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After surgery, Ellington on track for offseason work

Posted by Darren Urban on December 24, 2014 – 12:33 pm

Andre Ellington feels good.

The running back, on injured reserve, had surgery in early December for what the team officially describes as a “core muscle injury,” bringing to a close a difficult sophomore season. After flashing so much potential as a rookie and earning the spot as the Cardinals’ main back for this season, Ellington hurt his foot late in the preseason — a problem that didn’t go away and was the first of multiple injury issues.

“I was frustrated because I knew what I could do when I am 100 percent, but it is the nature of the beast,” Ellington said. “You’ve just got to deal with injuries playing this game.”

Ellington had the foot injury. He had a hip injury and then suffered the core injury against Atlanta Nov. 30 from which he could not recover.

“I’ve been dealing with (injuries) all year,” Ellington said. “People didn’t think I was banged up (that much) because I really didn’t show it, I found ways not to show it, but my latest injury was something I couldn’t overcome. I tried to, but it just didn’t happen.”

After averaging more than five yards a carry as a rookie, Ellington gained just 3.3 yards a carry this season, with 660 yards on 201 attempts and another 46 receptions for 395 yards. Twice he reached 90 yards (91 in New York and 95 in Dallas) but never had a 100-yard game rushing. He did have 112 yards receiving in Denver, thanks to his 81-yard touchdown catch on a pass from Logan Thomas.

These days, Ellington has been spending some time on the stationary bike. On IR, there is no pressure to go fast, since Ellington cannot return this season. The surgery, Ellington said, “is what I needed.” He said he will be fine by the time the Cardinals begin offseason work in the spring.

“I’m taking this time right now to get back to where I need to be,” Ellington said. “Unfortunately I can’t play but it’s a good time to take things slow and by the time we get going again I’ll be full speed.”

EllingtonBlogUSE


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“Frustrated” Lindley handles demotion

Posted by Darren Urban on December 23, 2014 – 12:54 pm

Ryan Lindley was out giving back Tuesday, taking part in the Cardinals’ annual “Teddy Bear Express” event at Phoenix Children’s Hospital — in which some players hand out teddy bears to the kids who are stuck in the hospital this time of year. The quarterback also was able to reflect on Monday’s news that Logan Thomas would be starting for the Cardinals against the 49ers Sunday, and that Lindley’s starting gig was over after one game.

“As a competitor you’re frustrated,” Lindley said. “I told (coach Bruce Arians) that I’m more frustrated in myself and the way I played. He made it clear it wasn’t as much in how I played, based on that. I told him, ‘Regardless of whether it is or not, me personally and the pride I take in what I do, it details the amount of frustration I have.’ We’ll go out and Logan’s going to have a great week. I’ll do anything I can to help him get ready. The biggest thing is to beat the 49ers this week.”

Lindley said he’s aware of the “quick hook” Arians talked about with Thomas, and knows there is a chance he will play in San Francisco. If he’s needed, Lindley said, he’ll be prepared. Lindley also said it was good that Arians was willing to publicly express confidence in him despite a poor game. Lindley was 18-for-44 for 216 yards and an interception in the loss to the Seahawks.

“That’s something that’s special and different about B.A. and this organization, the way they’re running things right now,” Lindley said. “We’re transparent, we’re up front with everything. B.A. is a guy who doesn’t pull any punches. He’s going to tell you how it is, the good or the bad. For him to say that, it definitely does boost my confidence a little bit, to know where I stand in his eyes. From then on out, it’s about me becoming a better each day and me doing whatever I can to help this team win on Sundays.”

LindleydempotedUSE

 


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Why Warner isn’t/wasn’t an option

Posted by Darren Urban on December 22, 2014 – 3:47 pm

I hesitate to bring up the ‘W’ word at this point, with Sunday night and Ryan Lindley’s struggles still so fresh on everyone’s mind. I don’t see the Cardinals making any kind of quarterback transactions at this point, just trying to tread water until Drew Stanton can play. But after all the talk about Kurt Warner and can he come back and hey, maybe he’s even thought about coming back, bottom line, he can’t.

Yes, even if the Cards thought it was a good idea and he thought it was a good idea, it’s a non-starter. A league spokesman confirmed Warner is on the Cardinals’ reserve/retired list. NFL rules state someone on the reserve/retired list cannot be reinstated in the last 30 days of a season. That means even when Warner first hinted about it during the game against the Rams, it was already too late.

