This is when you feel the legacy, on the day in which Adrian Wilson officially retires and when he talks about the guys who helped him when he got into the league, Pat Tillman comes up. It’s fitting this time of year, when the anniversary of Tillman’s death draws near. It’s easy to forget how important Tillman was to Wilson that one season they played together, in 2001.
“I didn’t know the first thing about the playbook,” Wilson said of his rookie season. “(Defensive coordinator) Larry Marmie’s playbook was so complicated, I couldn’t understand it. Pat sat me down for hours upon hours just going through the playbook just to go to practice the next day. It was that complicated for me. I owe big dividend to Pat.”
To think, Wilson was there to essentially replace Tillman.
(Wilson thanked other “old-time” Cardinals Corey Chavous, Kwamie Lassiter, Rob Fredrickson and Ron McKinnon for their help when he was starting out too.)
— When Wilson was released back in 2013, I covered a lot of the instant emotions and thoughts I had of his career in this post. But his retirement Monday brought some closure and, perhaps sooner rather than later, maybe bring Wilson back into the building on a consistent basis. He shrugged off his future right now, saying he wanted to “take my time on that.” He’s got four young kids. That’s his focus now, although there is little question GM Steve Keim likes having him in the mix. Team president Michael Bidwill noted that before the press conference, Wilson had his mock draft around, drawing a grin from Wilson.
“He’s made some improvements from his first mock that he showed me,” Keim said. “I think I sent him back to the film room.”
— Not only was Wilson’s family there, but his two buddies from North Carolina from when he was 10 years old, Adrian Mack and Anthony Johnson, were there Monday and it took me back to 2010 when Wilson invited me back to High Point to cover his high school retiring his jersey number and I was able to meet Mack and Johnson and do a big story on who Wilson really was as a person. Looking back on that article, through the prism of today, this quote stands out, about Wilson desperately wanting to leave a legacy.
“Nobody in my family has one and I’ll be the first,” Wilson said. “That’s something I think is more important to me than anything – leaving that right mark. I want to lay a foundation down where it doesn’t matter what generation you come from, you’ve got to respect what I did.”
— Bidwill will have Wilson go in the Ring of Honor, but that date is TBD. The schedule comes out tomorrow, and then the team must figure out what home games have which events, like Breast Cancer Awareness or Salute to Service, for example.
— Wilson admits he thinks about the Hall of Fame. I’ll have a separate post on that tomorrow, but it’s been tough sledding for safeties in Canton.
— There was a good group of former teammates on hand for Wilson today: Fitz, Patrick Peterson, Justin Bethel, Rashad Johnson, Calais Campbell, Bertrand Berry, Quentin Harris, Damien Anderson, Rolando Cantu. Peterson even took the mic during the press conference to deliver a statement in front of everyone. Wilson was an important part of this franchise. He still should be.
Tags: Adrian Wilson, Bertrand Berry, Calais Campbell, Damien Anderson, Hall of Fame, Justin Bethel, Michael Bidwill, Pat Tillman, Patrick Peterson, Quentin Harris, Rashad Johnson, Rolando Cantu
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Kurt Warner was going to be here for the Super Bowl anyway, with his duties for the NFL Network. He was at U.S. Airways Center Tuesday for Media Day, answering questions from whomever might ask (including former Olympic gymnast/Inside Edition correspondent Shawn Johnson, who, like Warner, is a Dancing with the Stars alum. That’s the picture below.)
But the big day for Warner comes Saturday, when the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee whittles down the final group of 15 — within which Warner qualified — to the Class of 2015. It is Warner’s first year on the ballot.
“I’ve tried to just live life and not get too bogged down with this whole process,” the former Cardinals quarterback said. “I’m enjoying it. I’m honored to be in the final 15. As I’ve told people, whenever it gets to a cut, you start to realize how much more gravity it has to it. Right now, ‘Hey, I’m one of the 15. That’s crazy.’ Come Saturday, I’m sure we’re all going to feel the gravity of what the decision to get into the Hall of Fame means, what that looks like big picture to us.
“Right now, I’m so honored to be in the 15 with the great, talented players. So many players I’ve played against, people that I know that are great people, that I’m just honored to be in the class. We’ll let it play out.”
