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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.

10winBlog


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Fitzgerald active for Chiefs’ game

Posted by Darren Urban on December 7, 2014 – 12:35 pm

Larry Fitzgerald will play.

That’s the best news out of an ugly injury week as the Cardinals announced their inactives for Sunday’s game against the Chiefs. It’s a list that wasn’t that hard to figure, since Bruce Arians announced Friday four of the guys who were already going to be out: Andre Ellington, Paul Fanaika, Ed Stinson and Tyrann Mathieu. But Fitz will play. We’ll see how effective he can be — understand that his knee is not 100 percent, but all along, everyone involved said Fitzgerald wouldn’t play unless he could help.

The full inactive list:

– S Tyrann Mathieu (thumb)

– RB Andre Ellington (hip)

– DT Alameda Ta’amu

– G Anthony Steen

– DT Ed Stinson (toe)

– G Paul Fanaika (ankle)

– DE Kareem Martin

It’s been a rough year for Martin as the Cards’ third-round pick. He’s made much less of an impact than the Cardinals were hoping. Running back Kerwynn Williams is one of the active players. So is linebacker Matt Shaughnessy, after Shaughnessy missed eight games.

And as a postscript, the roof will be closed today.


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Friday before the Chiefs

Posted by Darren Urban on December 5, 2014 – 3:48 pm

It’s been a while since the Chiefs have come to Arizona. The last visit was in 2006, in the first season of University of Phoenix Stadium. It, like this Sunday’s visit, comes a week after the Cardinals made a trip to Atlanta and lost. Back then, the Chiefs’ game was the first NFL start of a first-round draft pick – quarterback Matt Leinart. This week it’s the first NFL start of first-round draft pick Jonathan Cooper.

It’s an interesting parallel even if it doesn’t relate directly to Sunday’s game. Leinart actually played well that day with a couple of touchdown passes (even though Larry Fitzgerald left with a hamstring injury that would ultimately keep him out three games, the longest down-time of his career) and should have had a third if Bryant Johnson didn’t let a throw go right between his arms.

But that was then, this is now. Game-day decision Fitzgerald should play against the Chiefs after missing the last two games – keeping that three-game stretch back in 2006 as his career-high (or low?). And Cooper’s play, while important, won’t be as important as the play of quarterback Drew Stanton, who needs to bounce back. The QB is in the crosshairs, especially with the Cardinals without running back Andre Ellington and his problem hip.

– If the Cardinals win, they remain the NFC’s top team, regardless of any other game, with three games to go. If they lose, they will no longer be the NFC’s top team regardless, because Philadelphia and Seattle play each other and a win with a Cards’ loss puts either ahead in the standings. The Cardinals don’t want that.

– One running back the Cards won’t have is Michael Bush, who was released Friday. That could be a short-term thing, but for now, the non-Ellington backfield will feature Stepfan Taylor—who will get the start in a running-back-by-committee scenario — and Marion Grice. Arians had some praise for Grice Friday. And all season, offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin said he saw Grice as a player who could fill the Ellington role. Now he has to.

“We have a lot of trust in him,” Goodwin said.

– This is interesting: Cardinals punter Drew Butler was fined $8,268 for facemasking Falcons punt returner Devin Hester on Hester’s 70-yard punt return for a touchdown that was called back. It was called back because Hester was flagged for facemasking Butler. Except … Hester wasn’t fined for the penalty.

– So to recap, the man who was penalized was essentially exonerated with no flag, and the man who should have been flagged wasn’t. Throw in the fine-but-no-penalty for William Moore on Cards’ wide receiver Jaron Brown, and it doesn’t seem like the officials had the best game.

– For those who want to know, the Cardinals will again wear their red pants Sunday (with the normal red home jersey.)

– The Cardinals are holding their annual toy drive Sunday at the game. Partnering with The RoomStore, volunteers will join cheerleaders to collect unwrapped toys and donations for underprivileged children outside each entrance at University of Phoenix Stadium.

– If the Cardinals win, they will have seven home victories. That would be the most for the franchise since 1925, when the Cards had 11. Eleven home wins. It helps that the Cards that year played 13 of 14 games at home (which was in Chicago at the time.)

