There is little question that teams consider the medical part of the Scouting combine the most important. So it always makes sense to me that PFATS — the Professional Football Athletic Trainers Society — gives out awards to their members during this week. A few years ago, it was Jim “Machine” Shearer. Then there was an alumni award for longtime Cardinals athletic trainer John Omohundro.
This week, Jeff Herndon (right in the picture below, along with head athletic trainer Tom Reed) received the same award as Machine had: The Tim Davey NFC assistant trainer of the year award (Shearer had actually won the NFC’s initial award in 2011.) Herndon has been with the Cardinals full-time since 1986, making 2017 his 32nd season with the club. As with all those guys downstairs who toil in virtual anonymity, Herndon isn’t going to crow about his honor, but he’s deserving — one of the best in the business. He has to be, really, to have lasted 32 seasons.
Tags: Jeff Herndon, Jim Shearer, John Omohundro, PFATS
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Steve Keim is headed to his 19th Scouting combine. A GM now, Keim started as an area scout, has his roots in scouting and still enjoys the evaluation process of college prospects most of all. It’s one of the reasons he likes heading to Indianapolis each year.
“It brings everything full circle, and it reminds me of why I got in this business,” Keim said. “Sometimes, in this position (of GM), you get pulled in a lot of different directions. And I have said many times, you feel like one of things you do well and that put you in this position, is one of the things you do the least nowadays.”
Indy is the place that truly seems to be the kickoff of the new league year. Officially, the new league year (and free agency) begins March 9, but this is really when talk of the new season, and the draft, begins in earnest. The Cards are sending 64 total staff out there to assess various things: Potential draftees, situations with impending free agents, medical updates. It’s the off-field stuff — the medical and the interviews — that are the most important. Everyone has seen these kids play, and what they can do on the field. It’s so much about projection in that regard anyway. Part of that projection is whether the guy can hold up mentally, on the field, in the classroom, in the locker room (and also stay healthy — again, the medical part).
It’s also a time for Keim to speak face-to-face with the agents of impending free agents, most notably those of safety Tony Jefferson and defensive lineman Calais Campbell. Time is running out before free agency. Things are going to move quickly here, and rosters for 2017 will begin to take shape.
Tags: Scouting combine, Steve Keim
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The NFL officially announced the draft order for April’s draft, following the decision on comp picks (the Cards got an extra fifth-rounder.) Here is the list of where the Cards are picking — eight choices in all — and a notable name or two that was chosen at that overall slot:
— First round: 13th overall (DT Aaron Donald, DT Sheldon Richardson, WR Michael Floyd, DT Nick Fairley)
— Second round: 45th overall (LB Kevin Minter, WR Alshon Jeffery, LB Lofa Tatupu)
— Third round: 77th overall (RB Duke Johnson, LB Chris Borland)
— Fourth round: 120th overall (QB Logan Thomas, DT Geno Atkins, CB Asante Samuel)
— Fifth round: 157th overall (DE Quinton Dial, DT Arthur Jones)
— Fifth round: 179th overall (TE Bo Scaife, TE Desmond Clark)
— Sixth round: 197th overall (WR Arnez Battle, QB Gus Frerotte)
— Seventh round: 231st overall: (S Hamza Abdullah)
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The Cardinals will get a fifth preseason game. That was announced Thursday, with the Cards facing the Cowboys in the Hall of Fame game (the Cardinals also have to play Dallas during the regular season). While the game likely eases the problem of having to be out of University of Phoenix Stadium Aug. 4 for a concert — the game in Aug. 3, and it’s possible the Cards could just take a couple days off and start again Aug. 6 or 7 — it does make camp longer. The official start date of camp won’t be announced for a while, but teams can begin up to 15 days before their first game. Mid-July, anyone? OK, it probably is going to play to mixed reviews.
Worst news ever! 5 pre season games & an extra week of training camp. Smh…
At least we can go to the @WGC_Bridgestone. Lol
— Larry Fitzgerald (@LarryFitzgerald) February 23, 2017
Another interesting part of this is Bruce Arians’ recent comments about hitting/tackling more in training camp. An extra week of practice plus another game adds to the risk.
