Considering the Cardinals are on a three-game losing streak, the mood was, dare I say, pretty good in the locker room this week. Coach Ken Whisenhunt, Adrian Wilson, Darnell Dockett, Larry Fitzgerald – I mean, don’t get me wrong, no one is happy with the slide. I’m not sure if it’s the juice provided when the 49ers come to town, or “Monday Night Football,” or what. Clearly, though, the Cards seem in a good place mentally. Certainly there isn’t a vibe of being overwhelmed against the Niners. Not that there would be – this is a team they face twice a season. Familiarity usually takes worry off the table.
The Cardinals say their minds are in the right place. It feels that way.
“It’s going to be one of those backyard fights where your Mom can’t get in it, no referees,” defensive tackle Darnell Dockett said. “It’ll be blow for blow. Who will break first? If you can bend, you bend to the max. They’re a physical football team. We’re a physical football team. We’ll see where it goes.”
– The 49ers have the top-ranked pass defense in the league. That doesn’t seem to bode well for getting the ball to Larry Fitzgerald, but then again, the Niners had a great pass defense last year and Fitz blew up against them out at University of Phoenix Stadium (7 catches, 149 yards). Quarterback John Skelton also ended up with a pretty good day, with three TD passes after coming in in relief of a concussed Kevin Kolb. The key, of course, will be keeping Skelton upright under the San Francisco pass rush. That will be a key every week with this team, obviously.
– Speaking of Skelton, he said the ankle he hurt in the opener is “not hindering me in any way.”
– And speaking of Fitz, he knows the questions are coming every time he has a game without many stats – we went through it early last year too – about getting him the ball. Fitzgerald had a pretty good stretch of four straight games of producing before Minnesota, whose defense was all about shutting him down, it seemed. Right now, Fitz is on pace for 91 catches, 1,049 yards and 7 touchdowns.
But this is a different Fitz that 2006 too.
“My pursuit is the same,” Fitzgerald said. “I work hard. I try to improve on my skills daily and be the best I can. But I want to win. Some days it might be one (catch) for four (yards) like it was in New England. I wouldn’t trade 10-for-230 and a touchdown in a loss as opposed to one-for-five in a win. I have changed that way. But I still want to be productive and help my team.”
– Remember former Cardinals guard-turned-tackle-turned-Pro Bowl guard in Dallas, Leonard Davis? Good old “Bigg,” who left as a free agent just as Whisenhunt was coming in, plays for San Francisco these days. He gets work in certain packages and is used as a sixth offensive lineman.
“He’s been fantastic, really one of my personal favorite guys to be around,” 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh said. “He’s been good on Sundays too.”
– Patrick Peterson will likely get a lot of Michael Crabtree Monday, since Crabtree is the 49ers best receiver. But the Cards’ cornerback is most looking forward to meeting Randy Moss, who plays – although not much – for the Niners.
“I can’t wait,” Peterson said. “I remember being so young, being in high school, watching him make those one-hand catches. I used to run around the neighborhood (saying) I want to ‘Moss’ somebody.”
– Running back LaRod Stephens-Howling will try to follow up his first 100-yard game with another productive outing, something the Cards need. Stephens-Howling, who is playing under a one-year tender offer after restricted free agency, is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent after the season. General manager Rod Graves said in training camp the Cardinals would like to sign Stephens-Howling to an extension, but thus far talks have been slow.
Stephens-Howling said he’s doing the best he can to forget about it but “you’re human.”
“We just wish something could get done,” the Hyphen said. “I want to stay a Cardinal. But I have to play on Monday, so that’s my focus.”
– Stephens-Howling has enjoyed getting to do a little more at running back with the injuries to Beanie Wells and Ryan Williams, and acknowledged his role was “something else we’d have to talk about.”
But “I love playing my role, and whatever they ask me to do I’m going to do,” he said. “But I’m taking it one game at a time, one week at a time. I look at the game plan, see what (packages) I am in for, and go from there. And that’s what I’m going to put my heart into.”