– In 59 career games before he infamously lost the tip of his finger trying to make a tackle in New Orleans, safety Rashad Johnson had three interceptions. In 22 games since, he has seven interceptions. To be fair, Johnson didn’t start really playing a lot until the second half of the 2012 season, but still.

– Larry Fitzgerald, asked if he takes pride in his run blocking in the offense: “I take a lot more pride in catching passes.”

Fitz laughed as he said it, and he did say he does want to help with his blocking. But let’s not confuse this. Later, Fitz said “I have nothing to do with the run game. I’m a wide receiver.”

– Defensive coordinator Todd Bowles said the game in Atlanta was a “bad day at the office” for his unit. Bowles said they forgot it quickly, and have to move on. The defense needs to. They will be crucial down the stretch, especially as offensive injuries mount.

– Bowles was on the staff of Chiefs’ coach Andy Reid in Reid’s final year as Eagles’ head coach. It didn’t go well – the Eagles were bad, and Bowles, who eventually took over as interim defensive coordinator, was hammered by fans and media as the defense struggled – but Reid said now Bowles was the best interview he’s ever had. Bowles returned the compliment.

“It was great working for him,” Bowles said. “I probably learned more from him in one year than I have from a lot of people over a long time.”

– Hopefully for the Cardinals, it also means Bowles learned Reid’s tendencies. The Cards need every advantage.

See you Sunday.

BeforeBlogpicUSE


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With 2014 schedule, London calling?

Posted by Darren Urban on October 8, 2013 – 3:03 pm

The NFL announced today that three teams will host games in London during the 2014 season: Jacksonville, Oakland and Atlanta. Why does that matter? Because you never know if the Cardinals could get picked to be the visiting team to a London game.

The Cards don’t play Jacksonville next season. But they do travel to Oakland, and with an away game at the “matching” NFC South team wherever they finish, there is a chance the Cardinals could have a road game in Atlanta next season — making then two of the three London games possible. We are far away from knowing for sure, of course, but it’s an interesting tidbit to chew on.

So, as long as we are discussion the 2014 opponents — because why wouldn’t you five games into the previous season — here is the list of the Cardinals’ schedule-to-be:

HOME

Philadelphia Eagles

Washington Redskins

Kansas City Chiefs

San Diego Chargers

NFC North “like” finisher (If Cardinals finish in second place in division, for instance, they play the second-place team from NFCN)

Seattle Seahawks

San Francisco 49ers

St. Louis Rams

AWAY

Dallas Cowboys

New York Giants

Denver Broncos

Oakland Raiders

NFC South “like” finisher

Seattle Seahawks

San Francisco 49ers

St. Louis Rams


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How the trade winds blow

Posted by Darren Urban on April 22, 2013 – 4:02 pm

There are plenty of realistic scenarios where none of the top three rated offensive tackles are left on the draft board by the time the Cardinals pick at No. 7. It’s been suggested by some that the Cards could think about trading up in that situation. I just don’t see it. I didn’t before, and I don’t now after GM Steve Keim said “I’m not in the business of giving away picks.”

Smartly, Keim isn’t going to rule anything out. But moving up from 7 is going to be too expensive, even if it was just a spot or two. And frankly, the Cards can’t afford to give up a second or a third right now when those guys have a chance to turn into starters on a team that needs to fill holes. (Mike Jurecki reported the Cards have discussed the possibility of trading for disgruntled franchised Chiefs tackle Branden Albert, but I don’t see that either. If the money he wants on a long-term deal is scaring the Dolphins away, I don’t see how it makes more sense here.)

So maybe the Cards don’t trade up, or trade for Albert. But that doesn’t mean they wouldn’t trade. One thing I can definitely see is Keim willing to trade down, especially in this draft. He may not want to give away picks, but stockpiling them I’m sure is of interest, especially for a draft guy like him. Of course, there has to be someone on the board at 7 someone feels the need to come up and get, which could be a long shot. And who, exactly are the Cards going to seek? Offensive line and pass rusher remain the most obvious choices, and there are a handful that have been discussed not only top 10 but into the 11-15 range that make sense.