At this point, Warner’s spot in the Hall of Fame seems to be more a question of when, not if. It’s hard to make it to the final 15 the very first year you are on the ballot if you aren’t already considered a guy who is worthy. Maybe it will happen on his first chance, maybe not. It would certainly be a nice coincidence given that the Super Bowl and Hall announcement is in Arizona.
“My only hope is that, when it comes to Saturday and they call you or knock on your door, whatever, I just don’t want it to be any kind of a disappointment for anybody,” Warner said. “We all are honored to be in this class and be in the top 15, and I’m worried that if you don’t get that knock on your door, you walk out (disappointed). Hey, I’m one of the 265 best players to ever play this game, so to speak, and I’m pretty cool with that. I’m good with that. I want this to be a joyous time, and if I get in, what an amazing honor. It’ll be a great ride.”
Tags: Hall of Fame, Kurt Warner, Super Bowl, Super Bowl XLIX
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The Pro Football Hall of Fame has whittled its potential 2015 class to 26 names, and included in there are a three major contributors to the Cardinals over the years. One is coach Don Coryell, who was the man in charge of the Cards’ teams of the mid-1970s that was successful enough that every time the current team hits a win plateau or streak, it seems to date back to one of Coryell’s squads. The other two are part of the Cards’ Super Bowl team: quarterback Kurt Warner, and running back Edgerrin James.
(Cowboys safety Darren Woodson, who went to high school at Phoenix Maryvale, is also part of the group.)
James is probably a long shot to advance to the group of 15 that will be considered when the Hall selection committee gets together in Phoenix on Super Bowl eve to eventually name no more than five to the Hall of Fame. Coryell has got a better chance, I’d think, given his offensive innovations, especially coaching the Chargers in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Then there is Warner, who given his resume, figures to get into the Hall at some point. It would be fitting if that was this year — Warner’s first year of eligibility — with the class being named in Arizona.
— He’s not headed to the Hall of Fame anytime soon, but Steve Keim has worked hard for a long time to reach his goal of being a general manager. If you haven’t yet, check out my story about Keim’s belief even as a little kid he’d end up running a team.
Tags: Don Coryell, Edgerrin James, Hall of Fame, Kurt Warner, Steve Keim
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The main part of Hall of Fame weekend comes tonight, when the seven-man class is officially inducted here in Canton, when the men all give their (often emotional) speeches and the busts are unveiled. But Friday night was significant as well. The new enshrinees were given their new gold jackets during a ceremony, but that itself wasn’t what really got my attention.
Instead, it was the realization — granted, with the help of thunderous NFL Films music and the electricity of the crowd — that as every returning Hall of Famer was introduced, one by one, how the history of the NFL was suddenly playing out in one tangible moment. Former Cardinals cornerback Aeneas Williams, who is one of this year’s seven, said that the meaning of being put in the Hall of Fame is that “‘When they say the Hall of Fame, they’re saying they can’t tell the history of the NFL without including you.”
Of course, that’s the point of a Hall of Fame, to mark the history of, in this case, pro football. Still, to see the legends you grew up watching all in one place is special. A living, breathing textbook of the NFL. This is more than just a bust of a guy. It’s Aeneas Williams, at the end of his “gauntlet” walk through dozens of Hall of Famers, getting to the end and sharing an emotional hug and tears with one-time fierce rival Michael Irvin.
It can’t help but be memorable.
Tags: Aeneas Williams, Hall of Fame, Michael Irvin
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The Cardinals got a day off today from practice before doing two more workouts Friday and Saturday, which is the Fan Fest workout. After slamming into each other for three straight days, it’s good to get a reprieve. And to think, with practice just across town at University of Phoenix Stadium, it’s easy to pop home for the day. I know I appreciate it.
“It’s a little bit of everything,” running back Jonathan Dwyer said. “Get your mind away from football for a day. Guys who have family can spend time with their young ones, like myself. Just rest our bodies and come back to work the next day.”
— Speaking of Fan Fest, click here for all the details of the practice.
— What stood out through the first five days of practice? WR John Brown, obviously. Confidence in CB Justin Bethel’s progress. Thinking that TE John Carlson, if he can stay off the injury report, could have a very nice year catching the ball. Kareem Martin is going to have a key role on the defensive line, I think. Michael Floyd is destined to improve on his season a year ago.