(Forget about the fact he’s 43 and has been out of football for five years and isn’t physically or mentally prepped to be able to jump into an NFL lineup.)

No, it was never going to work.

(Profootballtalk.com pointed out that Warner could be reinstated had he been put through waivers, but that another team could have and likely would have claimed him just to block such a move.)

In the meantime, the Cardinals are turning to Logan Thomas for a start Sunday against the 49ers, although Bruce Arians said he will have the quick hook in place for Thomas. Stanton is unlikely to play this week as the Cardinals try and get him ready for a playoff game.

WarnerGate1use

 


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Keim: Fitzgerald cap number “baked in”

Posted by Darren Urban on December 22, 2014 – 8:21 am

We take a moment to look beyond last night’s ugliness against the Seahawks to talk Larry Fitzgerald. Or more specifically, Fitzgerald’s future.

Right before kickoff last night, profootballtalk.com reported that the Cardinals will not release Fitzgerald, even with that bloated $23.6 million salary cap number Fitz has on deck for the 2015 season. General Manager Steve Keim was asked about it during his weekly appearance on the “Doug and Wolf” show on Arizona Sports 98.7 Monday morning.

“We have to make good business decisions,” Keim said. “I don’t think it’s any secret that we said all along that it is our intent to have Larry Fitzgerald retire a Cardinal. I don’t want to get into it too deep, but with planning purposes and financially, from a cap standpoint and all those sort of things, we have Larry’s (cap) number already baked into our numbers.

“Now, any kind of business decisions moving forward, renegotiations with Larry and that sort of thing, we’ve had ongoing talks with (agent) Eugene Parker and we will continue to have ongoing talks. But again, the best I can tell you is that it is our intent to keep Larry and make sure he stays a Cardinal the rest of his career.”

It’s an interesting situation. If the Cards don’t want to release him, Fitzgerald has the leverage to say he won’t take any kind of pay cut. (It’s not a situation of restructuring anymore; That just balloons further cap numbers, Fitz gets all his money and the Cardinals will eventually pay an even harsher cap price.) Of course, Fitz’s huge cap number — without knowing what the overall cap will look like in 2015 — also could take away from upgrading other areas on the roster. This story will continue to be one to watch.

Other Keim comments this week:

— He said the Seattle loss left him “disappointed for our organizaton and disappointed more for our fanbase.”

— Keim wasn’t super specific with areas he was unhappy with after the game. “With the circumstances we were dealing with we knew it was a tough task,” Keim said, alluding to the quarterback situation. “We had to play mistake-free and that certainly wasn’t the case last night.”

— Keim said he was “a little disappointed” in the safety play and taking angles in space, the overall tackling and mistakes on defense. Offensively, he was disappointed in the lack of efficiency, which was not only poor throws from Ryan Lindley but also a failure to catch some balls.

— As bad as it got, the scenario still exists where the Cards can win the division. Keim said his feeling Monday morning is “no different” than the one he had after the ugly Atlanta loss, and the Cards bounced back from that.

— Keim is feeling personally responsible right now. “I put a lot of it on my shoulders as the General Manager,” Keim said. “I am so proud of our organization and in particular, our coaching staff. They have done a phenomenal job, and at the end of the day, I take it personal because I feel like I have given our coaches a gun with not enough bullets. Where we have let them down because they don’t have enough players, or healthy players, for that matter, to get the job done. But Bruce (Arians) has shown week in and week out he’ll defy all the odds.”

 FitzcapUSE


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Seahawks aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on December 22, 2014 – 12:37 am

Ryan Lindley walked toward the door in the locker room that takes people into the postgame interview room, and as is often the case, media members allowed Lindley to go in first. Lindley went through the door – and then held it open as reporters streamed through. It was an odd sight, especially for a quarterback who just went through a rough baptism on national television.

Unfortunately, Lindley did not look much better at quarterback than he had in some of his 2012 appearances. The Cardinals will flush the result of Sunday easily enough. There was talk about the 24-hour rule and they will start prepping for the 49ers. The question will be, who will be quarterback? Is there any way Drew Stanton can be ready by next Sunday? More importantly, is that a risk you want to take at this point, knowing how much you need him in the postseason?