I do see Keim being aggressive in such draft moves, willing to move up and back if necessary. That second round pick, in fact, could be interesting in that regard. In the first round, though, I’m thinking back and not forward — if the Cards move at all.

TradeBlogUSE


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Tackle situation shows why you don’t fall in love

Posted by Darren Urban on April 18, 2013 – 11:19 am

One of the clichés that always floats around at draft time is that a team never ever ever should fall in love with a player. I mean, if you’re picking No. 1, fine. But otherwise, there is always a risk that said player or players isn’t going to be there. And you don’t want to be disappointed or let the emotion of losing out on such a crush drive you to do something dumb when you are on the clock.

That crossed my mind this morning when NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock talked about what has become a growing sentiment — that all three high-end offensive tackles available: Luke Joeckel, Eric Fisher and Lane Johnson — will all be off the board by the time the Cardinals pick at No. 7. Let’s make this clear, no one knows for sure the Cards even like all three at that point, although it stands to reason they do. For a while, it was people thinking Fisher would be there and Joeckel wouldn’t. Then it was Fisher being gone and Johnson being the consideration. But there is a strong likelihood that the Chiefs take Joeckel at No. 1 (KC wants to trade Branden Albert) and the Eagles (No. 4) and the Lions (No. 5) both easily could take the other two tackles. Even if one lasts to No. 6, the next scenario could be the Browns trading out of No. 6 to the Chargers or Dolphins, both of whom need a left tackle like Johnson (pictured below).

Now, the Dolphins are talking with the Chiefs about the Albert trade, which would take them out of the mix. But the Chargers, picking 11th, could try to jump up (with Ken Whisenhunt’s new team potentially stealing a tackle out from under his old team.)

What does this all mean? Well, this is operating under the assumption the Cards are focusing on a tackle. That was the thought last year too and they took Michael Floyd over Riley Reiff, so there’s that. I don’t see the Cards trading up and surrendering a pick, although I’m not positive on that. If all the tackles are off the board in the top five, I could definitely see the Cards trying to trade down a little, although other than the tackles, I don’t know who would trade up. And again, if three tackles go off the board that early, someone is sitting there that hadn’t been expected. Will it be someone the Cards want?

– As long as we are talking about potential picks at No. 7, we have our annual mock draft contest ready for play right here. Hope you decide to take a crack at who you think the Cardinals will select.

LaneBlogUSE


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As the coaching info turns

Posted by Darren Urban on January 9, 2013 – 11:47 am

With Steve Keim in place as general manager, the Cardinals now need to find a head coach. That is ongoing, and there was some spark thrown into Wednesday morning with conflicting reports about the Cardinals and Steelers offensive coordinator Todd Haley. Some reported there was an interview happening, others said no. (Or absolutely no.) What we know is that the Cards have talked to Ray Horton and Mike McCoy and are going to talk to Jay Gruden Thursday. President Michael Bidwill said all those things Tuesday. The team has been pretty transparent with all their interviews once they are lined up. Then again, Haley might want this kept quiet (which doesn’t necessarily prevent leaks, not when it is fellow coaches apparently saying what is going on.)

The Cards, in the Haley case, are not commenting.

(UPDATE: Steelers president Art Rooney said Haley is interviewing. Feels like a solid source.)

Regardless, nothing has changed with the hiring time frame, which was that there was no time frame. Bidwill reiterated that notion. “The timetable is the timetable that gets us the right coach and the right decision for the team to move us forward,” team president Michael Bidwill said during Steve Keim’s introductory press conference Tuesday.

One final interesting note, which comes via Geoff Mosher from CSN Philadelphia, via tweets that make me think he too has been hit with many questions from concerned fans about no head coach yet hired, in his case with the Eagles.

“KC was first NFL team last year to hire HC, on Jan. 9. Chiefs went 2-14, fired Crennel. Colts hired Chuck Pagano on Jan. 25. Made playoffs”

Mosher makes the point of various successful coaches over the years and their hire dates: Pittsburgh’s Mike Tomlin Jan. 22 (’07); Baltimore’s John Harbaugh Jan. 19 (’08); Denver’s John Fox Jan. 13 (’11); Atlanta’s Mike Smith Jan. 24 (’08); and Seattle’s Pete Carroll Jan. 11 (’10). Again, I’m not trying to say every coach hired is the right one, or that waiting always is a benefit. But clearly, it’s not like taking time crushes chances for success. Of the seven teams that need new coaches, only two have hired new coaches, and that doesn’t include the possibility Jacksonville could change coaches now that they have a new GM.

