at least Andrew Luck was already on his way, and at least he met Bruce Arians. But then he came to the Cardinals, and while Arians warned him the Cards were likely going to bring in another veteran quarterback, none of the names Arians told Stanton at the time were Carson Palmer. So Palmer arrived, and Arians admitted Stanton was “pissed.”

Stanton is a pro, though. He’s been the model of a great backup, right down to his fill-in stint earlier this season when he won a pair of games. It’s Stanton’s team now. Not Stafford’s, or Luck’s, or Palmer’s. This is his chance. The Cardinals don’t have to win Sunday to make it to where they want to go, but it sure would help to take another one at home, especially in the first game without Palmer.

– Larry Fitzgerald has been a huge part of the offense of late. Michael Floyd has not. It’ll be interesting to see how the passing game unfolds. Don’t forget, Stanton’s last start – against a pretty good Denver pass rush – featured Stanton completing just 11 of 26 passes, so no one was really getting the ball. That, obviously, needs to change. (Although, as it has been pointed out to me, there were a bunch of drops that game too.)

– It’ll be very interesting to see how the interior of the Cards’ offensive line handles Ndamukong Suh after the tough game that group had last week against the Rams. The coaches have had their collective back all week, confident Paul Fanaika, Lyle Sendlein and Ted Larsen will bounce back.

– Fanaika was fined $8,268 for hitting a Rams player after the play during last week’s game, a penalty that cost the Cards 15 valuable yards. Speaking of 15 valuable yards, the illegal blindside block of tight end Lance Kendricks on Cardinals safety Tony Jefferson – the one that turned a Jared Cook 25-yard catch deep into Arizona territory into just 10 yards, eventually costing the Rams a scoring chance – cost Kendricks a whopping $22,050.

- The Cardinals should benefit from the return of running back Stepfan Taylor this week. Taylor isn’t going to come in and run for 100 yards, but he can handle some pass protection and give the Cards some flexibility in what they’re doing with Andre Ellington. Marion Grice seemed to struggle last week in both route-running and pass protection.

– Don’t forget to bring some canned food to the food drive being held prior to Sunday’s game.

– Hall of Fame cornerback Aeneas Williams, inducted into Canton in August, will receive his Hall of Fame ring during a halftime ceremony.

– This is how to win games: No team in the league has been more proficient in scoring defensive touchdowns since the beginning of the 2008 season as the Cardinals have been. The Cardinals have eight defensive touchdowns in that span (six via interceptions, two via fumbles), tying them with the Kansas City Chiefs.

– If you are looking for some podcasting goodness and some perspective on Palmer’s absence, check out Cardinals Underground.

– Speaking of Palmer, his wired segment featuring last week’s game/press conference will air Saturday morning at 9 a.m. on ABC-15 (and will be posted to azcardinals.com sometime after that.)

– It’s not often that the defensive coordinators get a lot of ink before a game, even for teams with good defenses like the Cards and Lions. But Todd Bowles had his stellar year interrupted by the news of his new contract, and Lions DC Teryl Austin – who was on Whiz’s coaching staff for three years – gets to come home.

– Both these teams have been special in the fourth quarter. You know what the Cardinals have done. The Lions have won the last three games on scores inside the final two minutes (or overtime.)

“If the game is close, there is an honest-to-God belief we will win that ballgame somehow, some way,” Arians said, and it’s difficult to argue that.

– The Cards aren’t a favorite of many anymore, now that Palmer is out (and they weren’t necessarily before Palmer got hurt either). Arians doesn’t care. “No one outside of that locker room matters,” Arians said. “It’s us against the world and we love that part of it.”

Drew, you’re up.


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Cards pop up in Pro Bowl votes – but not Campbell

Posted by Darren Urban on November 14, 2014 – 10:30 am

Four Cardinals have appeared among the top 10 at their positions in the first release of Pro Bowl voting this season. Andre Ellington is ninth among running backs (ahead of LeSean McCoy at No. 10), Patrick Peterson is sixth among cornerbacks, Justin Bethel is seventh for special teamers, and rookie Chandler Catanzaro is fifth among kickers.

No Fitz, although he’s just now starting to round into form, and no Antonio Cromartie, who is playing well. And no Calais Campbell.

I know Campbell missed two games and doesn’t have eye-popping numbers. But he was a star against the Rams last week, and at this point in his career, it would be a shame if he didn’t get more attention as a Pro Bowl candidate. Not that Campbell really is thinking about it.

“This time of year I don’t pay too much attention to it,” Campbell said. “I just want to do what it takes to win the game, and typically that means (I) play well. Pro Bowl comes with playing well. … I hope I get to avoid playing in the Pro Bowl because we are playing in the Super Bowl. That’s my ultimate goal. But you do want recognition when you are playing well.”

Of course, then Campbell downplays how he has done, noting his missed games and the knee that isn’t going to be quite right all season, even as he plays at a high level.

“I just can’t wait to be healthy so I can try to take over a game,” Campbell said. “We need a big play, and I want to be able to dig deep and come up with the big play.”

To vote for the Pro Bowl, click here or go to http://www.azcardinals.com/fan-zone/official-2015-pro-bowl.html.


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Bowles gets contract extension

Posted by Darren Urban on November 13, 2014 – 9:28 am

There’s been nothing official announced by the team, but multiple reports (first from profootballtalk.com) have this morning that the Cardinals have extended the contract of defensive coordinator Todd Bowles through the 2017 season. UPDATE: Bowles confirmed he has signed the extension. The story here.

Bowles also will reportedly be among the highest paid assistants in the league. It doesn’t mean Bowles couldn’t/wouldn’t leave for a head coaching job, but Bowles has always maintained he would only leave for the right head coaching situation and getting more money and having a good thing here in Arizona certainly gives him more flexibility in keeping to that mindset.

Bowles meets with the media every Thursday, so he’ll be speaking post-practice. I’m guessing this will be a topic.

It’s not the first time the Cardinals have been proactive with a contract upgrade for a coordinator who could be leaving for a head coaching job. After the 2007 season, the Cards gave offensive coordinator Todd Haley a new deal, scuttling a head coaching interview with Miami and Haley’s one-time mentor, Bill Parcells. Haley stayed, and steered the offense that got the Cardinals to the Super Bowl the next season. He then left to become the Kansas City Chiefs’ head coach.

Bowles has been tremendous for the Cardinals in his season-plus as coordinator. This season especially, with Bowles working his schematic magic with a lineup beset by personnel losses through injuries and suspension. The Cards certainly hope he will stick around, although coach Bruce Arians said from the moment he hired Bowles and offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin that was the goal was to get both head coaching jobs.



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