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Campbell has successful surgery

Posted by Darren Urban on February 10, 2015 – 12:51 pm

Calais Campbell was everywhere during Pro Bowl and Super Bowl week, whether it was practicing for and playing in the former or simply taking advantage of all the eyeballs focused in during the latter.

“I was definitely hustling,” the Cardinals’ defensive end said.

But he needed downtime. Suffering a sports hernia he played with during the season, Campbell finally had surgery last week. Tuesday, he was at the Cardinals’ facility — coming into the team’s temporary weight room/training room/locker room set up in the practice bubble while upgrades are being done in the permanent areas — and looked pretty good all things considered.

“The first couple of days I couldn’t walk,” said Campbell, who seemed OK as he came into the bubble. “It’s still a little painful to walk but I’m getting there.”

Campbell expects to be fine when the team has offseason workouts in a couple of months.

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Foote, as player, or as coach

Posted by Darren Urban on February 9, 2015 – 10:13 am

When the news first trickled out last week that the Cardinals could be interested in Larry Foote as Bruce Arians’ “ex-player-to-add-to-the-coaching-staff” candidate, I immediately thought of something Foote said back in October. It struck me a bit odd at the time, but in the current context, maybe Foote’s coaching possibility has been long in the queue.

Foote was talking about what the Cardinals wanted him as initially, because that was before Daryl Washington was going to be lost for the season by suspension — but the Cards were assuming Washington would be sitting a few games as a suspension because of his assault guilty plea.

“Daryl was supposed to be suspended four to six games and I was, ‘OK, I can come play and coach’ and he ended up gone for the year,” Foote said.

Again, Foote brought it up in the context that he was drastically underpaid given what role he ended up having. But the line about coaching seems relevant now. Foote said after the season he hadn’t decided if he still wanted to play in 2015. I’d be stunned if the Cardinals wouldn’t want him back as a player if that’s what he decided to do, as a leader and mentor. You wouldn’t want him playing as much as he did in 2014 — Foote wore down as the season went on, understandably — but he could still be a valuable piece and certainly a guy you want influencing players like Kevin Minter and Washington.

(A quick side note: I found it interesting O’Brien Schofield admitted he was following the wrong guys in the locker room when he was with the Cards. The team doesn’t have to worry about that if Foote is around.)

If Foote decides playing isn’t what he wants, he can still be that leader as a coach. The players know he’s done it before. Foote can help with that bridge between the departed Todd Bowles and new defensive coordinator James Bettcher. Either way, Foote “gets it” and is someone you want around. As he intimated a few months ago, coaching might have always been part of the plan.

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Cardinals 11th in NFL special teams rankings

Posted by Darren Urban on February 5, 2015 – 3:33 pm

The season for the Cardinals’ special teams had its highs and lows. Rookie kicker Chandler Catanzaro proved to be a find and made the first 17 field goals of his career. Return man Ted Ginn, save for one (very important) punt return for a touchdown, was disappointing in his work. Justin Bethel remained a Pro Bowl specialist. Punter Drew Butler had his struggles (especially in the playoffs) but the Cardinals were still one of the best teams in the league when it comes to blocking field goal attempts.

Overall special teams play isn’t easy to analyze — especially in the return game, when there are questions about how much the return man himself struggled or how much was his blocking. But Rick Gosselin of the Dallas Morning News has long tried to tangibly rate what Ron Wolfley loves to call the “transition game.” And in Gosselin’s 2014 rankings, the Cardinals were actually 11th in the NFL in overall special teams.

Gosselin has 22 categories that he looks at, and the formula from there is simple: The best team in a category gets one point, the worst gets 32 points. Lowest score when those 22 categories are totaled is the best. This year, that was the Eagles, and that makes sense — Philly had Darren Sproles returning kicks, they had a record-setting rookie kicker, a good punter, and blocked six kicks (returning three blocked punts for touchdowns).

What’s most impressive for the Cardinals is their ranking of 11th (and there is a significant dropoff from 11 to 12) is that the Cards and Ginn were last in the NFL in kickoff return average at 19 yards per runback. They were also last in average starting point after kickoffs (the 19-yard line — ouch). But they were best in the league in punts downed inside the 20 (35, so Butler did do some things right).

