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Camp gives Cooper “plenty of time”

Posted by Darren Urban on June 24, 2014 – 10:24 am

All along, Jonathan Cooper was going to play it smart.

The guard did participate in all of the offseason work as the first-unit left guard, just as was planned. Coach Bruce Arians raised a couple of eyebrows at the end of minicamp when he said it as “obvious” Cooper was “not the athlete he was last year at this time and I wouldn’t expect him to be.” Such is the downfall of coming back off a broken leg (and doing it at 312 pounds, which isn’t simple.) But Arians also finished his statement with a very important qualifier: “He has plenty of time to get there.”

Cooper knew it was going to take a while to get back to normal. In a lot of ways, the offseason was a perfect jumping off point for Cooper. He could ease back into the flow of the offense and starting without the punishment and rigors of actually playing offensive line. By the time Cooper has to really start hitting people in pads a few days into training camp, my guess is he’ll be in a much better place. The Cardinals have zero doubt that a) Cooper will be ready by the time games count for real and b) that Cooper will be able to perform like the former first-round draft pick that he is.

The Cardinals are counting on that left side of the line. Between Cooper and Jared Veldheer at left tackle, they represent two well-planned for pieces in GM Steve Keim’s rebuilding of the offensive line. Cooper, yet to play a regular-season down, must still prove himself. But barring another injury, I don’t see health being an impediment as the Cards move into the 2014 season.

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Adrian Wilson is back (with Bears)

Posted by Darren Urban on June 23, 2014 – 1:24 pm

Many have asked me this offseason if Adrian Wilson was going to possibly re-sign with the Cardinals. He was not going to come back here, but I mentioned a couple of times he was not done playing and was still trying to find a job. Now, he has one. The Chicago Bears signed Wilson Monday. Wilson has tweeted a few times about his rehab from Achilles surgery and generally his prep for playing again in 2014. He hasn’t played in a game since doing it with the Cardinals at the end of the 2012 season, when his stint with the Patriots last season was cut short when he was hurt in the preseason finale.

I’ve been told Wilson is in fantastic shape (as usual — who would doubt him there?) and we will see if he can nail down a roster spot in Chicago. Last year’s starter at strong safety, Major Wright, went to the Buccaneers in free agency. They drafted Brock Vereen in the fourth round, although he’s more of a free safety. Veterans Chris Conte, M.D. Jennings and Ryan Mundy are also in the mix. It’s hard to know exactly where Wilson stands. Signing this late, he won’t get on the field with the Bears until training camp opens. Last season, Patriots observers believed Wilson was on the bubble to make the team before his injury.

But Wilson will get his chance, which is all that he ever wanted. At some point, the end will come (and he will go into the Cardinals’ Ring of Honor) but that’s on hold. Wilson didn’t want his career to end yet, he certainly didn’t want it to end after a season-long injury, and now, it doesn’t have to. (Too bad the Bears are not on the Cardinals’ schedule this year.)

So, do the Bears remember this classic A-Dub primal scream?


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Fitz still impresses peers for Top 100 spot

Posted by Darren Urban on June 18, 2014 – 10:15 pm

For the same reason Larry Fitzgerald keeps making the Pro Bowl — vast respect from his peers — is the same reason the Cardinals receiver again got into the top 40 of NFL players even though his numbers have been down the last couple of years. The NFL Network is again doing their “Top 100″ countdown over the summer, and Fitzgerald clocked in at No. 38 Wednesday night. He’s the second Cardinal to make this year’s list (we won’t talk about who else has already been named.)

Fitzgerald has been falling over the years. In 2012, he was seventh. Last year. he was 22nd. (He was 14th on the initial list in 2011.) There are some high-profile receivers that are behind Fitzgerald on the list, although despite his “low” yardage total of 954 this past season (still much better than 2012′s 798) he did have 10 touchdowns and as you can see on the video, opponents still worry about him. We’ll see if Fitz can find a way to climb up again after this season, with a second year in Bruce Arians’ offense.

The Top 100 list has now reached the top 30. Patrick Peterson should make it in at some point — I’m not sure he tops Richard Sherman again this year, but it’ll be interesting wherever he ends up.

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Warner in, so who’s next for Ring of Honor?