— I’m off to Canton tomorrow to cover the induction of cornerback Aeneas Williams into the Pro Football Hall of Fame Saturday. I’ll still have stuff on the blog from both Canton and training camp, and my cohort Kyle Odegard will be the boots on the ground at University of Phoenix Stadium. He did a nice piece on Bobby Massie today. Speaking of Aeneas, I hope you’ve been checking out all the content on the special Aeneas Williams page (azcardinals.com/aeneas). I’ll have a big story on Williams posted tomorrow first thing.
Tags: Aeneas Williams, Hall of Fame, John Brown, John Carlson, Jonathan Dwyer, Justin Bethel, Kareem Martin, Michael Floyd, training camp
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Aeneas Williams will kick off the 2014 season for the Cardinals, in a manner of speaking, when he is inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame as training camps are just getting underway. Maybe the Cards will have a Hall of Fame connection as the season is wrapping up, and the NFL prepares to play the Super Bowl at University of Phoenix Stadium. That’s when Kurt Warner will be on the Hall of Fame ballot for the first time.
If Williams is the best draft pick the organization has made since the franchise moved to Arizona, then it’s probably safe to say Warner was the best free-agent signing. His time with the Cardinals had an interesting arc, from veteran stop-gap to placeholder for Matt Leinart to franchise QB, all in the span of five seasons. As weird as it was, Warner wouldn’t be in the Hall of Fame discussion without his Arizona rebirth. His major personal success (his Super Bowl win and two MVPs) came with the Rams, but he arguably had his greatest accomplishments leading the Cards.
(He definitely played more games in Arizona. He finished with 61 games as a Card, compared to 53 as a Ram and 10 as a Giant.)
So, with the fifth season about to start since Warner retired, the potential Hall of Fame call comes for the first time after the season. Warner, having watched one-time teammate Williams get in, admits he already thought about that possibility.
“It’s hard not to think about it because people always want to ask you about it,” Warner said. “But I try to be realistic. One of the things with athletes, we’re not very realistic with situations. We always think we are the best. But I am realistic with the route it took me to get here and maybe some of the strikes against me, that maybe I didn’t play as certain people or had some bumps in the road. I don’t know if (the Hall of Fame) is going to happen. I don’t know what really determines it. But the great thing is, I am so completely content with what I accomplished on the football field.
“I did some things no one has ever done before. I think I played at a Hall of Fame level, at least for a period of time. Does that constitute me being put in the Hall of Fame? I have no idea. I just know I put in the work, and now it’s up to somebody else to wade through and figure out what belongs there. Obviously, from the time you are little, you want to make your mark in whatever you do. For me, it was the National Football League. To finally be here, and to have a lot of people think you will finally get there, you can’t help but think about it and how special it would be.”
Tags: Aeneas Williams, Hall of Fame, Kurt Warner
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It was great news Saturday when Aeneas Williams was elected to the Hall of Fame. He was deserving, and it was good to see that his talent and performance over the years wasn’t tossed aside because his teams rarely won much. I only got to cover Williams at the end of his Cardinals’ tenure, but he was a great guy. He had had it with the losing in Arizona at the end, which is why he basically forced the trade in 2000 that sent him to St. Louis. He said he was seriously thinking of retirement, and of course, he played four more seasons with the Rams. Williams, now a pastor in St. Louis, probably solidified his Hall-worthiness with that Rams’ stint. But his foundation was made with the Cardinals.
Aeneas had a ton of highlights, like locking down Michael Irvin, or his big interceptions in the 1998 playoffs — against Dallas, or even accidentally ending Steve Young’s career. But one of the big ones I remember is his NFL-record-tying 104-yard fumble return for a touchdown, sparking an improbable home win st Sun Devil Stadium over the Redskins two days before the stadium vote. The vote passed — barely — to create the bonds for University of Phoenix Stadium, and it was hard to feel like that big win didn’t have some impact.
(And some have asked, but it’s a moot point of “whether Williams goes into the Hall as a Cardinal or a Ram.” In football, the busts don’t have any team affiliation. It’s not baseball, where the bust has a hat.)
Looking ahead, there is a chance the Cardinals could have Hall of Famers in back-to-back classes.
