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  • Mon., Apr. 20, 2015 8:00 AM MST Offseason strength and conditioning program begins Offseason strength and conditioning program begins
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Blogs

“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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John Brown can dance – he’s got a trophy to prove it

Posted by Darren Urban on January 28, 2015 – 2:22 pm

John “Smokey” Brown provided his share of highlights this season for the Cardinals, many of the dramatic touchdown variety. But he also had that dance. Oh, what a dance it was. The NFL Network noticed, giving Brown its “Dancing with the Starters” trophy for best in-game dance of 2014. The honors just keep rolling in.

It was early in the morning show — a little before 8 a.m. Arizona time — and it didn’t look at first that Smokey wanted to revisit his conglomeration of loose limbs he made his dance this season. But eventually he was cajoled into it, and as always, it was entertaining.


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On Hall, Warner will “let it play out”

Posted by Darren Urban on January 27, 2015 – 2:39 pm

Kurt Warner was going to be here for the Super Bowl anyway, with his duties for the NFL Network. He was at U.S. Airways Center Tuesday for Media Day, answering questions from whomever might ask (including former Olympic gymnast/Inside Edition correspondent Shawn Johnson, who, like Warner, is a Dancing with the Stars alum. That’s the picture below.)

But the big day for Warner comes Saturday, when the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee whittles down the final group of 15 — within which Warner qualified — to the Class of 2015. It is Warner’s first year on the ballot.

“I’ve tried to just live life and not get too bogged down with this whole process,” the former Cardinals quarterback said. “I’m enjoying it. I’m honored to be in the final 15. As I’ve told people, whenever it gets to a cut, you start to realize how much more gravity it has to it. Right now, ‘Hey, I’m one of the 15. That’s crazy.’ Come Saturday, I’m sure we’re all going to feel the gravity of what the decision to get into the Hall of Fame means, what that looks like big picture to us.

“Right now, I’m so honored to be in the 15 with the great, talented players. So many players I’ve played against, people that I know that are great people, that I’m just honored to be in the class. We’ll let it play out.”

At this point, Warner’s spot in the Hall of Fame seems to be more a question of when, not if. It’s hard to make it to the final 15 the very first year you are on the ballot if you aren’t already considered a guy who is worthy. Maybe it will happen on his first chance, maybe not. It would certainly be a nice coincidence given that the Super Bowl and Hall announcement is in Arizona.

“My only hope is that, when it comes to Saturday and they call you or knock on your door, whatever, I just don’t want it to be any kind of a disappointment for anybody,” Warner said. “We all are honored to be in this class and be in the top 15, and I’m worried that if you don’t get that knock on your door, you walk out (disappointed). Hey, I’m one of the 265 best players to ever play this game, so to speak, and I’m pretty cool with that. I’m good with that. I want this to be a joyous time, and if I get in, what an amazing honor. It’ll be a great ride.”

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“One of the young guys” will be defensive coordinator

Posted by Darren Urban on January 26, 2015 – 1:56 pm

The announcement won’t come until after the Super Bowl, Bruce Arians said Monday, but he knows who his defensive coordinator is going to be — and it’ll be, as expected, a in-house hire.

“The defensive coordinator will come off our staff,” Arians said during an appearance on ESPN’s “NFL Insiders” show. “It’ll be one of the young guys. And we’ll bring in some guys to help him.

“We’ll wait until the Super Bowl is over but we’ve got everything in place and we’re ready to go.”

Looking at the “young guys” on the Cardinals’ staff — and young can be a moving target on a staff that features the 62-year-old Arians and a couple of coaches well into their 70s — the possibility of outside linebackers coach James Bettcher seems to fit the bill. Bettcher has long been highly thought of among the coaches he has worked for. (Along the “young” lines, defensive line coach Brentson Buckner would also qualify, but I’d think Bettcher would be the candidate.)

As for bringing in “some guys to help,” that could be anyone now that Dick LeBeau has passed up the chance to come to the Cardinals. But again, that’s been the thought this whole time, that the Cards would have a younger DC and have a mentor with him. It now just sounds like it’ll be a waiting game until next week — Monday maybe? — to get official word.

— Arians reiterated he hopes Carson Palmer is the quarterback for the Cardinals “for about three more years,” and that he again really likes the future potential of Logan Thomas. Arians added that Palmer is about a month ahead of schedule coming back from his ACL injury.