Lindley talked about watching the video and correcting what was wrong, and he definitely needs more of a run game to help him, but it is hard to see how he played out there against the Seahawks translating into a ton of postseason success if he needs to play. Then again, no one with the Cardinals is naïve. You lose Carson Palmer, it hurts. You lose Drew Stanton, and you go to a third-string QB, and it’s going to be really hard to win. That would be true for any team in the league. The Cardinals are not immune, even in this season where they have been able to overcome so much else.

As for everything else, this one is going to be short and sweet. It’s late, and there isn’t much to pull from the still smoldering wreckage of Sunday night.

— Russell Wilson isn’t always great – the Cardinals made him look very human in Seattle last season – but man was he unreal Sunday night. The Cards’ defense did not play well. But Wilson made more than a few plays that just said “NFL star.” And that it’s going to be tough to deal with him for a lot of years going forward.

— The Cards had seven sacks in Seattle. Sunday night, just one – and on the very next play, Wilson completed a 39-yard pass.

— Not being able to convert that first drive into a touchdown changed some things, in my opinion. The Cards start at the Seattle 6-yard line, run a couple of times, and OK, have a third-and-goal at the 4. But then guard Ted Larsen has a false start and that’s a killer. Still, it looked like Lindley had Larry Fitzgerald open on third down and in front of Richard Sherman, and Lindley didn’t see him, instead trying to get a pass to John Brown that was nearly intercepted. Those are the chances you can’t miss on.

— Linebacker Larry Foote said he was the one who “blew the assignment” on the first Luke Willson 80-yard touchdown pass – the one where safety Rashad Johnson was trying to chase Willson down from behind.

— I don’t have a problem not putting Logan Thomas in. I get the swell of “he can’t be any worse than Lindley” but he probably isn’t any better either, and unless Bruce Arians sees an upside, I’m not messing with a rookie’s psyche. Not when you have hopes for him down the road.

— Arians talked about guys giving Lindley more help. That’s not about poor effort or even that Lindley played well and was let down. But when you are rolling with a third-string quarterback, you have to have exceptional play around him, especially against a team like the Seahawks.

— The Seahawks are playing some pretty unreal football right now. That’s part of this too.

That’s all. I’ve got to get some sleep before getting back into the office in what will be too few hours from now.

Seablowafteruse


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Stanton inactive against Seahawks

Posted by Darren Urban on December 21, 2014 – 4:59 pm

No, Drew Stanton will not be active tonight. Despite some brief practice time this week, expecting him to be ready with his knee injury was never really that realistic. It’s Ryan Lindley’s shot in the spotlight, and we’ll see how that turns out. Given that Jonathan Cooper was already ruled out for the game, there are no surprises on the Cardinals’ inactive list for the Seahawks game this evening.

— QB Drew Stanton (knee)

— WR Brittan Golden

— S Chris Clemons

— G Jonathan Cooper (wrist)

— DT Alameda Ta’amu

— G Anthony Steen

— DE Kareem Martin

For the Seahawks, starters center Max Unger (concussion) and left tackle Russell Okung (chest) are both inactive.

 


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Friday before the (biggest) Seahawks (game)

Posted by Darren Urban on December 19, 2014 – 4:56 pm

First, a history lesson. Or at least a flashback.

I was there in New Jersey in 2012 as the life drained out of the Ken Whisenhunt regime and the Cardinals, when Ryan Lindley started against the Jets in what might have been the ugliest game ever. You remember, when the Cards nursed a 3-0 lead into the fourth quarter and eventually lost, 7-6. The game was striking because Lindley simply could not move the offense that day, and Whisenhunt refused to put in backup John Skelton.

Lindley completed just 10 of 31 passes for 72 yards, and that, more than the four interceptions he had against the Rams in a loss the week before or his Lions start that the Cards won because of defense and Beanie Wells, is what I remember most of Lindley 1.0.

What will Lindley 2.0 look like?

He’s had a week to practice with the first unit, and he’ll be playing with a better offensive line than he had back then. Honestly, I have no idea what Lindley will do Sunday, or how he will play. Sure, we could see the guy who has the 0-to-7 TD-to-interception ratio in his career. The Seahawks can make a lot of quarterbacks look poor (Drew Stanton didn’t exactly dominate against the Seahawks in the earlier game). But maybe he’ll be enough. Maybe, in a year where the Cards simply find a way to win at home every time, he’ll make the plays. Carson Palmer threw four interceptions just about this time last year against the Seahawks – in Seattle – and the Cards still managed to win.

