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Bidwill’s gesture earns Musial award

Posted by Darren Urban on August 9, 2017 – 9:05 am

When the Rams left St. Louis, they also left a void in the community in a couple of places. In one such case, Cardinals president Michael Bidwill stepped in, donating $10,000 to the St. Louis chapter of the National Football Foundation so it could hold its annual banquet to honor local high school football players.

Now, Bidwill is being honored himself, for the gesture. He will be recognized at the Musial awards — named for St. Louis Cardinals baseball Hall of Famer Stan Musial. The awards banquet is in St. Louis Nov. 18.

“Michael Bidwill’s actions embody the goodness and decency we seek to celebrate with the Musial Awards,” St. Louis Sports Commission president Frank Viverito told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “This was something he certainly did not have to do and did not seek credit for. In light of everything, he sets a perfect example of what it means to be a ‘good sport.’ ”

Just the other day, Bidwill — seen below with Cardinals (and Rams) Hall of Famer Aeneas Williams this past week at the Hall of Fame game — was helping another person with St. Louis ties — rescuing the stranded family of Kurt Warner so they could get to Warner’s Hall of Fame party in Canton.


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Hall of Fame game aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on August 3, 2017 – 11:31 pm

It’s late here in Canton — past 2 a.m. — so this is going to be an efficient post, in part because it’s the first of five preseason games and yeah, the preseason. That doesn’t mean things of importance can’t happen. You wish the head coach wasn’t saying “fingers crossed” about an injury to the rookie who was already showing he could be that dynamic return man you had been seeking.

But it was hard not to notice quarterback Blaine Gabbert as the top story of the evening. With all the caveats of preseason/the Cowboys only using three defensive starters, Gabbert looked very good in completing 11-of-14 passes for 185 yards. What does this mean? It means that Gabbert succeeded when, frankly, he should have. Beyond that, we’ll still see.

The last time a new Cardinals QB played so well in the preseason opener? (It just happened to be the last time a Cardinal was going into the Hall of Fame, Aeneas Williams.) Logan Thomas completed 11-of-12 passes against the Texans, for 113 yards and a TD. We all know how that turned out. Now, Gabbert is not Thomas. As much as Gabbert has struggled, his NFL career was still light years better. But it’s a reminder to hold off on grand pronouncements.

— Speaking of the Hall of Fame, Kurt Warner had his party Thursday night, and both Larry Fitzgerald and Adrian Wilson made it over there to celebrate post-game.

— Logan really looked good as a return man. For a guy who hadn’t returned punts in college, he impressed.

— Tight ends Troy Niklas and Ifeanyi Momah also made some plays. Momah in the passing game, grabbing three receptions. If he is able to play special teams like he did last year before getting hurt, Momah has a place on this roster.

— Andre Ellington scored on a three-yard run that showed some grit, fighting his way between the tackles. If you recall, Bruce Arians said Ellington had to run tougher. The TD run was a good sign.

— Rookie safety Budda Baker made some plays. Arians praised Haason Reddick too.

— Robert Nkemdiche took a step forward again, playing much of the time in the first half. He busted up a couple of plays. He says being healthy, he feels more like himself. Again, he’s going in the right direction.

— The backups who played the offensive line for Gabbert mostly held up (from left tackle, Wetzel, Kaleb Johnson, Toner, Bergstrom, John.) The second-unit pass rushers who started didn’t generate enough pressure.

— The Cardinals return to practice Saturday (it’s closed to the public). Meanwhile, I’ll be here in Canton, covering Warner’s induction. Look for my big Warner-years-in-Arizona story tomorrow (today, here in the Eastern time zone).

UPDATE: Some are wondering why I didn’t bring up the missed field goals, and it’s simple. Phil Dawson didn’t kick. The punters, Richie Leone and Matt Wile, kicked, each missed a field goal, but the punter will only be kicking when it counts if Dawson goes down in a game. That’s unlikely to happen.

 


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Bidwill helps the stranded Warners

Posted by Darren Urban on August 3, 2017 – 5:03 pm

Kurt Warner is being inducted into the Hall of Fame Saturday. But tonight, he is hosting his induction party in Canton, near the Hall of Fame. One problem — his large family was having trouble getting to Canton.

Warner’s family/traveling party of 13 got stuck in Chicago after weather issues canceled their flight. Warner even put out an SOS of sorts via Twitter trying desperately to find a solution. The solution came, not from Twitter but from Cardinals team president Michael Bidwill.