Quarterback Kurt Warner is eligible for the first time next season, and many think Warner is a strong Hall of Fame candidate. It’d be interesting to have Warner make it in during a Super Bowl week here in Arizona, where next year’s Super Bowl will nbe held. Then again, Warner might have a tough time getting in during his first chance. There are only a maximum of five modern-era inductees put in every season. In addition to Warner here are some of the first-time eligible players next season: Chargers linebacker Junior Seau, Rams wide receiver Torry Holt, Rams wide receiver Isaac Bruce, Rams tackle Orlando Pace and Colts/Cardinals running back Edgerrin James (I didn’t realize they all retired at the same time.)
That doesn’t include the guys who haven’t yet gotten in: Chiefs guard Will Shields, Raiders wide receiver Tim Brown, Colts wide receiver Marvin Harrison and Steelers running back Jerome Bettis.
Tags: Aeneas Williams, Hall of Fame, Kurt Warner
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Longtime NFL announcer and Hall of Fame Cardinals offensive lineman Dan Dierdorf will officially leave the game after 43 years today, when he analyzes the Patriots-Colts playoff game tonight in New England. You can check out a video of Dierdorf’s final thoughts right here. He talks about spending his entire adult life in pro football, 13 as a player and 30 as a broadcaster. To mark the occasion, the Cardinals took time to say goodbye with the ad below, which appeared in today’s St. Louis Post-Dispatch newspaper.
Tags: Dan Dierdorf, Hall of Fame
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For the third year in a row, former Cardinals cornerback Aeneas Williams has been selected as one of the 15 modern-day finalists for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Getting to that point is important. The group will be shaved to 10 and then the final group will be selected, up to five (plus the two senior nominees, punter Ray Guy and defensive lineman Claude Humphrey.)
Does Williams have a chance? Sure, but again, with only up to five others getting it, it’s tough sledding. (I wrote a post last year whether Williams or Kurt Warner would be the first to get into the Hall of Fame. Warner’s first year of eligibility after next season, and the voting will be held at the Super Bowl in Arizona.) Among the other finalists: Seahawks tackle Walter Jones, Bucs linebacker Derrick Brooks, Giants defensive end Michael Strahan, Cowboys/49ers defensive end Charles Haley and Colts wide receiver Marvin Harrison.
The vote will be Feb. 1, the day before the Super Bowl. Kent Somers, the Arizona Republic’s beat writer covering the Cardinals, is the Arizona voter in the room and will present Williams’ case as he has the past two years.
— The news came out this afternoon that the Dolphins, who are searching for a new general manager after firing Jeff Ireland, have asked permission to interview Cardinals vice president of player personnel Jason Licht. Licht was a finalist for the Bears GM job in 2012. Even if Licht doesn’t get the job, it won’t be the last time teams seek him out as at least a candidate for a GM job.
Tags: Aeneas Williams, Hall of Fame, Jason Licht, Kurt Warner
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We here at azcardinals.com are grinding away to post some day-after-season content, but here are some quick notes on a relatively news-less day-after following locker room availability and Bruce Arians’ final presser — news-less for sure compared to this time last season:
— Carson Palmer is still in the middle of his career, but his jersey from Sunday — still grass-stained and now autographed as seen below — is headed to Canton, Ohio and the Hall of Fame after Palmer surpassed 4,000 yards this season during the game Sunday. Palmer became the first player in NFL history to throw for at least 4,000 yards with three different teams. He did it previously with the Bengals and Raiders.
— Arians, who is usually good for one great quote almost every press conference, got off another doozy Monday. When he was told players see him as a father figure, Arians didn’t miss a beat. “I don’t like that,” Arians said. “I’m the cool uncle you like to have a drink with.”
— Arians said he wants his entire staff back. Defensive coordinator Todd Bowles is expected to draw interest for head coach openings.
— Nose tackle Alameda Ta’amu indeed tore his ACL, so he has a long road back after surgery.
— Arians was not surprisingly vague on specific free-agents-to-be. He’d love to have LB Karlos Dansby back. In regard to K Jay Feely, “I love Jay to death” but as a free agent, “it will be all business from here on out.”
— The free agents themselves, those who talked, said the same thing almost every free agent for every team does. I’d love to be back. It’ll depend on what they want to do upstairs.
— TE Rob Housler made good progress, Arians said, but he has to learn to block better and stay healthy. One thing is in Housler’s control. I’m not sure the other one is.
Tags: Alameda Ta'amu, Bruce Arians, Carson Palmer, Hall of Fame, Jay Feely, Karlos Dansby, Rob Housler, Todd Bowles
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