That was because of defense and a commitment to the run, and the Cards should have both again Sunday. Lindley doesn’t have to be Aaron Rodgers. He just can’t be Lindley 1.0.

— The biggest thing that struck me this week was the confidence around the team. I’ve been around this franchise for 15 years, in this building the last eight. I know when the mood in the locker room skews bad, or when there is concern where the team sits. And from my vantage point, that isn’t the case right now.

I don’t know if that’s confidence in Lindley, or knowledge a playoff berth is already secure regardless of the outcome Sunday, or Arians’ trickle-down mindset. But mentally, the Cardinals are in the right place. We’ll see if that translates against the Seahawks.

— The Cardinals will wear their red-and-red uniform combo for the game. I could talk about what a great record they have wearing that combo, but I’m one of those that doesn’t believe uniforms make a difference, so, yeah. They are wearing red-and-red.

— Palmer was in the locker room after practice today, walking around although noting that was about all he can do at this point. He won’t be attending Sunday’s game, he said, because after about an hour of standing his surgically-repaired knee would swell considerably. He also wouldn’t want to think about getting hit on accident on the sideline – he’s not super mobile – and hurting his knee all over again.

“I’m too old for that,” he said.

— A hint for halftime Sunday if you are going to the game: You might not want to leave your seats. A special six-minute laser light and video show that highlights the season and pays tribute to the fans will be played. It incorporates 12 laser light projectors to create graphics on the field and the roof. Should be fun.

— Goodness, these Tim Tebow fans

— Defensive end Frostee Rucker played for Seahawks coach Pete Carroll at USC, and this week, Carroll  talked about how Rucker was a tailback coming out of high school.

“When we got him we weren’t sure where to play him because he was growing at an alarming rate,” Carroll said. “He was no longer in tailback kind of profile. We moved him around. He was such a good athlete and such a good player that we finally found a place for him to play on the D-line where he wound up.

“But he dotted the ‘I’ pretty well there at tailback in the old days — wing-T, he brought it to life when he was in the game.”

Rucker smiled when told Carroll remembered back then. “That was back in my heyday,” Rucker said, noting that his position change was the best thing for him. “I still need to thank him for that.”

The Cards will too. Frostee has been a lifesaver.

— The Cards need the run game. There are some wondering if the two-game surge in running production – 141 and 143 yards the last two games – was because of Jonathan Cooper’s insertion into the lineup, and if it goes away now that Cooper is out with a wrist injury. I think Cooper might have helped. It might have helped that Ted Larsen was playing the right side. It definitely helped that Kerwynn Williams got on the field. And if the Cards take a step back, it may be more about the defense they are playing than anything else.

— Got to keep Russell Wilson contained. Can’t give the Seahawks short fields, whether off turnovers or bad special teams play or poor punts. The Cardinals do that, I think they are in this game.

And if they are in the game in the fourth quarter, we’ll see what happens.

B4seablog


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Home means so much — now, and then

Posted by Darren Urban on December 19, 2014 – 11:40 am

The  Cardinals are 7-0 at University of Phoenix Stadium this season. They are 13-2 at home since Bruce Arians became coach — a meaningless, close loss to the 49ers to close out the 2013 season, and the the 34-22 loss to the Seahawks in October of last year. The home-field advantage is real for the Cards, a big reason why this team still has the optimism it does going into this game despite having to dig deep into the depth chart for a quarterback.

Only three times have the Cardinals ever won more than seven games at home in a season, the most recent being 1925 and that total (11 home wins) was helped by the fact the Cards played 13 of 14 games at home. (That is a seriously unbalanced scheduling.) The Cardinals are the only team in the league to have given up 20 points or fewer in every home game this season.

Details of what player will be the QB aside, that’s ultimately what Sunday’s game is about. If the Cardinals win, they clinch home field throughout the playoffs. Literally, in fact, since that would include a Super Bowl appearance. If the Seahawks win, they are in the driver’s seat for the No. 1 seed, and it almost goes without saying the home-field advantage the Seahawks have in Seattle. There’s still a chance the Packers could be the top seed, and no one wants to play Aaron Rodgers in Lambeau in January.

So it’s fitting that, for the Cardinals, it’s a home game that determines future home games — and possibly the direction of the entire postseason in the NFC.