Bidwill, who himself landed in Canton late Thursday afternoon bringing a Cardinals contingent to the game and Saturday’s induction, ended up sending a plane to Chicago to pick up the Warners. UPDATE: And they made it to the party just fine.

 


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Wednesday before the Hall of Fame game

Posted by Darren Urban on August 2, 2017 – 2:01 pm

Well, here we are. A game is about to be played and we just got to August, and there is still about a month’s worth of training camp to go. Still, once the games arrive, things get into more of a rhythm, work for a week and then a game, and so on. The players like it when we get to that point (and so do writers.) This game is a little different, of course. There is only so much you will get out of your main guys in any preseason game and of course, in this one, Bruce Arians already said there will be no starters. All about the young guys. Makes sense. The starters barely play in the first preseason game normally — and that game is still more than a week away.

This is about the young guys, as Arians said. Seeing what happens when the lights go on. Even last weekend, at the Red-White practice, which was still just a practice but had 25,000 in the stands, one particular rookie struggled with things he hadn’t previously struggled with. That’s the power of “under the lights” that coaches always talk about. There have been plenty of players who have looked good in the offseason and in camp and then looked different in preseason games. That won’t get you on a roster.

— It’s early but we’re already talking about injuries. Cornerback less so, especially with the signing of Tramon Williams and the return of Justin Bethel to practice. But inside linebacker will be interesting. Karlos Dansby was never going to play, but he’s nursing a sore knee. Gabe Martin is out for a while with an Achilles problem. Newly-signed Philip Wheeler is sidelined with some sort of leg issue, which shouldn’t be long, Arians said, but it will almost certainly keep him out Thursday. Of course, Deone Bucannon is still on PUP.

Rookie Haason Reddick will play (one starter who will be out there; I’m guessing there might be a couple of others), but Arians doesn’t want it to be long. One guy to watch is Scooby Wright. Wright has had a solid offseason of work. He’s good on special teams. If he can make a push in these preseason games, he’s got a good chance to make the roster.

— There’s a lot of talk about Blaine Gabbert and his start Thursday, but there will also be a half of play for undrafted rookie QB Trevor Knight. Knight is a major longshot, but he’ll have a couple opportunities. Thus far, Knight in camp has been the Knight people know from college — good athlete, can run, inconsistent with accuracy.

— This will become a growing storyline as we go, but while the starting offensive line is all but set, those backup spots on the 53-man roster are not. There are a lot of guys who are fighting for a place. I want to see Cole Toner, who is basically the backup center, in a game situation. Rookie guard Dorian Johnson, and rookie tackle Will Holden are third string trying to move up the depth chart. Unknowns like tackle Givens Price and guard Kaleb Johnson, both current second-stringers, who want to provide the upset by sticking around.

— Of course, all the draft class tends to get your attention. I do like what I have seen from safety Budda Baker. It’s tough, because of his stature, you’re always going to compare him to Tyrann Mathieu and Mathieu is having a great camp as we go. But you can see why the front office was so enamored by Baker.

— Don’t know how much Robert Nkemdiche we will see, but I am anxious to watch him against another team. He’s looked very good thus far.

— I will be staying in Canton for the Kurt Warner Hall of Fame induction. I have a big Warner story posting Friday morning which I think you’ll enjoy, and all our Warner coverage — including a series of videos from our sit-down interview — can be found by clicking here on our Warner Hall of Fame page.


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Kurt Warner, deciding to retire, and 201 pounds

Posted by Darren Urban on June 21, 2017 – 11:16 am

Kurt Warner’s final season in the NFL was 2009, much to the chagrin of the Cardinals and their fans. Over the years, there have been some things left vague about Warner’s choice. There are still a segment of fans who are certain that nasty, nasty hit Warner absorbed in the season-ending playoff loss in New Orleans pushed Warner — especially since he said after that game he was going to take a little time to make his decision.

But the seeds were sown in 2008. Warner considered retiring after the Super Bowl, not because his contract was up but because of the toll the life was taking on his body. Not the hits, but the stress. As Warner prepares for his Hall of Fame induction ceremony in early August (and after I got a chance to talk to him for that story to come), Warner noted that he played the Super Bowl at 201 pounds (he was listed that year at 218).

By mid-season in 2009, Warner knew it was likely going to be his last year playing football, long before the end of the year.

