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With workouts, volunteering to be paid

Posted by Darren Urban on April 2, 2015 – 4:31 pm

When the strength and conditioning program begins for the Cardinals (and around most of the league) April 20, the tendency is to wonder, “Who isn’t there?” Then becomes the rash of “Remember, it’s only voluntary” answers.

(The teams with new head coaches can begin sooner.)

As the years have gone on and teams have hoped that their players would show up to such voluntary work, many contracts have been drawn up with workout bonuses attached. For a pretty good chunk of change, the players just have to come to a high percentage of the voluntary workout dates. The Cardinals are no different.

A list of the players on the active roster that have workout bonuses. (NT Alameda Ta’amu has a workout-like bonus, but that money is tied to making weight, not just showing up to work):

P Dave Zastudil $270,000
DE Calais Campbell $250,000
QB Drew Stanton $250,000
LB Sean Weatherspoon $250,000
S Rashad Johnson $150,000
DT Corey Peters $150,000
LB Matt Shaughnessy $125,000
CB Patrick Peterson $100,000
LB Lorenzo Alexander $100,000
S Tyrann Mathieu $50,000
C/G A.Q. Shipley $25,000
C/G Ted Larsen $25,000


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The tao of Arians: “Dude, you got a cup”

Posted by Darren Urban on March 25, 2015 – 8:39 am

Bruce Arians talked for an hour today on a lot of subjects at the NFC coaches breakfast during the NFL spring meetings. We’ll have a lot of stories and video on the various topics today and in the coming days. Among the things Arians touched on:

— The Cardinals would still like to bring back Lyle Sendlein to compete for the center position;

— Logan Thomas will get a ton of reps in the offseason and could even get some “field one” work (the Cards have players working on two fields) depending on the health of Carson Palmer and Drew Stanton;

— There was nothing to say on Adrian Peterson (“Are you trying to get me fined?” he said);

— The Cardinals will look at Kareem Martin at outside linebacker. Arians thinks Martin has the body-type of Aldon Smith.

— He wants DE Calais Campbell to be more consistent, saying “he disappears too much.”

There was much more. But the line of the day came when Arians was talking about the reluctance of General Manager Steve Keim to accept his award for Executive of the Year from the Sporting News the other day in front of the other GMs and coaches. The trophy itself was a big glass vase-looking thing.

“You check your ego at the door, because everything is for the Cardinals,” Arians said. “We’ve both been fortunate enough to get some accolades. You can’t take them. The entire room got you there. Don’t think you’re special. We both laughed, he was embarrassed as hell the other day to get his. I said, ‘Dude, you got a cup. We can drink out of that.”

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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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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.

Pro Bowl Football

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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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New DC could impact Cardinals on the nose

Posted by Darren Urban on January 16, 2015 – 1:56 pm

I don’t think we’ll be hearing anything about the Cardinals’ vacant defensive coordinator job until next week (the coaches remain off, although former defensive coordinator/new Jets coach Todd Bowles did drop by Thursday and again Friday as he settled his affairs with the organization and said goodbyes.) We’ll wait to see if the Dick LeBeau rumors come to pass of him joining the Cardinals’ staff, and who else might be impacted (if LeBeau is a consultant, does outside linebackers James Bettcher become defensive coordinator? Or defensive backs coach Nick Rapone? Or someone else?)

What kind of scheme the Cardinals use will be the first question everyone will want to know, and if LeBeau arrives, whether it’s he dealing with what the Cardinals have been running or vice versa. The scheme of LeBeau and the scheme of Bowles have some parallels but they were definitely different — especially up front, where LeBeau (and disciple Ray Horton when he was DC of the Cardinals) look to have the linemen “two-gap” and allow the linebackers to roam and make plays. Bowles was willing to let his lineman just head one way and make a play. It’s a big reason why Darnell Dockett was so happy when Bowles arrived, as I mentioned the other day, although LeBeau had used more one-gap in the last couple of years and let his 3-4 ends rush the passer more often.

