It’s the Cardinals vs. the Rams, a game that in Bruce Arians’ time as the Cards’ coach has often provided some memorable moments over six meetings.
- In 2013 in St. Louis, Arians’ first game as coach, Tyrann Mathieu had his famous forced fumble from behind, although it wasn’t enough in a Cardinals’ loss;
- In 2014 at home, Carson Palmer tore his ACL but the Cards, thanks to Drew Stanton and the defense, poured on late TDs to move to 8-1;
- In 2014 on the road, Stanton suffered what turned out to be a season-ending injury, and the defense was brick-wall-esque in a brutal 12-6 win. That’s the game in which Arians talked about a team “always 8-8.”
- In 2015 at home, Todd Gurley broke out and the Rams managed a big upset over the undefeated Cardinals.
What comes this Sunday at University of Phoenix Stadium could determine the direction of the season. A 1-3 start is a difficult hole out of which to climb. The Cardinals are 2-2 — especially with a short week and trip to San Francisco coming Thursday — and life is much more settled.
— It will be helpful, to say the least, to have guard Evan Mathis in the lineup against that defensive line.
— I know the Cards knew the Bills were going to run last week and the Bills still killed them on the ground. I know Gurley is good. But I’m betting this defensive performance will look more how the Cardinals dealt with Gurley in St. Louis than that out-of-control 144-yard half in Arizona last year.
— Usually, no one pays attention to the long snapper. That hasn’t been the case with the Cardinals, and newcomer Aaron Brewer — who snapped for the Super Bowl champion Broncos last season — would like for that to change.
“Hopefully everybody forgets who I am and I kind of fall away into the shadows,” Brewer said. “That’d be the best. … That means you do your job well, when no one knows who you are.”
— It’s not ideal when two of the three pieces in the kicking operation changes in one week, but kicker Chandler Catanzaro said he’s already found a comfort level with Brewer and new holder/punter Ryan Quigley. “I understand the business of it, that it is a production business and things have happened,” Catanzaro said. “That’s something I can take on my shoulders and we can fight through it. That’s part of the deal as a specialist.”
— Yes, punter Drew Butler was supposed to hold but his bad calf won’t let that be possible. I don’t know what happens if Quigley impresses. Arians said this week Butler would remain on the roster unless an injury forced a move.
— Roy Green will be inducted into the team’s Ring of Honor at halftime Sunday (we will have a story posted Saturday about Green.)
— Much talk this week about Mike Leach coming out of retirement. The former long snapper told the “Doug and Wolf” show on Arizona Sports he actually went out and practiced snapping at his house with a helmet and pads on, to see if he could still do it. He could — except the way his body felt the next day reminded him why he retired. Few know how much time Leach spent in the training room the past few years getting his body ready to play every week.
— If you missed it, here’s the Cardinals Underground podcast from this week.
— This point was brought up to me by a fan, that the passing game stumbles through the first three games is reminiscent of similar issues Kurt Warner and the Cardinals had through three games in 2009 after big expectations. That year, the Cardinals found their rhythm and won nine of their next 12 games (although the passing game never quite reached 2008 levels.)
This isn’t about streaks right now, though. The Cardinals just want one win, at home, against a team they’ve played generally well against (even in last year’s loss the Cards moved the ball, they just lost the turnover battle and stalled in the red zone.)
— In 2002, the Rams — coming off a tough Super Bowl loss and bringing back basically the same powerful team — ended up starting 0-5. Then-quarterback Kurt Warner has said (and reiterated this week on Arizona Sports 98.7) it was because the Rams were pressing too hard to show how good they were.
Warner said he thinks that is happening to the Cardinals. Arians agreed. Now we’ll see if the Cards can adjust that and fix the direction they are going.
Tags: Aaron Brewer, Carson Palmer, Chandler Catanzaro, Drew Stanton, Evan Mathis, Kurt Warner, Mike Leach, Rams, Roy Green, Ryan Quigley, Todd Gurley
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Jameis Winston hasn’t yet played the Cardinals in his career. But he has played football at their practice facility.
