Kitchens: “Thank you just doesn’t seem near enough”

Posted by Darren Urban on June 10, 2013 – 2:26 pm

Cardinals QB coach Freddie Kitchens has been released from the Arizona Heart Hospital following his emergency surgery to repair his aorta last week. He has returned home, although he will have limitations on his activities and visitors. Kitchens is expected to return as QB coach, likely limited in the beginning, at some point during training camp. It’s great news for Kitchens, who, had things not been covered so well by the Cards’ training staff last week, might not even be alive right now. Sports Illustrated’s Peter King, who was coincidentally out here the day after Kitchens’ surgery reporting for a future story, wrote today that 80 percent of such cases like Kitchens results in death. That we are talking about his return to coaching is a great thing.

Kitchens released a statement through the team:

“There are so many people that I’ll be indebted to for the rest of my life and ‘thank you’ just doesn’t seem near enough. First to the Cardinals medical staff, (head athletic trainer) Tom Reed and his crew, (team physician) Dr. (Wayne) Kuhl. They recognized immediately that something was wrong, even when I wouldn’t admit it. They knew enough to send me right away to Chandler Regional (Medical Center) where the ER staff and attending physician jumped right in and knew how critical the situation was. They airlifted me to Arizona Heart Hospital and made the arrangements for Dr. (Andrew) Goldstein and the surgery team there to operate on me through the night.

“Looking back, I have no doubt – none whatsoever – that I wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for the those people. I’ve played or coached football my whole life so I can definitely appreciate teamwork and a smooth, efficient operation but the work those doctors, nurses and medical personnel do is just incredible. Again, I wouldn’t be alive without them. I’m overwhelmed by the prayers and kindness everyone has sent my way; from the Cardinals, throughout the NFL, in Arizona, Alabama and everywhere else. I realize how truly fortunate I am and the blessing I have been given.”


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“Lap” for Kitchens, God makes left tackles and OTAs end

Posted by Darren Urban on June 6, 2013 – 1:54 pm

Bruce Arians was planning on seeing recuperating QBs coach Freddie Kitchens in the hospital Thursday afternoon, as the Cardinals wrapped up their 2013 OTAs earlier in the day. Kitchens, of course, underwent emergency surgery Tuesday night to fix his aorta. Arians said he received a text from Kitchens’ wife Ginger that Freddie “took a lap down to X-ray and walked back and was breathing fine” Thursday morning. Doctors took the tube out of Kitchens last night, and while it was a rough night, Kitchens was doing much better today.

“Something just didn’t seem right,” quarterback Carson Palmer said, echoing the thoughts of fellow QB Drew Stanton. “Freddie is about a tough of a guy as you are going to meet. We had the trainers come and look at him. Freddie is lucky we have a phenomenal training staff because they knew exactly what to do.

“We’ve just been praying and thanking God that he’s doing better … The first thing I thought of was his wife Ginger. She had to fly across the continent and I can’t imagine how scared she was.”

— As for the team in the meantime, assistant head coach Tom Moore (talking to the quarterbacks, below, Wednesday) is taking Kitchens’ spot for now. Moore has been a integral part of the quarterbacks’ learning curve up until this point anyway. “He’ll keep the seat warm until Freddie gets back,” Arians said.

— OTAs are over. The Cardinals have a three-day mandatory minicamp next week (with Fan Fest at the outset on Tuesday) before the vets scatter for the summer. The rookies will stick around a little longer.

— Arians said next week’s goal is just to “continue” and “watching the little mistakes disappear.” The offense is “97, 98 percent done.” The defense “might add a blitz or two.” Arians joked that the Cards worked on taking a safety during today’s workout and “usually that’s the end of training camp.”

— Arians was asked if he had any concerns about the struggles of Levi Brown in the past. Once again, Arians backed up his left tackle.

“I don’t really care (of Brown’s past),” Arians said. “I don’t care about anybody. You start with a new slate. It’s what you do now.”

Arians reiterated he sees Brown as “elite” when he is playing well. And there is little question Arians doesn’t use the term lightly when you consider how important he sees the position.

“If you have to protect your left tackle all the time you’re really game planning with one hand behind your back,” Arians said. “You can find guys who can run and catch, you can find guys who can play in the middle. But left tackle and quarterback, God makes them.”