“About halfway through ’09, I sat back and had thought about it a lot from the previous year as I was going through the season and just came to the conclusion that it had become such a job,” Warner said. “There had become such a high expectation and such a level of what I had to do for the team … week in and week out, that it was starting to affect me big picture. In the Super Bowl of ’08, I weighed in at 201 pounds, which I hadn’t been since I was a junior in college, and the stress and expectation of that was wearing on me physically. Not from the standpoint of what I could do between the lines, but big-picture-wise.

“Halfway through 2009, I just realized, ‘This is it. I’m just not willing to sacrifice that much anymore.’ Not very many people knew. My wife knew. Larry (Fitzgerald) knew — as he tried to convince me over the next eight weeks or so (to stay.)”

(Said Fitzgerald on the subject of trying to talk Warner into playing in 2010, “Of course. I knew what was to come after that. Selfishly, absolutely. I wasn’t foolish. I know in this business if you don’t have a quarterback, you don’t have much chance to win.”)

As for getting blasted by Saints defensive lineman Bobby McCray, “A lot of people look at the hit against New Orleans and said, ‘Yep, that is what caused him to retire.’ It didn’t at all. It might’ve been the perfect exclamation point on it, but I had known.”

So when Warner torched the Packers in the playoffs in what he considers his best game ever — five TD passes, four incompletions — he figured it would be his last game at University of Phoenix Stadium. He waved goodbye with that in mind.


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QB for later or another player now?

Posted by Darren Urban on April 12, 2017 – 12:00 pm

When I was covering the Cardinals for the East Valley Tribune, the team held the 10th overall selection in the draft. There was much talk about whether the team might take a quarterback of the future. Kurt Warner was, after all, getting older and was only OK in 2005. The Cards had signed a big-name running back in Edgerrin James, however, and Kurt — understandably — wanted to see the Cards go in a different direction with an eye on maybe reaching a Super Bowl.

“What’s the best way to do that?” Warner said at the time. “Not to take a guy who’s going to take over my job. Go get somebody who can help us next year.”

(The Cardinals drafted Matt Leinart. Leinart was inserted for Warner early in 2006 at QB. Then Leinart struggled in 2007, Warner got his job back, and eventually, Warner got his Super Bowl trip regardless.)

It’s not always an easy decision. Heck, it’s hard for a team needing a QB right now sometimes to pull the trigger in the draft — see the Browns, who desperately need a quarterback yet are likely to take defensive lineman Myles Garrett with the first pick instead, because there isn’t an Andrew Luck available. That decision gets that much harder for a team like the Cardinals, who have Carson Palmer in place and will sit any quarterback they might draft in 2017. Meanwhile, if the Cards want to gear up for a potential run this season, with the clock ticking on Palmer and Larry Fitzgerald, finding an immediate impact guy (on defense) makes a lot of sense with the first-round pick.

Still, the glaring long-term need for a quarterback doesn’t go away.

The Cardinals are in a good spot with Palmer. He is willing to mentor a young quarterback. He’s made that clear recently, and said the same back in 2014, when he still knew he was going to play a few more years.

“I know I’m not going to play forever,” Palmer said at the time. “It’s hard for us players to admit that. The older you get the harder it is to admit it. You don’t see it happening. You still feel good, you still feel confident, you still feel healthy. But that’s the reality. That’s the business. It doesn’t matter how you feel about it, whether it irks you or you don’t care. That’s the game.”

The first round, and the 13th pick, await.


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Revisiting Fitz and the 2008 playoffs

Posted by Darren Urban on April 10, 2017 – 3:55 pm

In case you missed it, a project I have been working on since the end of the season came to fruition today with the posting of an oral history of Larry Fitzgerald’s huge 2008 playoff run. (Easy to find at azcardinals.com/fitzfantasticfour, so tell a friend). It was great to talk to a few guys that I hadn’t in a number of years, guys who I worked with a lot back when they were around. Steve Breaston, Jerheme Urban, Todd Haley, among others. It didn’t hurt that there are still some in the building that could help, like Freddie Kitchens, Adrian Wilson and Larry Foote.

(And I’d be remiss without pointing out that Sandy McAfee here in the cubicle next to me did a fantastic job taking my words and turning it into a aesthetically beautiful read.)

Mostly though, it was a chance to look back at those games. I’m fortunate enough to have that playoff run on DVD so I could go back for research and simply enjoy re-watching those games. (I’ll admit, I’m a sucker for watching old games. I wish NFL Network would do more from when I was first getting into the game, the late ’70s and early ’80s.) Anyone can understand that Fitzgerald had great stats from that postseason. But his impact looks greater than that when you are watching them in context.