Either way, a good nose tackle is important. And the Cardinals face a crucial offseason when it comes to their nose tackles. Starter Dan Williams is an unrestricted free agent. Alameda Ta’amu, who had a disappointing season coming off a torn ACL, is a restricted free agent. Ta’amu is an interesting case, because he played well in 2013 and can be kept for a minimum of a restricted free agent tender offer. He didn’t tear up his knee until the season finale in 2013 and it wasn’t that shocking he was slow to recover, but the Cardinals were still expecting more from him this season. (It’s notable that LeBeau’s Steelers cut Ta’amu last year, which is how the Cardinals got him off waivers in the first place.)

Williams is more dicey. I’d think the Cardinals want him back. Williams said he would like to be back, but again, this is about money. What will the open market bring for Williams? Williams played pretty well this season and his weight isn’t the issue it used to be. But there is already a ton of money tied up in the defensive line (at least for now) with Calais Campbell and Dockett, and that also must fit into the equation. There was a reason the Cards drafted two defensive linemen last year.

Ed Stinson and veteran Tommy Kelly can play inside but it is Williams and/or Ta’amu who are the true nose tackles on the roster for now. Someone will need to be there in May too. If it isn’t Williams, can it be Ta’amu? Or someone else?


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Friday before the Panthers and the Wild Card

Posted by Darren Urban on January 2, 2015 – 11:58 am

Remember the last time the Cardinals went to Carolina for a playoff game? It turned out pretty well for the Cards. They flipped Panthers quarterback Jake Delhomme into a turnover-machine – six in all – as the Cards crushed the 12-4 Panthers on their Super Bowl run.

The Cardinals (and the Panthers, for that matter) are way different than that team. Only three Cardinals who were there in the 2008 season will be on the field Saturday: wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald (who destroyed the Panthers that night), center Lyle Sendlein and defensive end Calais Campbell, who was just a rookie.

That game didn’t start well but we knew from playing them earlier in the season we could beat them,” Campbell said this week, choosing “resilience” as the one word to describe that game.

Campbell’s current team is looking for that resilience. The Cardinals are the underdog for their playoff game – as usual, coach Bruce Arians said – but even with a two-game losing streak, they carry with them a confidence they will be fine. Everyone has the same record at this point is the message coming from the team’s locker room. It’s a fresh start.

The Cards were the underdog once upon a time too. “I remember at halftime, Kurt Warner saying, ‘We’ve got them down, we’ve just got to finish them,’ ” Campbell said of that night in January, 2009. “He didn’t talk big too often, so when he said ‘Finish them,’ we all got focused.”

We’ll see where the Cardinals’ focus is Saturday.

— Campbell was named second-team all-pro Friday, underscoring a big season in which Campbell also was named to his first Pro Bowl. Campbell got 11 votes at defensive end, trailing only Houston’s J.J. Watt (unanimous 50 votes) and Buffalo’s Mario Williams (24). (Campbell also got a vote at defensive tackle for some reason.)

Four Cardinals got a single AP vote at their respective positions: tackle Jared Veldheer, linebacker Larry Foote, kicker Chandler Catanzaro and safety Rashad Johnson.

— There isn’t much more to be analyzed about quarterback Ryan Lindley. He can’t turn the ball over, and while he shouldn’t have to throw for 260 yards in a half for the Cardinals to win, he will have to make some plays. In a lot of ways, this game feels like it will come down to the quarterbacks – The Cards need Lindley to hold up, and they need to hold down Cam Newton.

— There was a players-only meeting Monday after the 49ers game. “I think a lot of good things we said in there,” Arians said during his appearance on the “Bickley and Marotta” show on Arizona Sports 98.7, and it was probably some important things. When you are having issues communicating – which especially has happened on defense a few times – and there is a need to refocus on the tackling, such a meeting can help. If nothing else, it was a chance for guys to clear the air and make sure the most important message was heard: It’s not easy to get to the playoffs or win in them. Don’t squander the opportunity with self-inflicted mistakes.

— Arians said he doesn’t want the defense to feel it has to do extra just because Lindley is at quarterback. Interestingly, that’s the opposite of what former Buccaneers coach-turned-ESPN-analyst Jon Gruden said he did once upon a time.

“The year we won the Super Bowl (in the 2002 season), we had to beat Chicago in Week 16 with our backup quarterback, and we had never won a game in below‑freezing temperature,” Gruden said. “So what I did is I went down to Warren Sapp’s locker and Derrick Brooks and Ronde Barber and said we’ve got to play some defense tonight.