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QB coach Kitchens has surgery to fix aorta

Posted by Darren Urban on June 5, 2013 – 8:35 am

Quarterbacks coach Freddie Kitchens had to leave Tuesday’s OTA when he wasn’t feeling well. Turned out he had a defect in his aorta that needed surgery. Kitchens is doing well this morning. Here is the team’s official statement:

“During Tuesday’s practice Freddie Kitchens began to feel ill – dizzy, light-headed – and was sent to the training room. After being evaluated by the team’s medical staff it was determined that he should be taken to the hospital for more evaluation and testing. During that process, a CT scan revealed a defect to his aorta that required surgery, which he had Tuesday night at the Arizona Heart Institute. According to the doctors who performed the surgery, it went very well and the early prognosis is positive. The Kitchens family is grateful to everyone who has and continues to extend their support, well wishes and prayers.”

UPDATE: Head Coach Bruce Arians credited the quarterbacks for making sure Kitchens was looked at by head athletic trainer Tom Reed. Quarterback Drew Stanton said the group was just having their normal warm-up conversations before Tuesday’s workout.

“Anyone who knows Freddie’s personality, he’s jovial and easy-going,” Stanton said. “He was joking around asking if a heart attack is on the left or right side, going for the chuckle, and then said ‘Actually, it’s kind of in the middle here.’ I told him, ‘Freddie, that sounds kind of serious,’ and Carson (Palmer) said ‘Yeah Freddie, you don’t look so good, you’re kind of flush.’ He tried to say he was OK, but we called Tom over and he was monitoring him.

“Luckily and thank God it worked out and he was taken care of in time. It puts things in perspective real quick. You count your blessings, things that we might just take for granted.”

The team held a pre-practice prayer for Kitchens Wednesday.

Kitchens has been on staff since 2007 and was the tight ends coach before moving to coach quarterbacks when Bruce Arians arrived. The one-time quarterback at Alabama was coached by Arians for a season with the Crimson Tide. While Kitchens recovers, the Cardinals have assistant head coach/offense Tom Moore who can work with the quarterbacks.


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Kolb contract an issue, ribs aren’t

Posted by Darren Urban on February 12, 2013 – 8:40 pm

When Michael Bidwill said yesterday on the radio Kevin Kolb’s contract is “probably something we’re going to need to address,” it wasn’t a surprise. Everyone covering this team has been saying the same thing, that the $11 million Kolb is owed in 2013 (a $2 million roster bonus in March and a $9 million salary) was never going to make it through March.

There was always going to be an element of a game of chicken between the sides. The Cardinals need a quarterback, and Kolb knows that. He also knows there are other teams out there that need a quarterback. But even if the Cards are going to slice that salary, he still might make more in Arizona than elsewhere. Given Kolb’s unfortunate injury history, no one is going to hand him a starting job, whether it is the Cardinals or elsewhere.

I have had some questions today about Kolb’s health. When I last spoke to Kolb the day Arians was hired (via text) he said his ribs were doing well. I don’t expect those to hinder him in the offseason, for those worried his 2013 could be in jeopardy. Obviously he has to stay healthy once the games begin, but there shouldn’t be 2012 aftereffects.

I believe Kolb likes the Cardinals and wants to stay, but not at the expense of a better contract. The rules are such that this coaching staff will not get a chance to see Kolb live before contract decisions must be made (although QB coach Freddie Kitchens and GM Steve Keim have both seen Kolb enough to give a proper assessment.)

Kolb hitting the open market wouldn’t be a shock, even if he returns, a la Levi Brown. Kolb’s will-he-or-won’t-he status will be the story of the pre-free agent period.

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Cardinals have their coaches

Posted by Darren Urban on February 5, 2013 – 1:34 pm

The Cardinals finally released a list of their new coaching staff Tuesday. They had already announced, after the hiring of head coach Bruce Arians, the addition of assistant head coach/offense Tom Moore, offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin and defensive coordinator Todd Bowles. Now comes 13 new names, along with keeping four holdover coaches:

— Special teams coordinator: Amos Jones (last job, special teams coach, Pittsburgh Steelers)

— Quarterbacks: Freddie Kitchens

— Wide receivers: Darryl Drake (receivers coach, Chicago Bears)

— Running backs: Stump Mitchell (head coach, Southern University)

— Tight ends: Rick Christophel (head coach, Austin Peay)

— Assistant tight ends, assistant special teams: Steve Heiden (tight ends coach, Concordia University)

— Assistant offensive line: Larry Zierlein (OL coach, Hartford of UFL; was Steelers’ OL coach from’07-’09)

— Defensive line: Brentson Buckner (intern DL coach, Steelers, 2010-12)

— Pass rush: Tom Pratt (consultant, IMG Academy)