The Buccaneers’ quarterback, who will be at University of Phoenix Stadium Sunday, was in Tempe in March as one of the celebrity QBs for Kurt Warner’s annual charity flag football event. Cardinals Carson Palmer, Larry Fitzgerald, Drew Stanton and Patrick Peterson were also QBs for their own teams.
“I can take so much from those guys, just seeing their true passion and love for the game,” Winston said. “I really enjoyed Kurt Warner’s event, because it was football. It was flag football. You reach so many people. You gave men the opportunity to play with guys that they never thought they would ever play with. That was just great. That really helped me out.
Winston got a chance to mingle with the other players, speaking with Palmer (pictured below) before the event got started, and interacting with veterans like Fitzgerald and Peterson. “I’m trying to learn and hopefully be like them one day,” Winston said.
About Winston, Palmer told Tampa reporters “I love his game” and said he’s played like a veteran already.
That day in March, Winston wanted to win the tournament — the final came down to the teams of Warner and, coincidentally, the quarterback for the Cardinals’ opponent next week, Tyrod Taylor — and you could see it during the day-long affair. At one point during a break, when most teams were, you know, taking a break, Winston had his team on the field working on plays while coaching them up.
“I don’t really discriminate,” Winston said. “I don’t care if I was playing against three-year-olds.”
Tags: Carson Palmer, Jameis Winston, Kurt Warner, Larry Fitzgerald, Patrick Peterson, Tyrod Taylor
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Former Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner again reached the final 10 of Hall of Fame finalists, but for a second straight year he was not voted for the sport’s highest individual honor. The five modern day inductees were quarterback Brett Favre, tackle Orlando Pace, coach Tony Dungy, wide receiver Marvin Harrison and linebacker Kevin Greene. (Former 49ers owner Eddie DeBartolo Jr. was elected as a contributor and quarterback Ken Stabler and guard Dick Stanfel were put in through the seniors committee.)
Warner is going to get in at some point. That seems inevitable.
Quarterback Carson Palmer did win the FedEx Air Player of the Year award, which was announced earlier Saturday, but the Cards didn’t capture anything during Saturday night’s NFL Honors ceremony. Palmer was second to Chiefs safety Eric Berry for Comeback Player of the Year (Berry came back after battling cancer in 2014). Palmer also got a vote for MVP, as did Tom Brady, although Cam Newton won the award by getting the other 48 votes. Former Cardinal Anquan Boldin, now with the 49ers, was named the Walter Payton Man of the Year.
Tags: Carson Palmer, Hall of Fame, Kurt Warner
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At this point, it seems inevitable that Kurt Warner will get into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. It’s a matter of when, I’d guess, rather than if. Warner is in his second year as a finalist, and as the Hall of Fame itself notes, since 1970 85 percent of all players who are finalists eventually get in.
Will that be this year? That’s a lot more murky of a question. Of the 14 finalists accompanying Warner, only one — quarterback Brett Favre — seems to be a lock. The other potential four spots seem up for grabs. Steelers/Panthers Linebacker Kevin Greene is a finalist for a fifth time, but he’s a candidate who has definitely split the voters as a guy who deserves to be in. Colts Wide receiver Marvin Harrison is a finalist for a third time and he’s another guy who seems inevitable, although does he top first-time finalist Terrell Owens, the wide receiver best known for his years with the 49ers/Eagles/Cowboys? Could both go in and shrink the available spots? Rams tackle Orlando Pace is another guy who seems likely to get in sooner rather than later. The other finalists this year:
Saints K Morten Andersen
Broncos S Steve Atwater
Cards/Chargers Coach Don Coryell
Broncos RB Terrell Davis
Bucs/Colts coach Tony Dungy
Steelers/Jets/Cards G Alan Faneca
Redskins T Joe Jacoby
Colts/Cards RB Edgerrin James
Bucs S John Lynch
Again, if Warner doesn’t get in, he’s still likely to eventually. Interestingly, there has not been a quarterback inducted in a decade — and in 2006, there were two that went in, Troy Aikman and Warren Moon. The year before that, two QBs went in — Dan Marino and Steve Young. So getting both Warner and Favre in the same year wouldn’t be a shock.