“That’s what Bruce Arians has to do. You’ve got to go get Calais Campbell, you’ve go get your star players on defense, hopefully Larry Foote is ready to go, get Patrick Peterson and Cromartie and say, ‘Let’s pick it up, let’s play the game of the year on the road.’ Go down to Ted Ginn and say ‘Return a punt just like you did against the Giants.’ Let’s get after them in the kicking game, as well. Let’s run the ball.  Let’s not be afraid to punt the football, and let’s take our shots here and there when we strategically get the one‑on‑one isolations that we want. Don’t turn it over, play great defense, and find a way to win.”

— The chance for rain on game day has shrunk to 50 percent. It’s also warmer in Charlotte than it is in Phoenix.

— The Panthers did finish on a four-game win streak, but they played four sub-.500 teams – the Saints, Bucs, Browns and Falcons. Something to consider.

— Getting Larry Foote back at inside linebacker is more important than most realize, I think.

— The Cards, if they win, won’t know where they are playing until Sunday. A Cowboys win Sunday and the Cardinals would travel to Seattle. A Lions win, and the Cards would travel to Green Bay.

Of course, they’ve got to win first.


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The Ker-wich and Chiefs aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on December 7, 2014 – 8:43 pm

Apparently, he calls them a “Ker-wich,” because these are the details that emerge when you have, as Larry Fitzgerald said, “storybook stuff” like the Kerwynn Williams development. A Ker-wich, you see, is the specialty meal for Williams, the guy who had never had an NFL carry before the 19 he had Sunday and just happened to pick up 100 yards in the process.

“I have a Ker-wich every day,” Williams said. “PB and J. Four stacks. Two peanut butter, two jelly, stack ’em on top of each other. Have the milk, gotta dip it in milk too.”

Maybe it’s the diet of champions. Maybe it’s just the diet of a kid who, given a chance to play, provided the Cardinals something they so desperately needed. No one is going to confuse the Chiefs’ run defense with the Seahawks or even the Rams. But the Cards hadn’t been running the ball a lick for three weeks. Sunday they did. Jonathan Cooper got his first start at left guard and left tackle Jared Veldheer was battling a sore ankle but the lanes were there much of the game and the offensive line was at the heart of it all. And it was spearheaded by Williams, and the Cards came out with a win.

The celebration wasn’t exactly going to last long at all. It can’t. The Cardinals are back at it in just a few hours from now. They travel to St. Louis Wednesday afternoon for a brutal short week – especially with all the injuries – to play the Rams. Not fun.

“You have to love the NFL schedule though,” Fitzgerald said with a smile, and I’m thinking his true feelings are pretty much the opposite of love. “Eight o’clock meetings (Monday) morning and six o’clock treatment. This is the schedule.”

A schedule that’s a lot easier to digest, frankly, after a crucial win. Ten wins in back-to-back seasons for the first time since 1975-76. You could see it in the locker room, this was important.

— Before we flash too far back, though, a look ahead. The short week is brutal for even the “healthy” guys. What about cornerback Antonio Cromartie, who was feared down with an Achilles injury? Bruce Arians said afterward it turned out to not be the Achilles (exhale now) but still couldn’t specify what was wrong.

“We’re keeping our fingers crossed for him,” Arians said. That might be more optimistic for the long-term, but can he possibly turn around to play in a game in four days? Same goes for linebacker Matt Shaughnessy, who hurt his shoulder late in the game and didn’t return. We also need to see how Fitz, playing for the first time in three weeks but not at 100 percent, can bounce back on such a short week.

— Arians took blame for a couple of play choices that didn’t pan out (and drew plenty of questions on my Twitter feed at the time — @cardschatter, if you need it). “I called a couple of really bad plays,” Arians said. He named the Robert Hughes run up the middle on third-and-1 – when the Chiefs loaded the line of scrimmage with what seemed like 15 men – and the screen down at the Kansas City 5 that lost four yards in particular.

— It’s safe to say the Chiefs feel they got the short end of the stick on the two key calls of the game – the Fasano offensive pass interference and the Kelce fumble. (Who knew the Cardinals would benefit so much from the other team’s tight ends?) The Cardinals weren’t apologizing and insisted they thought a) Fasano committed a penalty and b) Kelce definitely fumbled.