But it also plays into a 2017 season that will already feature a trip to London. Those dates and length of the trip still have to be announced, but it seems likely the Cardinals will be across the pond for a week or so. The schedule also includes trips to Washington D.C. and Philadelphia (which could be wrapped into the London trip, possibly), Indianapolis, Houston and Detroit, the two remaining NFC West rivals, and whomever the Cards may play on the road in the preseason. The miles will add up.
Tags: Cowboys, Hall of Fame game, Larry Fitzgerald, London, training camp
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D.J. Humphries’ rookie year was a washout. He knew that, even if it made sense he needed to mature both physically and mentally when it came to playing in the NFL. His second year, he was a starter all season (until he suffered a concussion late in the season) and definitely had improvement, to the point where Humphries is the early choice to play left tackle this season. He’s anxious to build on that in 2017, which was underscored by his tweet today:
Having fun is cool and all but make sure you putting that work we can have fun when we retire.
— D.J. Humphries (@74_hump) February 22, 2017
The work needed, and Humphries’ step forward in his second year, made me think of Robert Nkemdiche.
Like Humphries, Nkemdiche’s rookie season was a washout. Nkemdiche was actually active for a handful of games (unlike Humphries) but he didn’t make an impact. He knew, as did his coaches, that he hadn’t been ready for the NFL. That, according to both Nkemdiche and his coaches, improved near the end of the season. Recently, when talking about his breakout choices for 2017, General Manager Steve Keim brought up Nkemdiche. Make no mistake — the Cardinals will need Nkemdiche to take at the very least a Humphries-like step forward in his second year. Calais Campbell very well could leave as a free agent, and besides, Nkemdiche was a first-round pick — you have to have your first-round picks have significant development year to year.
It’s an important offseason not only for the Cardinals (who could have some significant defensive changes) but for Nkemdiche.
Tags: D.J. Humphries, Robert Nkemdiche
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Late in the season, the Cardinals’ offensive linemen installed one of those mini-basketball hoops above one of their lockers. Every once in a while, after practice, somebody (or somebodies) would take a few shots. There’s no question that over the years, plenty of players have come through that space thinking they were quite the basketball players.
Anquan Boldin could play. Kurt Warner could really play (and still does, hosting invite-only pickup games at his house in Scottsdale). Josh McCown could really play.
With the NBA all-star game today, it’s a good time to discuss who might make a solid unit for the hardwood. I’ve had the chance to talk to a handful of players about their basketball backgrounds. (I have not talked to everyone, and I am sure I will have inevitably missed some serious baller here. I ask, preemptively, for forgiveness.)
You’ve got to start with Darren Fells. The guy played pro basketball, after all. Larry Fitzgerald still likes to trash-talk Fells, and at one point there was a challenge of a one-on-one game, but I’m guessing Fitz wouldn’t like how that would turn out. Still, I’ve seen Fitz enough times in charity games that he probably could be in the starting lineup.
Our point guard would be Tyrann Mathieu, who might not quite be the same player as he was prior to a pair of ACL injuries, although I’m guessing he’d say different. (That video doesn’t exactly show the Badger against the best defense.) Calais Campbell, who at 6-foot-8 did some damage inside in high school, can be our center. And you don’t want to forget David Johnson (15.7 points, 7.9 rebounds a game as a senior in high school, and second-team all-state), who noted on Twitter he’s got a 41.5-inch vertical.
Off the bench? Kareem Martin, who played football at North Carolina, had a chance to walk on to the Tar Heels basketball team and maybe be the next Julius Peppers. Martin decided to concentrate on football, but you’ve got to have some game to be considered for UNC hoops. Some Earl Watford (Earl had some good stories about being the muscle on the court for his high school team), and a little A.Q. Shipley (A.Q., while shooting on that mini-hoop, assured me that back in the day, he was quite nimble on the court). Close it out with Tony Jefferson, who plays pretend basketball in the locker room with the trash cans more than any player ever and loves his Suns. (Yes, Jefferson was cut as a sophomore in high school, but noted that he had 16 points and five steals in his final lower-level high school appearance, so there’s that.)