Warner still has to battle that mid-part of his career, late with the Rams, the season with the Giants and his early Cardinals’ years, where his play wasn’t very Hall of Famey. But I saw those Cardinals’ years myself and that had less to do with the quarterback than the team construction itself. (Danny Green’s coaching staff cornucopia didn’t help either.) But every player who has won multiple MVPs is in the Hall, and Warner took two franchises to the Super Bowl that hadn’t sniffed such a thing in a long time. He’s Hall-worthy. The question is, is this the year?
Tags: Hall of Fame, Kurt Warner
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The Hall of Fame class of 2016 will be determined the day before the Super Bowl, but Wednesday night, the potential class was trimmed to 15 people (up to five of them can be named to the Hall of Fame when it’s all said and done.) Of those 15, four have Cardinals ties.
One is the obvious: quarterback Kurt Warner, who was a finalist last year, and who built a resume in which his final three Cardinals seasons were key. He helped get Arizona to a Super Bowl and to their first two NFC West titles, and without that part of his career, he wouldn’t have been in the Hall of Fame discussion even with his fantastic yet short stint with the Rams.
Coach Don Coryell was the leader of the Cards’ good teams of the 1970s in St. Louis, the teams that set many of the records the current team has been breaking.
The other two put together their Hall bids before they got to Arizona, but still made a mark here. Guard Alan Faneca, in his first year of eligibility, was a star on the Steelers’ offensive line for years and possibly could have come to the Cards sooner than he did (he spent time with the Jets) if not for the Cards’ salary cap issues before the 2008 season (can you imagine Faneca at that point in his career helping the Super Bowl offensive line?) Faneca later played one season — his last — with the Cardinals in 2010.
Then there is running back Edgerrin James, who was the splashy free agent signing for the team as they moved into University of Phoenix Stadium and had a pair of 1,000-yard rushing seasons for the club. He was benched midway through the 2008 season, but the Cards turned back to him in the postseason and he provided a solid running game for the team that got to the Super Bowl (and he came back to the Cards’ game last weekend, turning the Big Red Siren pregame. That’s Edge below with ex-teammate Adrian Wilson.)
Warner is probably the best bet to get in this year, if any of them do. We’ll see in a month or so.
Tags: Alan Faneca, Edgerrin James, Hall of Fame, Kurt Warner
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Two franchises remain from the original NFL that was created in 1920: The Cardinals and the Bears. The Cardinals, by the way, were named for the color of their original jerseys and not the bird. As long as we were talking history, I thought I’d throw that out. All that, of course, was long before now, long before the Cards moved to Arizona and long before any of the players in Sunday’s game were born. Long before their parents were born.
This is about 2015, of course, and the Cardinals’ first road trip of the season.
“We’re not going to shop on Michigan Avenue,” coach Bruce Arians said. “We’re going to play the Bears.”
— On paper, the Cardinals should win this game. Those odds should get better if the Bears are without wide receiver Alshon Jeffery and linebacker Pernell McPhee, who both could miss the game. Yes, the Cardinals are without Andre Ellington, but they are actually fairly well equipped to weather that issue.
— Could they weather the absence of safeties Tony Jefferson and Deone Bucannon? Both those guys are game-day decisions with a bad hamstring and groin, respectively. I think they’ll give it a go, but we’ll see how they feel. The way the Cards’ defense works these days, those top four safeties are crucial.
— Then again, if Bucannon can’t go, maybe that means more work for Sean Weatherspoon, since Bucannon plays so much linebacker. No Jefferson, and that could mean more Justin Bethel or more Chris Clemons.
— That picture to the right is from a Bears-Cardinals game in November of 1959. It’s Soldier Field – you can tell by the columns – but the Cardinals were actually the home team in the photo (which is courtesy of the Chicago History Museum; J. Johnson, Jr., photographer.)
— Cornerback or not for Bethel, he will still play special teams, which he did for 26 snaps in the first game – even if he wasn’t happy enough with his key downed punt late in last week’s game.