But, defensive end Calais Campbell said with a smile, “Hey, that’s part of the game. The referees are a big part of the game some times. Sometimes it goes against you, sometimes it goes for you.”

— Not ideal that rookie kicker Chandler Catanzaro put not one but two field-goal tries off an upright. I’m not sure he could do that again in five attempts if he tried 100 more times. But I do like how Arians laughed it off. The Cards can’t be thrilled, but public backing is important because they are going to need him.

— Frostee Rucker with a big game Sunday. Two sacks, and he was the guy in Alex Smith’s face to force the bad throw/Alex Okafor interception. Rucker has had a solid year for the Cards.

— Okafor (the pick, another sack) has turned into a find for the Cardinals at linebacker.

— No question that the Cardinals got a huge boost because Jamaal Charles got hurt. He had that 63-yard TD run and dynamic 18-yard TD catch off a swing pass and that dude was destined for a big day. But he hurt his ankle which I assume cost him touches. Still weird they didn’t go to him more. Judging by his reaction postgame, Charles felt it was weird too.

— Drew Stanton wasn’t great, but he was good enough, and that’s all the Cards can rightfully expect. He didn’t turn the ball over (although the Chiefs dropped one sure interception), he threw a beautiful TD pass to Jaron Brown on third-and-18 and threw a beautiful bomb to Michael Floyd for 45 yards. He kept going after Tamba Hali wrenched his ankle early in the game (on a play that I thought at first might’ve ended Stanton’s season.) You cannot fault the guy’s toughness or effort.

Guess it’s time to go. Short week for everyone. Including me. But the Cards have 10 wins in the book, so that’s a nice jumping off point.


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Sizzling Campbell knows he could be better

Posted by Darren Urban on November 28, 2014 – 9:48 am

Defensive end Calais Campbell is playing exceptionally well. He deserves to be considered for the Pro Bowl. He had three sacks last week in Seattle, and then this is how Bruce Arians evaluated Campbell’s game: “Calais played his normal game. He could play better. He had potential for a five-sack day. Three sacks is nice when it comes to sacks, but he’s a better player than that.”

Not exactly a huge pat on the back — and Campbell said B.A. said exactly what he should say.

“It’s true,” Campbell said. “I didn’t do enough to help my team win. I missed tackles, coach gave me credit on the sheet for two missed tackles but there were three or four other plays I could’ve made but I didn’t. I have a lot of pride in my game and I want to make those plays. I am glad Coach has high standards for me. I love his honesty. Otherwise it lets me take a step to be less that I was.”

Campbell missed two games with a knee injury and has been wearing a brace (and dealing with pain and a not-100-percent knee since). Yet he’s tied for the team-lead in sacks (six, coincidentally the same as linebacker Alex Okafor, who missed three games with injury this season), a team-high eight tackles for loss and leads all defensive linemen in tackles, with 37.

Arians and defensive coordinator Todd Bowles like the way Campbell is playing, but both see a guy who is dominant and should produce on a dominant level all the time. Campbell embraces that line of thinking.

“If (Arians) was ‘Calais played great’ and I didn’t feel I played great, eventually I might be like, ‘Well, at least coach is happy,’ ” Campbell said. “Not to say he wasn’t happy, because he was, but he should expect more from me, because I expect more from me. I respect that part of him, because he knows how good I can be.”



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Both Peterson, Cro crack Pro Bowl top 10

Posted by Darren Urban on November 26, 2014 – 10:23 am

In the most recent results of the ongoing Pro Bowl voting, both of the Cardinals’ starting cornerbacks show up among the top 10 for their position. Patrick Peterson is seventh among cornerbacks, while Antonio Cromartie appears 10th on the list. It is good to see Cromartie there because he has played at a high level all season.

Peterson and Cro aren’t the only Cardinals in the top 10. Andre Ellington is eighth among running backs. Chandler Catanzaro is ninth among kickers. And Justin Bethel is eighth among special teamers.

Alas, Calais Campbell is still not in the top 10, despite having a Pro Bowl-type season (although as he said previously, he’d rather not play if it means the Cards are preparing for the Super Bowl.)

You can vote for the Pro Bowl here.


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