— Linebackers: Mike Caldwell (linebackers coach, Philadelphia Eagles)

— Outside linebackers: James Bettcher (special assistant to head coach, Indianapolis Colts)

— Defensive backs: Nick Rapone (defensive coordinator, University of Deleware)

— Cornerbacks: Kevin Ross (safeties coach, Oakland Raiders)

— Defensive assistant/assistant defensive backs: Ryan Slowik

— Offensive assistant: Kevin Garver (offensive assistant, University of Alabama)

— Strength and conditioning: John Lott

— Assistant strength and conditioning: Pete Alosi

An interesting note: the offensive line doesn’t have a offensive line coach per se. Duties teaching the line will be split between Zierlein, Moore and offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin, who has spent his coaching career as an offensive line coach.

Kitchens had been coaching tight ends under Ken Whisenhunt, but moves to quarterbacks, a position Kitchens played in college. Slowik was outside linebackers coach on the last staff, and of course, Lott and Alosi remain in their former jobs. The staff of 21 is four more coaches than was on Whisenhunt’s staff. Arians said he preferred to have extra coaches on staff, and said he likes the diversity of experience and youth. The group moved into offices and began their meetings today. More in a bit on, including more background on the new group. (And here it is.)

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Coaching staff roundup, as of now

Posted by Darren Urban on January 24, 2013 – 11:11 am

The Cardinals still have not officially announced their full coaching staff, past the the three top assistants. Usually the team likes to wait until everything is finalized with everyone before putting out the full list, as opposed to putting it all out piecemeal. But that doesn’t mean word hasn’t gotten out here and there as coaches are at the Senior Bowl or talk to hometown newspapers or the like. So, from that, here are the names circulating in various spots:

— Wide receivers: Darryl Drake, long-time receivers coach for the Bears;

— Running back: Todd McNair, former USC running backs coach who played in the NFL and for Arians at Temple;

— Tight ends: Rick Christophel, who had been head coach at Austin Peay;

— Defensive line: Brentson Buckner, a former 12-year defensive lineman in the NFL in his first NFL job (he interned with the Steelers from 2010 to 2012, and Arians was there a couple of those years);

— Linebackers: Mike Caldwell, who had been on the Eagles’ staff with new DC Todd Bowles and played for the Cardinals in 1997;

— Pass rush: Tom Pratt, who has been working with potential draftees at IMG in recent years;

— Defensive backs: Nick Rapone, who had been DC at the University of Deleware and coached with Arians at Temple;

— Special teams: Amos Jones, who worked with Arians in Pittsburgh;

— Offensive quality control: Kevin Garver, formerly of Alabama.

There is also holdover coach Freddie Kitchens, who was coaching tight ends but now is expected to coach quarterbacks. Kitchens played quarterback at Alabama and was a senior starter there when Arians was offensive coordinator in 1997. There are other spots still open, too, obviously, as we wait for official word.

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Staff starts coming together

Posted by Darren Urban on January 19, 2013 – 11:10 pm

There have been no official announcements yet from the Cardinals about additions and changes to the coaching staff, but multiple reports from many places have noted that new head coach Bruce Arians — who said Friday he was hoping to have his staff set by Sunday — is starting to do just that.

To the surprise of no one, former Eagles defensive coordinator Todd Bowles is the pick for Ray Horton’s replacement as defensive coordinator. Bowles took over in Philly for the fired Juan Castillo last year as the Eagles season went from bad to worse. Bowles played for Arians at Temple and later played for the Redskins and 49ers. Here’s an interesting coincidence too — Bowles was interviewed for the Cardinals’ defensive coordinator job in 2011, the spot that eventually went to Horton. He worked as the assistant head coach and interim head coach while in Miami, but his part-season stint in Philly this season was his first as a coordinator.

For offensive coordinator, Arians will go back to his Colts’ ties to bring in Harold Goodwin, who was the offensive line coach in Indianapolis. Arians already said he will call his own plays. But having Goodwin on staff — along with whomever is the going to be the offensive line coach — will give the Cards extra eyes on a unit that needs to improve. Arians already said he is a big believer in technique on the line. Goodwin’s brother, Jonathan, is an offensive lineman for the 49ers.

(It may be worth noting, after a lot of talk of late that after the head coaching hires around the league did not include a minority, both Cardinals’ coordinators will be African-American.)