Tags: A.Q. Shipley, basketball, Calais Campbell, Darren Fells, David Johnson, Earl Watford, Kareem Martin, Larry Fitzgerald, Tony Jefferson, Tyrann Mathieu
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The Cardinals want to keep safety Tony Jefferson. They want to keep defensive tackle Calais Campbell. Whether they can is to be determined, with the free agent “tampering” period beginning March 7 and official free agency starting March 9.
“I’ve always been adamant about not negotiating through the media,” Cardinals GM Steve Keim said Friday during the “Doug and Wolf” show on Arizona Sports. “But we have been, in my opinion, very aggressive with trying to re-sign the players we would like to have back. As we get closer to free agency, some players would prefer to test the market. We understand. It’s a business. But when you find guys who are core players, who you want to move forward with, you have to try to be active and aggressive and try to re-sign them.”
Will it matter? Matt Miller, an NFL writer who has had friendly interactions with Jefferson on Twitter before, tweeted Friday that Jefferson is expected to hit the free-agent market and garner offers at $7 million a season. The news has been a lot quieter around Campbell, but that doesn’t necessarily mean anything either way.
The key part to this is that it is Feb. 17. That’s an eternity before March 9 in this context. Talks with everything tend to ramp up before a deadline, and we’re just too far from a deadline right now. It’s also good to note that Jefferson getting that nugget out there helps his leverage, much like the Cardinals continuing to point out they will franchise tag Chandler Jones if a deal cannot be reached with him.
(Keim said the team has had “great dialogue with Chandler” so perhaps a long-term deal isn’t out of the question quite yet.)
Still, this comes down to reality, and the reality has always been that the Cardinals have been longshots to retain Jones, Jefferson and Campbell.
“You can’t have everybody back,” Keim said. “The way the salary cap is situated, you have to make some tough decisions. You have to make some tough decisions based on what the salary is, their age, their injury history. So many things go into it. That’s the tough part of the business, because we all get emotionally attached to these guys.”
Tags: Calais Campbell, Chandler Jones, free agency, Steve Keim, Tony Jefferson
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Kurt Warner is in the Hall of Fame, and he’s had a chance to play with a lot of receivers that also could get a gold jacket. Larry Fitzgerald will be there someday, and Warner knows that. But in an interview with PFT Live, Warner was asked who he’d bang the table for to try and help get into Canton. He said former Rams teammate Isaac Bruce, in his view, should already be in so he’d probably lobby that way, but he also said he expects Bruce and fellow Ram Torry Holt to eventually get in. So, Warner said, that would turn his attention to former Cardinals teammate Anquan Boldin.
“I might bang the table for Anquan Boldin, because I think of all those guys, he gets the least respect for how great he is,” Warner said. “It amazes me, we want to keep looking at measurables and how fast guys are, as opposed to (being) one of the greatest football players I ever played with, competed more than anybody I ever played (with).
“He wanted the ball in his hands, was a difference-maker. Everybody tries to get rid of him and he just goes and he’s the No. 1 receiver on that next team. So I believe he’s the one who gets the least amount of respect, so I would love to get on the table for him.”
Boldin’s career, like Fitz’s, is winding down. He’s currently set to be a free agent after spending 2016 with the Lions, and said — while at the Super Bowl in Houston — his plans for 2017 were undecided.
“You probably have to ask my wife,” Boldin said with a chuckle. “The decisions I make now don’t just affect me. If it was up to me, I’d say I’d probably be playing in 2017, but I have to sit down with my wife. We have two boys, my decision affects them, so it’ll be a family decision.”
(No, I would not think, if Boldin continues to play, the Cardinals would be an option.)
Boldin’s numbers deserve Hall consideration for sure, as does the fact he played for some good teams — the Cards’ Super Bowl team, the Ravens when they won a Super Bowl, playoff teams in San Francisco and Detroit. With 1,076 receptions for 13,779 yards and 82 touchdowns, his stats were close to Fitzgerald’s up until a couple of seasons ago when Fitz’s production popped. (Fitz is at 1,125-14,389-104 for his career).