“The special teams stuff is something I know I still need to do and make plays on,” Bethel said. “I wish I would’ve made a tackle or two. I hate when I go a game and don’t have a tackle, it makes me feel like I had a bad game.”
— The short pass/screen game didn’t go all that well for the Cards’ defense last week. Now they run into a running back in Matt Forte who is the centerpiece of the Bears’ offense. For defensive coordinator James Bettcher, he was confident in the correctable mistakes the Cards made – one cover was on linebacker Alex Okafor, a miss the linebacker insists won’t happen again –and that should start this week.
“Teams are going to get plays,” Bettcher said. “We understand that. When they do, it’s tackle (them) and go on to the next down.”
Said cornerback Patrick Peterson, “We have to get all 11 hats to whoever has the ball.”
— Bettcher did rave about Okafor’s first game, and not because of his two sacks. “I thought there were a couple snaps where he was so violent setting the edge (against the run),” Bettcher said. “You can see that. That’s the first thing that stood out watching the film.”
— Best quote of the week, at least from the Bears locker room: Cornerback Alan Ball, after watching the Cardinals-Saints game, said in total earnestness that Carson Palmer “is at his best moving.”
Palmer’s playing at a high level. That’s not a debate. But I don’t know if I’d say he’s at his best on the move. Palmer made sure he heard correctly when I brought it up. “Frightening,” he said. Even Carson understands a clean pocket is the way for him to go.
— The Bears have moved to a 3-4 defensive alignment this season. It’s going to be weird to see veteran Jared Allen as an outside linebacker.
— Arians decided to weigh in on the proposed Larry Fitzgerald-Darren Fells one-on-one basketball showdown. “I’ve never seen either one of them play, but I could probably take them both,” Arians said with a smile.
“But I ain’t playing for no checks.”
— The last time the Cards were in Chicago for a regular-season game: It was the 2009 season. Kurt Warner threw for five touchdown passes, including a pair to Fitzgerald (Nine catches for 123 yards that day). The Cards dominated.
We’ll see how it plays out Sunday.
Tags: Alex Okafor, Bears, Bruce Arians, Carson Palmer, Darren Fells, Deone Bucannon, James Bettcher, Justin Bethel, Kurt Warner, Larry Fitzgerald, Patrick Peterson, Sean Weatherspoon, Tony Jefferson
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In a division where keeping up with the Joneses is important just to have a chance at the playoffs — and goodness knows the Seahawks have been the Joneses for a couple of seasons now — the Cardinals feel like they have made strides to compete with Seattle. Their free agent class filled holes in the front seven of the defense and on the interior of the offensive line. More importantly, their quarterback is doing well in rehab. The Seahawks, meanwhile, added arguably the most dangerous tight end in the NFL. The Rams bolstered their defensive line with Nick Fairley and think they have upgraded at quarterback with Nick Foles (at least, he should be healthy enough to play.)
Then there are the 49ers, who have gone through one rough offseason, which started when they moved on from successful coach Jim Harbaugh.
The Niners got the shocking news young linebacker Chris Borland decided to leave the game instead of risking his long-term health to play. Borland was supposed to be the guy who filled in for Pro Bowler Patrick Willis, who retired because his oft-injured feet ended his hopes for a comeback. Defensive lineman Justin Smith likely will retire. Then they allowed multiple free agents to leave, like running back Frank Gore, guard Mike Iupati (who came to Arizona), linebacker Dan Skuta and cornerbacks Chris Culliver and Perrish Cox. They probably won’t bring back Michael Crabtree either.
Now, the Niners have added some pieces. Ravens wide receiver Torrey Smith. Darnell Dockett. Lions running back Reggie Bush (although he may be beyond his productive years.) But the way things have gone, it’ll be tough for the 49ers to right the decline they went through in 2014. That comes with the QB caveat all teams have — if Colin Kaepernick emerges as a star, that covers most issues.