There will be things different on the Cards’ special teams in 2015. The team is expected to move on from Ginn as a return man. And any roster change from year to year impacts special teams the most, because it’s those new rookies and back-half-of-the-roster players who make up the bulk of special teams work.

Dan Bailey, Justin Bethel


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In little time, Bettcher has left big impression

Posted by Darren Urban on February 4, 2015 – 3:55 pm

We won’t know for a few days at least why exactly Bruce Arians picked James Bettcher to be his new defensive coordinator. Arians is on vacation this week, so the press conference to discuss Wednesday’s news is on hold until Arians returns. We know that Arians wanted to stay in-house to keep continuity and the same verbiage. We know that Arians wanted to get a young up-and-comer. He likes how he has his offensive setup with Harold Goodwin the young up-and-comer on offense; I’m still curious to see if the Cardinals eventually come up with a Tom Moore-esque guy for Bettcher. There was an attempt at Dick LeBeau (he didn’t want to be that far from family and took a spot with Ken Whisenhunt’s Titans), there has been contact with former Falcons coach Mike Smith. We’ll see if there is anyone else.

Regardless, Arians has long thought highly of Bettcher. When Arians was in his Coach of the Year season in Indianapolis, it was Bettcher who was in the middle of the drama that played out with Chuck Pagano’s cancer. Bettcher was not only the outside linebackers coach in Indy, he was also Pagano’s right-hand man.

“It was a role I will never forget,” Bettcher told me in 2013.

Bettcher is from Indiana and Pagano was “like a second father to me in many ways,” he said. Working with the Colts was a dream job. That’s why Bettcher’s move with Arians after one season is so important; As close as Bettcher and Pagano were, you have to assume Bettcher and Arians forged an important bond too as they maneuvered through such an emotional season. Maybe Arians always knew Bettcher was on the rise. Arians always targeted Todd Bowles to be his DC when he got the Cardinals’ job but if Arians believed Bowles was going to be a head coach sooner rather than later, maybe Bettcher was long the next in line. (Kind of like Goodwin, who was immediately installed as offensive coordinator under Arians/Moore.)

Are there questions about Bettcher, at 36, getting this job, especially after what Bowles was able to accomplish? Sure. There’s no arguing that. But Arians (and Bowles) had to have seen enough of Bettcher the past two seasons to feel comfortable with this ascension. Bettcher is a good guy who, from my vantage point, has respect of the players. Just last week, safety Tyrann Mathieu said “I think I’ve heard enough and I’m confident enough to know we’ve been playing too well to have the scheme change. We look forward to one of our position coaches being DC.”

The way Mathieu was talking, he knew Bettcher was the choice already, so I read the comment through that prism.

— Bob Sanders has a long history of coaching some pretty good linebackers — Kahlil Mack had a very nice rookie season this year under Sanders with the Raiders — so that looks like it could be a promising hire. He also spent some time as defensive coordinator with the Packers, so that puts someone else on the staff who is experienced in such a role. Even without a direct “mentor,” Bettcher could use that to his advantage.

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The locker of the Kwan (not the ‘Quan)

Posted by Darren Urban on February 3, 2015 – 2:01 pm

Took another stroll downstairs as the building renovations of the Cardinals’ Tempe facility go on, as noted yesterday. Most of the lockers have been taken out, and soon, many of the walls themselves will be demolished in the overhaul. But there are still a handful of lockers still standing — including that of Rod Tidwell (pictured below, third from the right).

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You remember Tidwell, the Cardinals’ erstwhile 1,000-yard receiver of the mid-1990s whose smaller size sometimes took away what he brought to the table as a playmaker. He eventually learned to use that chip on his shoulder as motivation (Think Steve Smith before Steve Smith). Good thing too, because it eventually got him a big contract.

You can see Tidwell at his locker in the clip below. Not sure what TV station happened to capture it that day — or why they were allowed to keep rolling on what looks like a pretty private conversation between Tidwell and his agent — but it forever immortalizes Tidwell’s spot in the soon-to-be gone locker room.


