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The history of the NFL, live and in person

Posted by Darren Urban on August 2, 2014 – 8:30 am

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.

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A day off, camp observations and tidbits

Posted by Darren Urban on July 31, 2014 – 2:59 pm

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.


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Warner and his potential Az Hall call

Posted by Darren Urban on April 8, 2014 – 1:50 pm

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.”

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Aeneas deserves his Hall call

Posted by Darren Urban on February 1, 2014 – 9:36 pm

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.

AeneasForHoFBLOG


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A goodbye to Dan Dierdorf

Posted by Darren Urban on January 11, 2014 – 8:30 am

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.

AZC_425 Dierdorf HOF Ad_v2.indd


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Aeneas again a Hall finalist and Licht talk

Posted by Darren Urban on January 9, 2014 – 8:51 pm

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.


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Palmer’s Hall of Fame jersey, and some notes

Posted by Darren Urban on December 30, 2013 – 1:31 pm

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.

Here’s a photo gallery from Monday’s locker room cleanout.

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Peterson’s throw-and-catch mean Hall of Fame

Posted by Darren Urban on September 19, 2013 – 10:58 am

Against the Lions, Patrick Peterson became the first defensive player since at least 1970 to catch a pass and complete a pass in the same game. It was a significant feat, so his gloves and the ball from that game are now in Canton, Ohio, on display at the Pro Football Hall of Fame. It’s not the first time this has happened for Peterson. When he tied the NFL record with four punt return touchdowns in a season in 2011 as a rookie, the Hall took Peterson’s cleats from his Nov. 6 return against the Rams.

Back in 2009, the Hall took some of Kurt Warner’s gear after Warner set the NFL record for completion percentage in a game against Jacksonville. And there has been a Pat Tillman exhibit for a while.

As for Peterson’s day, it was all in a day’s work. (Even if he admitted he might not have made his catch.)

“I prepare myself for these types of moments in the offseason,” Peterson said. “I believe I’m in probably the best shape on the team. I work extremely hard in the offseason and it pays dividends in the season. When my number is called I’m definitely ready to go. I believe that I can play pretty much every position and pretty much every second on the clock. That’s how I feel, but I just want to continue going out there and getting better each and every week, doing the things I need to do to help my team win ball games.”

As for what’s next? “We’ve got a lot planned up our sleeves,” Peterson said.

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Hall of Famer Larry Wilson days away from kickoff 2013

Posted by since1898 on August 31, 2013 – 10:25 am

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BACK TO #since1898


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Fitz’s key call to Hall of Famer Carter

Posted by Darren Urban on August 4, 2013 – 11:25 am

Larry Fitzgerald has a close relationship with newly minted Hall of Fame receiver Cris Carter, dating back to Fitz’s days as a Vikings ballboy while Carter was a star in Minnesota. Carter sees Fitz, despite their age difference, as a friend. So this summer, before Fitz held his annual camp in Minnesota, he called on his friend Carter — a story Carter relayed to Fitz’s father, Larry Fitzgerald, Sr., on the GameDay Gold radio show.

“Larry knocked at my door, 1:30 in the morning, he said, ‘(Last season) was the worst season of my life. I need you to come to Minnesota for five days,’ ” said Carter (below interviewing Fitz for ESPN). “I said, ‘Larry, I don’t have five days. I’ve got to be in L.A. next week. I’ve got the camp one day.’ He said, ‘I need you. I need you to look at my game and make sure because I’ve got to have a good season.’ “

On that point, Fitzgerald — who can be argued had his worst season in Arizona in large part because of quarterback play but also because his own play slipped some — is right. He had 71 catches, 798 yards, a career-low four touchdowns and tons of frustration.

Fitz left Carter’s house an hour later. Carter’s wife said to Carter, “You can’t make this stuff up, you’ve gotta go. You don’t have a choice. You think you have a choice but you don’t.”

“We’re connected in a very, very special way,” Carter said of his relationship with the Cardinals’ Pro Bowl wideout. “He called, I’m here. I’m here to give him a start to be better. I believe his confidence is going to come back being associated with (QB) Carson (Palmer). His weight is way down, he’s at fighting weight. Right now it’s more mental. You get to the point where you can accomplish physical things, but what he went through last year and how to get over that hump, it’s all mental.

“I am expecting a huge year from Larry. A lot of that has to do with Carson Palmer but a lot has to do with the trial he went through last year. I think that will propel him over the next five, six years.”

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