The Cardinals do need a lot more spots filled. It looks like Arians will move on from the bulk of the holdover coaches. Special teams coach Kevin Spencer joined former boss Ken Whisenhunt with the Chargers Saturday (Whiz was named offensive coordinator and the Chargers hired Frank Reich, who was just the Cards’ receivers coach, as the quarterbacks coach).  The Cards reportedly only are keeping tight ends coach Freddie Kitchens — Kitchens played quarterback in college for Arians when Arians was the offensive coordinator in 1997 for Alabama — and strength coach John Lott. That would mean moving on from defensive line coach Ron Aiken, linebackers coaches Matt Raich and Ryan Slowik and defensive backs coach Louie Cioffi.

Again, there have been no official announcements yet. Whether the staff is all in place by tomorrow is in question, but as coaches and scouts head to Mobile next week for the Senior Bowl work, it seems that Arians will have a good chunk of his work done (and Mobile is often a place where coaches can interview prospective candidates, too.)


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The night Arians was named coach

Posted by Darren Urban on January 17, 2013 – 10:30 pm

Before I power down for the evening — the Arians news continues again tomorrow with the 1 p.m. press conference, with some behind-the-scenes stuff on too — a few thoughts on the newest Cardinals’ head coach.

It feels like a good move for the Cardinals. This is a guy who many thought would be a hot candidate for a head coaching job and who was close to getting the Bears job. He’s about a vertical passing game — one of the reasons he reportedly lost his offensive coordinator job in Pittsburgh was because he passed too much. I do think, with Steve Keim as general manager, the offensive line and run game will be made a priority. That part of the offense has to get better. It has to get better in general, and it has to get better to ease the pressure on a passing offense that — at this point — can’t shoulder such a burden.

I’d think Larry Fitzgerald is a big winner here, assuming that consistent quarterback play can be found. I really have no doubt that the bottoming out of the quarterback position won’t be repeated. Will the franchise quarterback be found this season? No way to know, but given the draft class, it might not be possible. But I do think the offense will get better. But the proof will be on the field in September, October, etc.

As for the defense, there’s a lot to settle. There are a lot of reports about defensive coordinator Ray Horton, about him being upset he didn’t get the head coaching job, about him wanting out, about the Cards replacing him. Here’s all that I know as I type this: He’s still under contract, he’s still employed by the Cards. (And the reported replacement, Todd Bowles, is still under contract for the Eagles.) Could there be a change? There is always that possibility when a head coaching change happens. Anyone assuming that something was set in stone — how many times in the last three weeks has something been put out there, nationally, and have it turn out to be untrue? — is wrong because these are all fluid situations.

Losing Horton doesn’t sound appealing. I get that. I do know this, that for those who suggested on Twitter that there would be a player revolt, I don’t see it. Some players might not be happy. Others might embrace a change. But players know coaches come and go. That’s the business.

We’ll see how the staff shapes up. If Horton isn’t coming back, the other defensive coaches may be moving on too. I’d think special teams coach Kevin Spencer could be OK, since he coached with Arians in Pittsburgh. Strength coach John Lott could be OK. It was a little strange when tight end coach Freddie Kitchens was the lone offensive coach retained, but look at this — Arians was the offensive coordinator for the University of Alabama in 1997, the same year Kitchens, then a senior, was quarterbacking the Crimson Tide. So there is a tie there.

There will be much more tomorrow. So I’m going to get some sleep now.


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Waiting for the last coach

Posted by Darren Urban on January 19, 2012 – 1:54 pm

I know everyone is waiting to hear about the Cardinals’ vacant coaching spot, but I don’t think anything is imminent. Coach Ken Whisenhunt has been talking to candidates and with everyone in the coaching world descending on Mobile next week for the Senior Bowl — it being a place where all kinds of coaching interviews often occur — it wouldn’t be a surprise to have an interview or two occur there for the Cards either.

A move to bring in Todd Haley seems unlikely when the logistics of the situation are taken into account — the most important of which is that Whisenhunt likes the progress of Mike Miller as offensive coordinator. Kent Somers does a spot-on job of breaking down the situation between Haley and the Cards. To sum it up in a cliche, the timing just isn’t right. There are still some head coaches to be hired that might want Haley for an offensive coordinator job.

Everyone is going to want to know potential names, but I don’t have any right now. The Cards do have a little wiggle room. For instance, wide receivers coach John McNulty also coached quarterbacks while he was at Rutgers; he could conceivably coach QBs if Whisenhunt picked out a receivers coach instead of a quarterbacks coach. As I have mentioned before, tight ends coach Freddie Kitchens played quarterback at the University of Alabama (although he has only coached tight ends and running backs in his coaching career.)

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