Posted by Darren Urban on June 18, 2014 – 4:37 pm

The timing made all kinds of sense for the Cardinals to put Kurt Warner in the Ring of Honor this season. There is a high-profile “Monday Night Football” game in which to do the ceremony (if you have forgotten, Aeneas Williams also went in at halftime of an MNF game) and this is the first year Warner is eligible to be voted into the Hall of Fame — which would happen in downtown Phoenix the day before the Super Bowl here in Arizona, if it were to happen. In a lot of ways Warner was a supernova in Arizona considering he played just five seasons (and barely played in one of those, 2006, when Matt Leinart was trying to make his way in the league.) It was an incredible run though (as this timeline and this top 10 list of his best games says more tangibly.)

So who is next?

We already know Adrian Wilson will get there. Michael Bidwill has already said as much. First, though, Wilson has to retire, and he’s not ready to do that quite yet as he hopes to find a job somewhere in 2014. At some point, you figure Larry Fitzgerald is a lock, regardless of what happens in the future. Obviously the hope is that Fitzgerald plays out his career in Arizona, but the NFL is a business and Fitz staying is anything but a guarantee. Certainly, he’s done enough on and even off the field that he’ll be Ring-bound some day.

Beyond that, though, I don’t see any sure bets. It’s way too early to think about Patrick Peterson. Does Darnell Dockett warrant a discussion? Could Calais Campbell some day be worth it? I think Anquan Boldin was headed in that direction, but the way his tenure (and his last two seasons) ended in Arizona I’d call that a very long shot, which is too bad. He was a part of the renaissance of this franchise. I don’t know if some of the other guys from the 1998 team — a Larry Centers, a Jake Plummer — would fit.

Again, with Bidwill noting  that 11 of the 13 previous Ring members before Warner are in the Hall of Fame, that means something. They are, Bidwill said, “the best of the best” and that’s a lofty ideal. The franchise has been around since 1898, and only 14 guys have gone in. It’s not an easy honor to obtain. It is a fun subject to debate.



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PP, Palmer to golf on big stage

Posted by Darren Urban on June 18, 2014 – 11:37 am

Next month, in one last fling before training camp, Patrick Peterson and Carson Palmer are going golfing. But it’s a little more than a foursome on a weekend, even though both guys do love their golf. Each have been invited — and have accepted — to play in the annual American Century Championship in Lake Tahoe, Nevada. It’s the biggest celebrity tourney of the year. Ken Whisenhunt used to participate annually when he was coaching the Cards. Palmer took part last year, while Peterson has been invited for the first time.

The sports book in Tahoe (not that anyone should ever, ever bet on such things) puts the odds on Peterson winning at 30-1, with Palmer at 50-1. Seeing that a former pro in Annika Sorenstam is in the field, I’d guess the Cards aren’t coming away with a victory.

Former Cardinal Emmitt Smith is also playing. The tournament runs from July 18-20.

Peterson has turned into a pretty decent golfer in his short time playing. He, along with Bruce Arians, played in the pro-am at the most recent Waste Management Open.


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Mathieu: From risk to mentor

Posted by Darren Urban on June 17, 2014 – 12:45 pm

The NFL will hold its annual rookie symposium later this month — NFC rookies go to Aurora, Ohio June 22-25 — and the draft picks from across the league will listen to a host of speakers on a host of subjects. One, for instance, will be former Cardinal and recently named Hall-of-Famer Aeneas Williams talking about the history of the league at the Pro Football Hall of Fame in nearby Canton.

The complete gist of the event? From the league’s press release: “The four core teaching principles of the Rookie Symposium are NFL History, Total Wellness, Professional Experience and Workplace Conduct. The symposium includes presentations, videos, and workshops on player health and safety, decision making, mental health, substance abuse, workplace respect and maintaining positive relationships.”

Among the list of current and former NFL players speaking is none other than Tyrann Mathieu.

Mathieu, as a third-round pick in 2013, attended the symposium as a rookie last year. He was listening about how to make the right decisions after his spotty college career. Obviously, Mathieu has traveled light years from there in just the last 12 months. He was the risk the Cardinals took in the 2013 draft. Now he is the guy the NFL thinks is mature enough to use his own story as guidance for the rookies coming into pro football.