Homefieldbloguse


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Quietly, Leach a backbone on special teams

Posted by Darren Urban on December 18, 2014 – 10:56 am

The ball came down basically directly above Mike Leach’s head, and much like Smokey Brown did against the Eagles, Leach played it perfectly. Of course, Brown caught the long pass, while all Leach — the Cardinals’ long snapper — had to do was smother the Drew Butler punt, which he did perfectly. The Cards won the game of field position in St. Louis, and the punt team was a big reason.

As for Leach, the 38-year-old veteran who never makes a snapping mistakes and who still covers punts like he’s 28, it was a fantastic play. It was one of the reasons the Cards have him around. Sure, he costs a little more than a young long snapper might, but you cannot put a price on near perfection at that spot. Leach will be there for you. He will do his job and do it well. And you can forget about it and worry about other stuff, like who will play quarterback or who contain Russell Wilson.

“I want to go out and not be noticed, to be honest with you,” Leach said. “It’s the nature of our position. Do your job and keep your head down and hope nobody sees you and Cat (Chandler Catanzaro) keeps making his kicks and winning his awards and Drew keeps doing great and Justin (Bethel) keeps making all the plays and those guys can get the attention. Then I can just kind of slide back into the bricks and not be noticed, that’s fine. If something happens, and if your teammates kind of give you a pat on the back, that’s good too.”

Leach, who has played in 198 consecutive games, is able to serve as an experienced mentor for the Cards’ two young kickers — a change from last season, when kicker Jay Feely and punter Dave Zastudil gave the Cards a much more experienced special-teams trio. Leach’s years playing tight end or wide receiver (he came into the league as a tight end) has given him the background to track the ball in the air like he did on that punt in St. Louis.

(Leach does a lot in the community too, although he’s usually shying away from the attention doing those things as well.)

It’s those little things Leach stays on top of, like at the end of the punt. Leach did the great job batting it down, but the ball was still loose near the goal line when reinforcements arrived. Wide receiver Jaron Brown was the one to jump on the ball to officially kill it — and while Brown was still a couple of yards from the end zone, Leach made sure to push his prone teammate in the back, away from the goal line. Those are the things that can possibly ruin a play. This, Leach knows.

“I’ve been around a little while,” Leach said.

It’s served the Cardinals well, too.

Leach1forblog

 


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Cards feel the cost of injuries

Posted by Darren Urban on December 17, 2014 – 10:55 am

The Cardinals are not the most injured team in the league, although there has been little argument they have been undercut by the players they have lost. In the NFL, of course, anytime you lose a starting quarterback, that automatically puts you near the top of the list.

Quantifying that compared to other teams in virtually impossible. There are dozens of ways to look at it. But here is one. Spotrac.com has compiled a list that adds up the salary cap hits each team have sitting on injured reserve, and, no surprise, the Cardinals have landed in the top five. The Cards are fourth, with eight IR’d players taking up $28.8 million in cap space. The three teams ahead of them: the Giants with $34.7M, the Rams at $30.6M and the Bears at $29.9M. The Giants are there in part because they have a whopping 22 players on IR. The Rams have one less player on IR than the Cards, but with QB Sam Bradford’s huge contract ($17.6M himself) the total is slightly ajar.

The eight Cardinals on IR: Carson Palmer, John Abraham, Darnell Dockett, Troy Niklas, Ed Stinson, Dave Zastudil, Andre Ellington and Eddie Whitley. That total doesn’t include linebacker Matt Shaughnessy, who was out eight weeks when he was on IR/designated to return.

You can argue that the money could be weighted — the Bears, for instance, just put wide receiver Brandon Marshall on IR — but the overall totals do speak to the “importance” of the players on IR, because you figure the guys with the highest cap numbers are usually the most crucial.

As for the full list of walking wounded Cards, here are the guys who have missed games this season because of injuries, with the total games they have sat out thus far:

DT Dockett (14)
LB Abraham (13)
P Zastudil (12)
LB Shaughnessy (8)
QB Palmer (8)
TE Niklas (7)
DT Stinson (5)
S Tyrann Mathieu (3)
LB Alex Okafor (3)
LB Glenn Carson (3)
WR Larry Fitzgerald (2)
LB Desmond Bishop (2)
DE Calais Campbell (2)
RB Stepfan Taylor (2)
G Paul Fanaika (2)
RB Ellington (2)
DE Frostee Rucker (1)
TE Rob Housler (1)

We’ll see if the final two games bring any more surprises.

EllingtobloginjuryesUSE


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