As great as Boldin’s career has been there’s no question his best years — and longest tenure — was his time in Arizona. Seven seasons, five 1,000-yard years (of the seven in his career.) When he and Fitz played together at the height of their powers, they deserved to be in the argument for best duo.
Tags: Anquan Boldin, Hall of Fame, Kurt Warner, Larry Fitzgerald
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It’s been no secret — Bruce Arians made it pretty clear the day after the season — that the Cardinals are planning on using the franchise tag on linebacker Chandler Jones if necessary. Team president Michael Bidwill reiterated that Tuesday during an appearance on the “Doug and Wolf” show on Arizona Sports 98.7.
“We’re not going to mess around with that,” Bidwill said. “He’s a great pass rusher, but if we can’t agree to terms that work for us, we’re just going to franchise him. His people know that.”
Some of the other points Bidwill made (aside from a concert moving training camp for a few days):
— On the Cardinals’ own significant free agents: “We’re going to be negotiating with these folks and we already are, and we’re hopeful to get everyone under contract,” Bidwill said. “If we get everybody under contract, that’ll be a huge win for us. If we get most of them, that will be very good for us.”
Bidwill wasn’t specific about the players, but among them are defensive keys, Jones, defensive lineman Calais Campbell and safety Tony Jefferson.
— On the London game against the Rams, which will be either Oct. 22 or 29. “We’ve been lobbying for us to get over there,” Bidwill said. “(The league) wanted us to give up a home game, which we will have to do as part of the next bid for the Super Bowl, but we really wanted to be a visiting team. This year we finally got the call.”
Bidwill said the NFL is “overdue” in making the announcement over the specific date, and he will be pushing for that decision so that the team and fans can plan for the trip.
— Wide receiver John Brown should regain his form after battling his sickle cell issues, Bidwill said. “He is very healthy,” Bidwill said. “It looks like they found the issue and we’ll get Smoke back the way we had him.”
Tags: Chandler Jones, John Brown, London, Michael Bidwill, Rams, training camp
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Carson Palmer is back for the 2017 season, releasing a statement about it Thursday. Friday, Palmer called into the “Rich Eisen Show” to talk a little bit about his decision to return, with little surprise — he’s an older guy, and he needed to make sure his body would hold up. He feels it will.
“I love playing the game, love everything about it, but at some point, your body tells you when to stop and (when) the season ended, I just went into Steve Keim and Bruce Arians and asked them if I could take a month and make sure my body would get back to 100 percent,” said Palmer, who will turn 38 in December. “I took the month, my body has recovered well, feel great, feel ready to start getting ready in the offseason again. It was never about anything other than my body. My mind, my passion, all the things it takes to play this game, I still have. The desire to study, the desire to train, the desire to get ready for games.
“You start getting old like me, you start getting grey hair, your body starts telling you no. At some point it will, but I am excited I have responded, my body responded, and I get to keep playing.”
(There seems to be this perception Palmer is fragile, but he hasn’t been in Arizona. Yes, he missed 10 games in 2014, most of which because he tore his ACL. Otherwise, in Palmer’s other three Cardinals seasons, Palmer has played in 47 of 48 games, missing only one in 2016 because of a concussion.)
Palmer wasn’t talking about beyond 2017, one way or the other — “At this point in my career, it’s a one-year-at-a-time-type of deal,” he said, not closing the door on playing in 2018 but obviously waiting for his body’s input when we get to that point as well. He did note that, starting around age 34 or 35, it takes longer to recover each week.
“The older you get, the later on in the week you start feeling better,” Palmer said. “Sometimes it takes up until Thursday, Friday to recover from the previous Sunday be ready to play the next Sunday.”
It makes a lot of sense that Palmer stopped practicing on Wednesdays this past season. That certainly should continue this year (Larry Fitzgerald also figures to have Wednesday rest days again too.)
But Palmer returns. He joked about tendinitis in left hand from changing the diapers of his infant at home the past month — another reason to think about football again. “The offseason is pretty short but retirement is really long,” Palmer said.
Tags: Carson Palmer
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