I’ve mentioned this before, but the idea Mathieu has become a face of not only the franchise (he has done a video for season ticket holders, for example) but also a speaker for a league function tops even what he has already shown as a talented young player. The Honey Badger has already earned the trust of people from whom it isn’t necessarily easy to win trust — at least not with the background of Mathieu. That says more about the guy than any tackle or interception ever could.


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A look at the rookies

Posted by Darren Urban on June 16, 2014 – 10:54 am

The rookie class had a (not surprisingly) mixed bag of results in OTAs and minicamp. That’s what rookies do. Still, they are going to mean something this season, especially with the way coach Bruce Arians is willing to play them.

“I like all the rookies,” veteran defensive lineman Darnell Dockett said. “There are three or four of those rookies that are going to make a big impact on our season. We don’t know which ones (yet), but it’s going to happen. You want to help them and let them know on the field and off the field, you have to be accountable and it’s not just about showing up for practice. We know we are going to need four or five of those rookies.”

Because the pads haven’t gone on yet, it’s possible two guys who have been way under the radar so far — defensive ends Kareem Martin and Ed Stinson — could be making large impacts. The way the Cardinals like to rotate the defensive line, both guys will get a shot to get in there, one would think. They also turn the defensive line from a thin area to one of serious depth, when you add in Frostee Rucker and (eventually) Alameda Ta’amu to Dockett, Calais Campbell and Dan Williams.

We all know safety Deone Bucannon is going to get his chance. That’s what happens with first-round picks. That turf toe slowed him, but it was a good sign Bucannon made sure to get back on the field in minicamp. Second-round Troy Niklas is behind and the idea he might still be sidelined into training camp with his broken hand isn’t the best news, but the kid is itching to get out on the field and do something. Adding John Carlson, and with the way Rob Housler has looked up until this point, helps, since Niklas doesn’t have to be out there right away if he isn’t ready. Speaking of not ready, that’s quarterback Logan Thomas, but he was always a long-term vision anyway.

That leaves the wide receivers. John Brown (below) has been mentioned a lot. No, I don’t see him displacing Ted Ginn. Not immediately. But at some point, could he be the No. 3 behind Michael Floyd and Larry Fitzgerald? Very possible. He was the guy getting extra direction from both Arians and Carson Palmer in minicamp, more than any other wideout. That’s because he has a lot to learn, but also because the Cards need him to learn it quickly, because they want to use him. As for Walt Powell, he to showed some things, and after what the Cards got out of a sixth-round pick a year ago (Andre Ellington), who’s to say he can’t step in and do something? The receiving corps is loaded enough that it will be tough to have Powell move up the depth chart, however.


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Camp ends, Coop’s recovery and some notes

Posted by Darren Urban on June 12, 2014 – 3:31 pm

It was a quiet end to minicamp today. I have my overall thoughts of the offseason posted Friday morning, but first a little cleanup following Bruce Arians’ last press conference until training camp in late July:

– Arians broke out one of his favorite themes for young players. “You give them exposure or they get exposed,” he said, and some were exposed this week. Still, there is time to make up for that.

– Jonathan Cooper is going to be the starting left guard and he should be a good one. But Arians stressed Cooper is not all the way back yet. The hope is that he will be for the opening of camp. It’s not that Cooper hasn’t been able to do everything this offseason after his broken leg. He has. Just not as well as he was when he got hurt last year.

“It’s obvious he’s not the athlete he was last year at this time and I wouldn’t expect him to be,” Arians said. “He has plenty of time to get there. He’s a first-round choice but far from a finished product.”

– Arians wants his players in better shape. “We’re not in condition to play for a championship right now,” he said, but since the first game that counts isn’t until Sept. 8, that too can come. The question is who can handle these next five weeks or so on their own to come back to camp ready to go.

– Often Arians talks about being able to play with the “noise,” and he’s not talking about the decibel level of 60,000 fans. “There is no noise out here right now, no helmets hitting, no shoulder pads cracking. Thats the noise I’m talking about.” That’s what separates the players from the pretenders, and that’s why the offseason can only determine so much about a team and it’s roster.