– So far, Peterson’s follow-up to his electrifying rookie season returning punts has been anything but. His long return is 26 yards and he has averaged only 8.8 yards a return as teams have clearly made preventing him from breaking one a priority. Against the Vikings, Chris Kluwe kept kicking high punts short and Peterson had to scramble just to catch them.
“Now teams are scheming, they kind of want to hand pick when they’ll give me the opportunity to return the ball,” Peterson said. “I have to continue being patient.”
– This is a big one. Obviously. If the Cardinals have shown anything over the past couple years, it’s that they are very tough at home. They need to make that matter Monday.
Tags: 49ers, Adrian Wilson, contract, Darnell Dockett, John Skelton, Ken Whisenhunt, LaRod Stephens-Howling, Larry Fitzgerald, Leonard Davis, Michael Crabtree, Patrick Peterson, Randy Moss
Posted in Blog | 25 Comments »
When training camp opened, general manager Rod Graves mentioned that the team was planning on opening contract extension talks with linebacker Daryl Washington, who still had two years left on his rookie deal. It made sense, locking up a potential future star. Washington liked the idea.
“It’s definitely been on my mind, that I want an extension and be with this team for a long period of time,” Washington said in Flagstaff. “That stuff will work itself out though.”
Thursday, it did, with Washington agreeing to a new six-year contract that will keep him part of the Cardinals through 2017. Financial terms have yet to be put out there – the Cards, as usual, are not announcing them – but you figure Washington is in a good place now. And he’s one of the young anchors, along with Calais Campbell and eventually Patrick Peterson that will help transition the defense from veterans like Adrian Wilson and Darnell Dockett.
“Two things that successful teams do consistently is build through the draft and keep their core players,” Graves said. “Daryl has certainly lived up to the potential we all saw in him coming out of TCU in 2010 and he has established himself as one of the top young defensive players in the NFL. I know he feels, like we do, that his best football is still ahead of him and we’re thrilled that this deal gives him the opportunity to achieve that with the Cardinals.”
Washington already figures to be one of the breakout players this season. Now he’s got the contract to go with it.
Tags: contract, Daryl Washington, Rod Graves
Posted in Blog | 42 Comments »
In the offseason, Calais Campbell is often in the locker room. He works out and then he hangs out on his stool checking his phone or just chilling out. That is, until recently, when his contract situation kept him away. That’s changed, of course, and Campbell returned to the locker room Tuesday and to working out — just like normal.
“It was kind of weird not being able to work out with the guys,” Campbell said. “Everyone was here and I was home. Sometimes I’d catch up with a couple of them, get some food, but it’s not the same as it is when you are working out and horsing around here. It’s easier (to work out) when you are all struggling together. I definitely wasn’t working out as hard as we do with the John Lott program. It felt good to get back today and get a good workout in and be around the guys. That’s really what I missed the most.”
Campbell chuckled when asked if he felt any different. “I am the same exact guy and I feel the same around my teammates,” he said. “The only difference is now I think people expect me to be more of a leader. And I will be. I am more confident in being more vocal. But the number one thing is lead by example. You work hard, the people around you will work hard.”
Now, Campbell doesn’t have to answer questions about what is going to happen with his future, questions that dominated his interviews most of last season. That’s not bad either.
“I’ve got peace of mind,” Campbell said. “I’ll be here five years. And hopefully we win a lot of games in those five years.”
– Kent Somers ferreted out the details to Campbell’s contract. This year, Campbell’s cap number dropped from $10.7 million to $5 million, clearing significant space (my estimate is the Cards have approximately $8 million of room as of now, although I haven’t been able to confirm it.) Campbell’s salary this year is $2M plus a $15M signing bonus. He has a $10M option bonus in 2013. His cap number is $8.75M for 2013 with a salary of $3M. (For those who have asked, Darnell Dockett got a $4.55M salary when he re-upped in 2010 with still a couple years left on his contract, plus a $15M option bonus the following year with a $2.35M salary. Campbell’s deal was always going to be bigger both because it is two years later and because he had more leverage.)
Tags: Calais Campbell, contract
Posted in Blog | 6 Comments »