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A DC announcement and Super odds and ends

Posted by Darren Urban on February 2, 2015 – 12:15 pm

That’s it. The NFL season is over.

It’s a weird feeling here at the Cardinals’ Tempe facility, because the Cards have been done for a while — yet with the Pro Bowl and Super Bowl in town (not to mention the many appearance opportunities for various players, Bruce Arians and Michael Bidwill) it ramped up quickly around here. And then, quiet. The Scouting combine starts two weeks from Wednesday, and free agency will start a couple weeks after that. Roster moves will begin to happen. The 2015 season will be on us quickly.

— Bruce Arians told me Friday he expects to make an announcement on the new defensive coordinator this week. But that’s all it will be, an announcement, because Arians is out of town this week so he wouldn’t be at any press conference. Arians also said all the changes to the coaching staff aren’t quite done, so maybe he’ll just wait to talk about it once that all is settled. As I’ve mentioned, all signs point to the promotion of outside linebackers coach James Bettcher to DC.

— The decision to not run Marshawn Lynch was not smart. (I do get trying to beat a goal-line defense, but again, you have the best battering ram in the league.) That said, how does a defense that is that good allow two long touchdown drives in the fourth quarter? Can’t happen, and is as big of an issue in my mind as the offensive failure at the end.

— The Cardinals’ facility is now 3-for-3 in Super Bowl winners. The Cowboys (for Super Bowl XXX), the Giants (Super Bowl XLII) and now the Patriots all practiced at the Cards’ Tempe home the week of their games in Arizona.

— Speaking of the facility, more makeovers are underway. The new weight room and cafeteria are closer to being finished, and now that the Patriots don’t need it anymore, the locker room is being torn down for renovations.

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“Same defense” for Cardinals

Posted by Darren Urban on January 30, 2015 – 6:16 pm

Bruce Arians said Friday he will announce all his defensive hires next week save for one, which he wants to “hold for a while.” One of the coaches he will hire will “hopefully be a former player,” as Arians continues to try and refresh the up-and-coming coaches on his staff. As of now, the Cardinals have three vacancies from last season to fill: Defensive coordinator (Todd Bowles), inside linebackers (Mike Caldwell, who joined Bowles with the Jets) and defensive assistant (Ryan Slowik, whose contract was not renewed.)

Arians has said the hiring plan is set although it’s still “top secret” he added with a smile Friday. He did clarify why he wanted to stay in-house with his new coordinator, and it answers definitively the question of if the Cardinals will change defensively.

“I did not want our players to walk in and not know what they were doing the first day,” Arians said. “No new language. It’s the same defense, the same philosophy.”

With Arians already saying the hire will also be a young coach, current outside linebackers coach James Bettcher continues to be the logical choice.

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Cards will take Washington absence into account

Posted by Darren Urban on January 29, 2015 – 3:19 pm

One of the many things the Cardinals must sort through this offseason is what to do with suspended linebacker Daryl Washington if and when he returns — and how to plan for the season with his status in limbo for the next few months. Washington’s suspension, which is for a year before he can request NFL reinstatement, lasts until late May. That’s after free agency, and it’s after the draft. Until this suspension ends, it seems unlikely the NFL will hand down whatever suspension Washington might get for his assault conviction from last year.

That’s a lot of uncertainty, and why team president Michael Bidwill said Thursday the Cardinals are going to go through the offseason ready to not have Washington available — and if he is around, the Cards will be that much better off.

“He’ll be facing the issue with the domestic violence and there has been no determination of what happens there,” Bidwill said. “He was only suspended for the drug issue, so we want to make sure we understand what that (other punishment) is. Last year, we learned about his suspension after free agency. This year we are going to plan to make sure we address all the issues not knowing whether Daryl will be back for part of next season or all of next season. ‘Next man up’ is real but we have to make sure we’ve gone into free agency and addressed that situation.”

— Bidwill reiterated once again he is optimistic the Cardinals and Larry Fitzgerald will come to an agreement on a new contract.

