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Punt return royalty seeks to regain shine

Posted by Darren Urban on December 21, 2012 – 1:28 pm

Two of the four players in NFL history who have four punt return touchdowns in a season will be returning punts Sunday at University of Phoenix Stadium.

“I think it’s going to be fun, having Devin Hester on one end and Patrick Peterson on the other,” Peterson said. “I believe that calls for a good show.”

Whether it actually produces anything remains to be seen. Both Peterson and Hester have been quiet this season on punt returns. Hester has averaged just nine yards on 34 tries, with a long of 44. His average is well below his career average of 12.3 yards a return. Peterson, of course, has also been slowed. He has an average of 8.6 yards on 47 tries (and has lost three fumbles). Neither Peterson or Hester has a touchdown this season.

Peterson has talked a few times about trying to break out on punt returns. But he is playing well at cornerback, and the always confident Peterson will not sway from his belief the big punt return will still come.

“It doesn’t bother me,” Peterson said. “At the end of the day the Arizona Cardinals drafted me to be a defensive back. The punt returns are a plus. When my opportunities comes, I will try my best and I want to break one. But teams now are so dialed in, when (number) 21 has the ball in his hands, bottle him up on the sideline and if you don’t, have all 11 hats to the ball.”

– Wide receiver Early Doucet (concussion) and newcomer offensive lineman Mike Gibson (calf) — who apparently got hurt in practice this week after re-signing — are both out Sunday. The Cardinals have a bunch of players questionable, although both safeties Rashad Johnson and James Sanders were upgraded to limited Friday. In addition to those two, the questionable list includes T Nate Potter, FB Anthony Sherman, LB Quentin Groves, TE Rob Housler, DE Ronald Talley and NT Dan Williams.

The Bears will be without LB Brian Urlacher. DT Henry Melton is doubtful. Questionable are NFL interceptions leader Tim Jennings, LB Blake Costanzo, WR Earl Bennett and T Jonathan Scott.



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Friday before the Bears

Posted by Darren Urban on November 6, 2009 – 5:14 pm

As we wrap up the week, it’s hard not to think back to the last time the Cardinals and Bears played. The coaching staff is different by now, at least on this end. Many players are different. And what lingers is Denny Green’s famous postgame rant. So I decided to ask safety Matt Ware, who was on that team, about the locker room after the game and whether he saw the rant coming.

“He was upset,” Ware said. “But it was more ‘This is unbelievable.’ As in, ‘How, how exclamation point, question mark, exclamation point that we let that happen.’ ” (Yes, Ware specifically said his punctuation. And as someone at that game, I can confirm it fit the mood).

Ware said Green’s main anger was saved until the next time the team got together to watch the film. The locker room and post-game “was just awkward, man.”

“If you remember, the Chiefs game, we should have won,” Ware said. “The Rams game the second game of the season we should have won. It probably just built up (in Green). Just a little bit.”

The funny part is that, because of where the locker room is, back behind thick walls separating it from the interview room at University of Phoenix Stadium, nobody knew what happened because Green wasn’t nearly as worked up inside or even on the postgame radio interview. Just at the podium (and just, I might add, for that one question. He answered five or six questions before that clearly not happy but calmly).

Ware said the players didn’t really know what Green had done until they started leaving, meeting their families, when it was being shown on the video screen.

 “It seems so long ago,” Ware said. “But the commercial keeps it close.”

And so, on to Bears-Cardinals 2009:

– There are two giant questions this week, obviously. One is how the Cardinals respond after their showing last weekend. The other is whether Anquan Boldin will play. On the latter, we will see but it’s going to be a difficult decision. Boldin looked Friday like he could play. There has been all the talk this week about resting-versus-playing. My gut? If the doctors aren’t sure it can get a lot better – and coach Ken Whisenhunt has talked a couple of times about how unlikely it is Q’s ankle can get hit again – Boldin will be in there. Maybe it would have been different if the Cards had beaten Carolina. But they didn’t.

– As for responding, I do think the Cards are in the best mental shape they’ve ever been in following such a difficult loss. I don’t know if that translates into a win Sunday, but I can totally see it. And trust me, there have been plenty of road trips over the years where I couldn’t.

– We’ll see if Kurt Warner can be the Cards’ first 300-yard passer against the Bears since 1937. Yikes. That’s a stretch. Given the expected weather (mid-50s, clear) he’ll have the right conditions.

– The Bears have a good win against the Steelers and they did win in Seattle. But their run game, in my opinion, isn’t as good as the Cards – and the Cards, as we know, are still progressing in that area. They don’t have the receivers and their offensive line has been spotty. If Warner has time to throw – I know, if, if, if – I think the Cards will score points. And I think the defense will expect to return to its run-stopping ways.

– Special teams will be so important. Devin Hester (on punt returns, assuming his ankle doesn’t keep him out) and Johnny Knox on kickoff returns can do damage. Limit that, and the Cardinals will be in great shape.

– Seriously, before the season, if you would have said the Cardinals would be 5-3 at midseason – looking at the schedule at the time before any games were played – I am guessing you’d think, “Solid.”

That’s about it. No more looking back, whether it’s to the Panthers’ game or to 2006 and the Monday Night nightmare. This is about the future, and a flight to Chicago tomorrow.

OK, and maybe a defensive performance like the Cards turned in the last time they saw the Bears, regardless of the result.


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