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No DC yet, no LeBeau and Campbell surgery

Posted by Darren Urban on January 25, 2015 – 8:24 pm

Little NFL team business is going to be announced right now, since Super Bowl week is upon us and nobody wants to take the spotlight away from the league’s most important time. The Cardinals still have not made any announcements in terms of their defensive coordinator — it’s still expected to be an internal hire — but whatever role ex-Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau might have had, multiple reports say that collaboration isn’t going to happen. Given the idea that LeBeau didn’t want to be far away from family in Ohio, it’s not a surprise. What direction the Cardinals go now to fill their vacancies is yet to be determined, although the team has talked to more than just LeBeau outside of the team. (Not every name has emerged publicly.)

— Defensive end Calais Campbell said he will have to have surgery post-Pro Bowl to fix a sports hernia that was bothering him the last few weeks of the season. “It’s an easy recovery,” Campbell said.

— The Seahawks players who were named to the Pro Bowl but obviously aren’t playing — because of their game next week — were on hand at University of Phoenix Stadium Sunday night to be interviewed and announced to the crowd. The crowd, definitely pro-Cardinals here in the Valley, delivered a pretty good round of boos.

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On free agent swaying and Cro

Posted by Darren Urban on January 23, 2015 – 3:08 pm

Free-agent-to-be cornerback Antonio Cromartie said the Cardinals have yet to talk to him about a new contract. That isn’t that surprising. Cromartie said he never expected any talks until after the Super Bowl anyway.

“I would like to (return),” Cromartie said. “But like I said before I am always going to keep the door open. It’s my 10th year, I want to make sure, not only for me but for my family, that (a decision) is understandable for them and reasonable for my family.”

Cromartie said if talks do start, “we’ll see what happens.” His cornerback cohort doesn’t seem like he has a ton of optimism Cromartie will return.

“I’m definitely trying to keep him here,” Peterson said. “It’s going to be tough, especially with Todd (Bowles) being in New York. That’s all he talks about is freakin’ New York. I’m definitely trying to get him to stay. We’ll see what happens.”

(There’s that phrase again.)

Cromartie never wanted to leave the Jets in the first place — he was a salary cap casualty by a now-dismissed GM — so staying with Bowles and going back makes some sense. Regardless, Peterson and defensive end Calais Campbell see themselves as de facto recruiters for the Cardinals, and given that both guys are committed to long-term contracts here, trying to lure talent here naturally follows.

“I’m always scanning the free agent list,” Peterson said after Friday’s Pro Bowl practice. “I haven’t talked to any of these (Pro Bowlers) yet and I definitely didn’t scan the free agent list yet, but I’m always scanning the free agent list. I always find a way to get guys’ numbers. That won’t be a problem to talk to them.”

Peterson said he doesn’t have to do a lot of selling these days. The area and the Cardinals’ recent success under coach Bruce Arians are pretty straightforward facts in the free-agent game.

“It’ll be good to market some of these guys, try to see if we can talk some of them into coming to Arizona,” Campbell said. “The guys in the cold cities, I’m like, ‘Yeah, man, you’ll love it here. Trust me.’ ”

Of course, usually, it’s the money that wins out. Those purse strings are held by GM Steve Keim, and so much goes into who the Cards try to sign. There is a cap budget and analytics to factor into the equation. Which, coming full circle, is how the Cardinals plan to approach Cromartie in the first place.

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A chilly Pro Bowl warmup

Posted by Darren Urban on January 22, 2015 – 8:28 pm

The wind was blowing pretty good Thursday at Luke Air Force Base — Patrick Peterson was estimating the wind chill at 45 degrees, which might have been a tad overstated but the man was in a T-shirt and shorts, after all — when Peterson’s interview session was briefly taken over by a celebrity interviewer.

“Mr. Peterson, we just wanted to come ask you, would you rather be in Hawaii or in Phoenix?” teammate and fellow Pro Bowler Antonio Cromartie asked.

Peterson’s answer? Hawaii.

No disrespect, of course. But Hawaii is Hawaii.

“In Hawaii, it probably rains today,” Cromartie said later. “But I take the rain and then it clears up and then it’s 82 degrees. I’m not used to this, the wind. I’ll take it for what it’s worth and hopefully we get it back to Hawaii.”

That was about the only thing to complain about as the players had a 45-minute walk through and then signed autographs for the military fans on hand. Peterson gave good-natured grief for Calais Campbell talking about studying the play book on social media — “He’s a newbie,” Peterson said — and smiled about the workload.

“We don’t need any practice,” Peterson said. “This stuff is pointless. You saw how long we were out here for.

“We still want to play hard, but have fun and make sure we put on a great show for the fans.”

And make sure they pack long pants just in case for Friday’s practice.

“I’m coming prepared,” Peterson said.

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