– One final outlier here: After the Cowboys fired DC Rob Ryan Tuesday it became popular — driven by media speculation — that Horton could be a candidate to replace him. Horton was wooed by Jason Garrett to be on staff two years ago as Horton was coming to Arizona as DC. Here’s the problem: If the Cards don’t hire Horton has head coach, I’m pretty sure they want him to stay as defensive coordinator. Now, that can always change depending on who the head coach is, but with Horton still under contract for another season, he can’t go anywhere (except as a head coach) if the Cards don’t want him to. And I just don’t see the Cards allowing a lateral move, even if Horton did (of which I’m not sure either).


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Chiefs aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on August 10, 2012 – 11:41 pm

It was a little play, certainly not the end-all-be-all of the game. But the Cards had opened with one quick first down and thought they’d have another facing a third-and-1 on their opening drive. Alfonso Smith instead got snowed under for a two-yard loss.

The play was blocked wrong, coach Ken Whisenhunt said. In technical terms, the offense should have treated a safety in the box as a linebacker. It wasn’t an exact play the Cards had had a chance to run before, but the scheme was sound and the play generally had been practiced. “You’d like to think we are sharp enough we could make the adjustment because we talked about it,” Whisenhunt said. “That’s part of preseason but when there are enough of those, it becomes frustrating. Because you feel like you are a better team than you showed.”

In a nutshell, the Cards feel like they are better than they showed against the Chiefs. It didn’t matter in the final score, however, and it didn’t make some of the rough spots look any better. Larry Fitzgerald probably put it best:  “It wasn’t pretty today by any stretch of the imagination. I don’t know what it is but we have to get it fixed and get it fixed pretty quickly.”

– It did look like John Skelton felt comfortable but in the end, there wasn’t much to show for his start. For a moment, it looked like the interception might be a completion to Fitz. There isn’t much difference between good and bad, however. Kevin Kolb also probably should have had better numbers, but the protection broke down once or twice. It doesn’t feel like either man has separated in this race.

– Ryan Lindley did a nice job on the last 30 seconds before the half and led a touchdown drive. I like the kid and he’s going in the right direction. But let’s not crown anyone yet. Lindley’s development isn’t going to go any faster even if fans think he’s better than the top two guys. We can argue about it being too early for the veterans as we go. For a rookie sixth-round quarterback, it’s way too early.

– The starting defense didn’t do well. They know.” It can look a certain way right now,” safety Kerry Rhodes said, and that way is bad. But there didn’t seem to be a concern by anyone on that side of the ball. “There will be a difference when we gameplan,” Rhodes said. The first drive was tough, though. Better tackling, but the Chiefs just kept getting first downs. Got to get off the field.

– Here’s why you get gun-shy about making grand pronouncements. LaRon Byrd had a good game – even Whisenhunt said so – and his three catches for 33 yards, all at the end of the first half, got the Cards a field goal. Good stuff, right? Sort of. Whisenhunt said Byrd was supposed to run a diagonal and would have been open in the flat but ran the wrong route and “left our quarterback out to dry.”

“You see the big plays and you think he has a good game but one of the small things happens and the quarterback keeps the ball in his hand because he’s looking to throw and LeRon isn’t there,” Whisenhunt said.

– Along those same lines, Skelton admitted he called the wrong play in the huddle on his first drive. For an offense fighting to execute as it is, mental errors are killers.

– William Powell had his 29-carry game last year in the preseason, and 92 yards rushing (on nine carries) Friday night. He broke 100 all-purpose yards including his nine-yard reception. Even without a 67-yarder by Powell, the Cards still ran for 86 yards on 23 carries, which wasn’t bad.

– Rookie cornerback Jamell Fleming made a nice play to tackle a running back for a loss and also broke up a pass that ended up being intercepted by teammate Rashad Johnson. That’s a plus.