While it could be considered the “offseason from hell,” the Cardinals did have one of recent vintage that they could put up in any argument. It’s tough to forget the offseason after 2009. In case you have forgotten, a refresher: quarterback Kurt Warner retired, safety Antrel Rolle was released for cap reasons (and subsequently signed with the Giants), linebacker Karlos Dansby left as a free agent and Anquan Boldin was traded. All were still playing at high/Pro Bowl levels. Those were a gut punch of transactions that eventually took out a coaching staff and brought the Cardinals to the Bruce Arians/Steve Keim era.
Tags: 49ers, Anquan Boldin, Antrel Rolle, Chris Borland, Chris Culliver, Colin Kaepernick, Dan Skuta, Darnell Dockett, Frank Gore, Justin Smith, Karlos Dansby, Kurt Warner, Michael Crabtree, Mike Iupati, NFC West, Patrick Willis, Perrish Cox, Rams, Reggie Bush, Seahawks, Torrey Smith
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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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It’s still an unknown who the 49ers head coach will be post-Harbaugh, but we do know now who will be coaching struggling quarterback Colin Kaepernick in the short-term. And it’s … Kurt Warner.
The former Cardinals quarterback will be tutoring Kaepernick here in the Valley, no less, as Niners beat guy Matt Barrows reported. it’ll be at EXOS, formerly Athletes Performance Institute. It’s not altogether odd, seeing that Warner can help a bit without a) leaving home and b) getting too deep into coaching. Ever since Warner retired I’ve gotten hit with questions from fans of why Warner wouldn’t be asked to join the coaching staff, but Warner never had any interest in putting in the hours required to be an NFL coach. He’s got more important things to do in his life with his charities and his family, and coaching eats up far too much time. This scenario is much more reasonable.
Of course, it also means Warner is trying to help improve the quarterback of a Cardinals’ rival. So that could sting down the road. Barrows writes that Warner (and former journeyman pro QB Dennis Gile) won’t try and fix Kaepernick. Instead, “Warner will be on hand a few days each week to work with Kaepernick on film study, charting plays (so-called ‘board work’), seven-on-seven drills and other mental aspects of the game.”
UPDATE: Warner talked about the offer on the Tiki and Tierney Show Thursday morning on CBS Radio, acknowledging he has heard from fans of both the Cardinals and Rams disappointed he is helping a 49ers quarterback.
“I put the offer out there to a lot of young guys and Colin is the first one that really reached out and said, ‘If you have a little bit of time for me, I’d love to work together,’” Warner said. “People can say what they want. I’m more about helping that young man become all he can be. Do I want the Cardinals to win games? Of course I do. Do I want the Rams to win? Yeah. But I want all these guys to push that envelope and if I can help in any way, I’m happy to do it.”
Tags: Colin Kaepernick, Kurt Warner
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I hesitate to bring up the ‘W’ word at this point, with Sunday night and Ryan Lindley’s struggles still so fresh on everyone’s mind. I don’t see the Cardinals making any kind of quarterback transactions at this point, just trying to tread water until Drew Stanton can play. But after all the talk about Kurt Warner and can he come back and hey, maybe he’s even thought about coming back, bottom line, he can’t.
Yes, even if the Cards thought it was a good idea and he thought it was a good idea, it’s a non-starter. A league spokesman confirmed Warner is on the Cardinals’ reserve/retired list. NFL rules state someone on the reserve/retired list cannot be reinstated in the last 30 days of a season. That means even when Warner first hinted about it during the game against the Rams, it was already too late.
(Forget about the fact he’s 43 and has been out of football for five years and isn’t physically or mentally prepped to be able to jump into an NFL lineup.)
No, it was never going to work.
(Profootballtalk.com pointed out that Warner could be reinstated had he been put through waivers, but that another team could have and likely would have claimed him just to block such a move.)
In the meantime, the Cardinals are turning to Logan Thomas for a start Sunday against the 49ers, although Bruce Arians said he will have the quick hook in place for Thomas. Stanton is unlikely to play this week as the Cardinals try and get him ready for a playoff game.
Tags: Drew Stanton, Kurt Warner, Logan Thomas, Ryan Lindley
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