“Larry and I have met about it, just he and I talking about it, and I know he’s interested in getting something resolved,” Bidwill said. “After the playoff game, he got away, left the country. He’s back now, it’s a busy week this week and we’ll start working on this next week. I think we’ll get this all worked out.

“He’s such a great person and a great player, he’s got many years left and I want to see him retire as an Arizona Cardinal. I want to see us move past getting this contract resolved and move forward.”

— The other Cardinal facing legal issues, running back Jonathan Dwyer, had his case play out Thursday. The running back, who had been arrested in September, pled guilty to a misdemeanor of disorderly conduct. He was sentenced him to 18 months probation and community service. Dwyer is scheduled to become a free agent in March.

— Bidwill said again he plans on giving General Manager Steve Keim and head coach Bruce Arians contract extensions soon.

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Schofield reflects on time with Cardinals

Posted by Darren Urban on January 29, 2015 – 7:37 am

O’Brien Schofield admits he was “definitely upset” the way his release from the Cardinals went down in 2013, the day when training camp opened and the team cut him as they signed veteran pass rusher John Abraham. Schofield had already walked on to the field for the team’s conditioning test before he was called back and given the news.

But this year, the linebacker said he came to peace with it. That happens when you have one Super Bowl ring — he was picked up by the Seahawks after the Cards cut him — and could have another by Sunday night.

“Without the Cardinals I wouldn’t have even been in the league,” Schofield said. “I’m very grateful for that. Every experience, every trial and tribulation I’ve been through in life has filled me as a person and a football player and taught me perservence and faith. to be here comepting for my second Super Bowl championship, it’s unreal. To look at a guy like Larry Fitzgerald, who’s only been there one time, and for as great of stats as he has and as much money as he has made, I think, ‘Man, I could have two, and he doesn’t have one.’ ”

Schofield was going to leave the Seahawks this season. As a free agent, he signed a two-year, $8 million contract with the Giants. The Giants voided the deal when they said he didn’t pass his physical. Schofield’s NFL career started bumpy, when he blew out his ACL in a Senior Bowl practice and the Cards took him in the fourth round anyway just a few months later.

Schofield also suffered a serious ligament tear in his ankle in his final Cardinals’ season when teammate Darnell Dockett fell on his leg during a game in Green Bay.

Schofield thinks he’s finally totally healthy, however. He thinks a good free-agent contract, whether it’s from the Seahawks or elsewhere, will be available this spring. He believes he has a lot more “in my toolbox” than he did once upon a time, even if he only had a couple of sacks this season. He also said that however his release went down in Arizona, he didn’t mean for his Tuesday media day comments to come across as “harsh” as they did.

He thinks back to his early days with the Cardinals and wishes he would have done things differently.

“I’m a lot more mature,” Schofield said. “I went about things the wrong way. I’d probably still do the mohawk, have fun with it, but that was my personality. As far as handling things on the field, I would’ve changed my study habits, and I just probably would have found different guys to follow as far as leadership. That’s what it’s all about.”

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Mathieu has confidence in new DC, same scheme

Posted by Darren Urban on January 28, 2015 – 5:29 pm

Tyrann Mathieu chose his words carefully — no reason to want to undercut the announcement sometime next week of the new defensive coordinator — but the Cardinals safety seemed comfortable in the plan for the Cardinals’ defense going forward and who will be leading it.

“I think I’ve heard enough and I’m confident enough to know we’ve been playing too well to have the scheme change,” Mathieu said during a trip around the Super Bowl’s Radio Row. “We look forward to one of our position coaches being DC.”

Coach Bruce Arians has already said the DC position will be filled in-house by a young coach. All signs point to outside linebackers coach James Bettcher. It won’t be the only coaching hire, not with inside linebackers coach Mike Caldwell leaving to join outgoing defensive coordinator Todd Bowles with the New York Jets. Putting an experienced coach with the linebackers makes sense, and Arians has promised he will get the new DC “help.” I will not be surprised to see at least one defensive hire to have NFL defensive coordinator experience.

There will be an understandable wait-and-see approach with a new defensive coordinator, but that was there with Bowles too.

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