– Adrian Wilson absolutely lit up Chiefs receiver Terrance Copper on an incompletion early in the game. Wilson lowered the boom, but – correctly, I think – no flag was thrown because Wilson used his shoulder, went into Copper’s chest and didn’t leave his feet. He did, however, probably leave a mark. Hopefully the league sees it as clean too.

– Whiz didn’t want it to be an excuse, but it did seem like the Cards were like an NBA team at the end of a long road trip, out of gas. Don’t know if that was true or not, but the vibe was there.

– Finally, Ryan Williams did not play. Not a surprise. He and Beanie did dress for warmups though. They are getting closer.

This trip is over. Time to fly home tomorrow (later today?) and get back to some normalcy.


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Thursday before the Chiefs

Posted by Darren Urban on August 9, 2012 – 3:25 pm

The last stage of the training camp week away from training camp is over.

(It reminds me of one of the great George Carlin’s comedy bits of being on vacation and then going to another place while gone. “Supply lines become longer and harder to maintain!”)

I’m thinking it’s being embraced by the roster, after a couple of days in Canton (staying an hour away from the Hall of Fame), a trip to St. Joseph, Mo., for more dorm life, and now this trip into Kansas City for Friday night’s game against the Chiefs. What’s it been like? “Honestly, it’s been hell,” guard Daryn Colledge said, in the way only he can.

Colledge saw the joint practice with the Chiefs kind of like a game, so “we’ll end up with another one so that’s three in five days. The bed (at the dorm) is made up of a pallet with sandpaper on it and my sheet is similar to a dryer sheet. Hey, it’s not been the greatest stop in my life. There is a part of me looking forward to get back to Flagstaff. But it’s been good. The school has excellent facilities to practice and play in, everyone was nice. It was a good stop overall.”

Never thought I’d hear a player happy to be going back to Flagstaff. First though, there is the game against the Chiefs.

– We’ll see if Kevin Kolb plays at quarterback, but this will be John Skelton’s first start and that’s a big deal. Skelton hasn’t had the greatest of first-quarter showings. He looked steady in his 94-yard touchdown drive last week. That’d be huge if he could do that again.

– Watching the defense try to bang with Chiefs running back Peyton Hillis, the man is a load when he hits into the line. Considering the Cards struggled with tackling last game, he will be a test.

– As I have mentioned before, and this is my guess only, I’d think Ryan Williams won’t play one more week. But I’ll admit I won’t be shocked if he does.

– On the road I didn’t get a chance to re-watch last week’s game. I’ve had a lot of fans do so and talk about the offensive line, about guard Adam Snyder and tackle Levi Brown and mistakes they might have made. I’m going to try and watch the unit more this game. It, like the entire offense, could benefit from a faster start.

– If you haven’t seen it, there’s a good story about the friendship between Williams and Chiefs GM Scott Pioli.

– There weren’t any scuffles in the joint practice this week. But a couple years ago, when there were some between the Cards and Titans in their joint practice, that came after the two teams played. Maybe the reverse will be true this time.


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Arrival in Missouri

Posted by Darren Urban on August 6, 2012 – 3:07 pm

OK, not everyone. I’m here with a few of my broadcast brethren at Missouri Western State in St. Joseph, Missouri, sitting in my new but barren dorm room. It’ll be a fun three nights, I’m sure. The team arrives this evening.

The schedule sets up like this: A walkthrough Tuesday morning and a joint practice against the Chiefs at 3:15 p.m. local time (and yes, it’s open to the public. Info here on kcchiefs.com.) The Cards will then have another walkthrough Wednesday morning and a practice indoors on their own Wednesday afternoon. Thursday is a travel day and then comes a preseason game against the Chiefs in Kansas City — about an hour away — Friday night.

We’ll have the coverage of the week on azcardinals.com. I’ll have a story on the homepage in a bit on Stewart Bradley.

(P.S. Watch the video from last night’s game to see the portion when Kevin Kolb came off the field and supposedly “dissed” John Skelton like so many claim. I see a guy who is hurt and not noticing anything, especially Skelton and Skelton’s hand off to the side. I’m sure John knows that. To suggest Kolb blew off Skelton on purpose is ludicrous.)


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