“There were a lot of games where he had a lot of catches (that season),” quarterback Kurt Warner said. “It was the nature of the catches where he really solidified how great he was, how great that run was. His numbers would have been great stacked up against anyone regardless but I think you think back to just the big play after big play after big play.”

Hope you get a chance to read it.


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Cards, the Pro Bowl, and how it once was

Posted by Darren Urban on April 6, 2017 – 6:22 am

This is going to sound random — and, truthfully, it is — but there is a reason I am talking about the Cardinals and the 2009 Pro Bowl. I’ve been working on a piece about Larry Fitzgerald and his epic playoff run during the Cardinals’ Super Bowl season. That will be posted Monday. But one thing struck me as I looked back and researched things, especially when it comes to the Pro Bowl.

As everyone knows, the Pro Bowl is now held the week before the Super Bowl. Players chosen from the Super Bowl teams obviously don’t play, and at this point, many, many others find reasons not to play. Injuries, yes. And also, “injuries.” Back for the 2008 season, five Cardinals were picked to play in the Pro Bowl: Fitz, Kurt Warner, Adrian Wilson, Anquan Boldin and Sean Morey. That made sense. They all were excellent that season.

That year, the Pro Bowl was still being played the week after the Super Bowl. Everyone could still make it, but guys would still drop out. If anyone would drop out for a non-injury reason, it could understandably be players from the losing Super Bowl team — especially if it was a heartbreaking loss. But what I had forgotten was that all five Cardinals still showed up in Hawaii a couple of days later and player. In fact, Fitzgerald capped his great regular season and legendary playoff performance with a 5-81-2 line in the Pro Bowl and won MVP. That’s not a surprise, really. What was was the fact the Cards were 5-for-5.


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Kurt Warner’s brush with jersey thief

Posted by Darren Urban on March 21, 2017 – 4:39 pm

This story about the Mexican newspaper director — former director, at this point — who allegedly stole Tom Brady’s Super Bowl jersey  is fascinating. It’s fascinating to watch the video, and even more insane to read the AP story about this guy and his apparent history of doing such a thing. There are so many layers to this (including how easy it is to get a media credential at the Super Bowl when you aren’t even doing anything), but it was interesting to see how Brady apparently wasn’t even the only Super Bowl quarterback to have his jersey lifted. Kurt Warner apparently did too.

From the Associated Press story:

Velazquez and Palafox both said Ortega was carrying a bag containing a past Super Bowl jersey worn by Warner and an Emmitt Smith book. Warner was named MVP at the 2000 Super Bowl.

“He showed me Warner’s jersey with his signature and told me a story about how Warner was surprised that he was in possession of the item,” Palafox said. “He said he planned to gather interest from Warner to sell him the jersey for $8,000.”

The story doesn’t necessarily specify which Warner jersey was taken (it mentions he was the 2000 SB MVP — the 1999 season — but doesn’t clarify that was the year it was taken). Warner was in two other Super Bowls, after the 2001 season and, of course, for the Cardinals after the 2008 season. I don’t ever remember hearing about Warner losing his Cardinals jersey, and I’d guess it probably was the 1999 jersey since that was one Warner won. Regardless, it’s a crazy story about a brazen guy. Here’s hoping Kurt gets his jersey back.


(“Kurt, do you know where your jersey is?”)

 


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David Johnson says he’s healthy, “full throttle”

Posted by Darren Urban on March 11, 2017 – 2:18 pm

Playing in Kurt Warner’s annual flag football tourney Saturday, David Johnson didn’t have to do much — the players involved are the all-time quarterbacks for their teams, which basically means grabbing the ball and standing there until someone gets open.

(Although I saw a first in all my years at this event, which started in 2004. Falcons wideout Mohamed Sanu — pictured below, laughing with Johnson — actually played defense for his team a couple of times.)

Johnson has some work to do as a quarterback. But as for his day job — and the knee injury he suffered late in the season — all is better now.

“My wheel is good,” Johnson said. “Good to go already. Back training, full throttle. Doing everything.”

He admitted he got a “harsh reminder” not to do things like jump out of pools, which he had put up on social media while rehabbing.

“I just wanted to show people I was back and ready to go,” Johnson said. Back to 100 percent? “For sure,” he said.


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