– Arians said he hopes rookie tight end Troy Niklas, with his broken hand, will be ready on the first day of training camp. If not, Niklas hopefully will be back when the pads go on, although that’s just a few days after camp opens. Interestingly, Arians said the Cards probably have too many legitimate tight ends to keep all. You figure, with the times Arians uses two and even three tight ends that the Cards will keep four — with the odds on Niklas, John Carlson, Jake Ballard and Rob Housler.

– Arians praised former Steelers running back Jonathan Dwyer for being able to catch the ball better than Arians remembered him doing in Pittsburgh. Dwyer can pass block, which is a big deal for BA in his offense. Such ability is a must, or at least, Arians said, “just get your ass kicked with dignity, you’ll be all right.”


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Waiting on Mathieu, Ta’amu

Posted by Darren Urban on June 12, 2014 – 10:59 am

The Cardinals finished up minicamp early today (more on that later) after about an hour’s worth of work and some field-goal kicking to finish up. Now the veterans scatter until training camp in later July. (Those dates should be out soon.) One of the questions for the next month-plus is who will be available when camp starts, in particular, safety Tyrann Mathieu and nose tackle Alameda Ta’amu. Both are recovering from torn ACLs — Mathieu had extra damage beyond that — but both have been steady in rehab.

“That’s strictly up to the doctors, trainers and them,” coach Bruce Arians said. “I’m not going to hurry them. We have plenty of time. If they aren’t ready for the first day of training camp — which I doubt anyway, because I’ve never thought that. I had Oct. 1, or after the (bye week) as the target date for me personally. If they do something better than that, God bless ‘em.”

A return post-bye week would mean either or both would miss the first three games — San Diego, at New York and San Francisco. Both players have talked a lot about being ahead of schedule, but running during the summer and actually putting on pads, cutting and having people slam into you and dive at your knees is a whole different thing.

“It’s a long process, and it’s going to continue to be a long process,” Mathieu said. “I just try to come to work every day, stay on top of my rehab and just continue to push myself. I don’t try to get too down about it, and I don’t try to get too up, too excited. My knee’s feeling good. I just take it as it comes.”

Mathieu says he still hopes he can play against the Chargers in the Monday night opener.



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Cardinals running a smarter minicamp

Posted by Darren Urban on June 11, 2014 – 12:08 pm

The Cardinals still have their accountability sheet, which Bruce Arians brought with him last year. It was a big topic of conversation last offseason as many players — especially on offense — struggled with the learning curve. This year, quarterback Carson Palmer said, “it’s gotten better.”

“It did not ever get better last year,” Palmer added.

Palmer is also thrilled with where the offense is at this point. He couldn’t say the same this time last year, and it’s a good thing right now, since the Cardinals are down to one practice Thursday before scattering for the rest of the offseason. Some other Tuesday Wednesday notes:

– Arians was happy at the practice again, although there were plenty of moments when he or another coach were angry and you could hear it. “A lot of the hollering and screaming is at the young guys, which is normal,” Arians said. “It’s not at the vets. They are playing at a high-quality, high-paced practice.”

– Retired legendary offensive line coach Howard Mudd, who coached in Indianapolis with Arians, visited practice.

– Rookie wide receiver John Brown had a drop and a couple of mistakes, which hasn’t been the case most of the offseason as he has impressed everyone. “He was a rookie today,” Arians said, adding with a smile, “I think he’s reading his press clippings.”

– Arians said he is happy with how the Cardinals are working through the situations the coaching staff is putting them through. They did the same thing last summer, but Arians said “we didn’t have a clue what we were doing.” Now, with a season of the Cardinals running the offense and defense on video from the 2013 season, it’s easier to teach, Arians said.

– Undrafted rookie interior offensive lineman Anthony Steen is finally back on the field. Arians said he is “way back” after missing time with an injury but the coach sounded encouraged that Steen, out of Alabama, could impress once the pads go on.

– Linebacker John Abraham was still sick and sat out. Wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald (hamstring) was still out.

– Palmer, on the addition of Brown and Ted Ginn at receiver: “Pure speed, and it’s something this offense must have to be successful. They give us a dramatic change from what we had last year.”

– Palmer sounded encouraged about the progress of right tackle Bobby Massie, who was running with the first unit. “When you don’t notice a guy that’s a good thing,” Palmer said. “That’s what I have noticed about Bobby is that I haven’t noticed him. That’s exactly what you want from your tackles.”


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