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Fitzgerald, Mathieu, Peterson to sit out Texans

Posted by Darren Urban on August 28, 2016 – 12:57 pm

Earlier this week, Tyrann Mathieu talked about being “mindful” of his health, weighing it against whether playing in the preseason was important enough to trump where he was in his rehab. The reality is, for many starters, playing in the preseason simply doesn’t overrule health (right, Tony Romo?)

There is no official “not-expected-to-play” list but three key Cardinals — Mathieu, CB Patrick Peterson and WR Larry Fitzgerald — all are in street clothes and not in uniform and they won’t be playing today. Mathieu, of course, is coming back from his ACL tear. Fitzgerald has been dealing with a minor MCL sprain and said this week he just wants to be ready for Sept. 11 against the Patriots. Fitzgerald was out in early warmups — helmet on, which is rare for any player at that time of the pregame — catching passes, and was moving around fine. This feels precautionary.

Not sure what Peterson’s issue is, if any. He did have his foot/ankle taped during Friday’s final practice so perhaps that is a factor, although he looked OK. In any case, it opens the door for the three cornerbacks battling for the other starting job — Brandon Williams, Mike Jenkins and Justin Bethel — to get important work. It’s unknown how much Bethel will play coming off PUP. Jenkins has yet to play in a preseason game himself because of his broken hand.

WR John “Smokey” Brown, coming back slowly from his concussion, also isn’t dressed, as is RB Kerwynn Williams. Not sure of his injury, although he was watched carefully by RB coach Stump Mitchell and trainers Tom Reed and Chad Cook early before the game.


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Fitz: Contract about keeping good thing going

Posted by Darren Urban on August 24, 2016 – 12:22 pm

The recent contract Larry Fitzgerald signed — keeping the wide receiver in Arizona in 2017, assuming he is still playing — wasn’t something he was looking for, but he emphasized that winning and the Cardinals’ ability to win played a role.

“It wasn’t my idea,” Fitzgerald said. “I didn’t go and stand on Steve (Keim)’s table and asked for an extension. If that’s what you’re asking, that wasn’t the case. I’m down for whatever is going to keep this thing going as long as we can.

“As you know, it goes in spurts in this league. A while back we had some teams that were pretty good, had a couple down years, and now we’re at that point where we have a really good thing going. We have a good mesh of older veteran guys and a mesh of good younger guys like Patrick Peterson, Tyrann Mathieu and Chandler Jones, D.J. Humphries. That’s a great blend to have.”

That wouldn’t be the only reason Fitz would want to play in 2017, but at this point in his career, it’s a must-have.

Other lunchtime stuff after a day off:

— WR Smokey Brown (headache) might not practice this afternoon. With Brown coming off a concussion, it’s something to watch.

— Fitzgerald isn’t practicing because of the slight MCL issue in his knee, but he waved off any concern. “I’m good,” he said. “I could probably go out there and be effective and do my job, but a setback now with less than two weeks to go would be less than ideal. I want to do what I can to help my team now but obviously Sept. 11 is when it really hits the fan.”

— QB Carson Palmer is getting a day off today. The injury list is pretty short right now, though. A good sign.

— Coach Bruce Arians shrugged off the idea the offense needs to get into a rhythm in a preseason game. “Not really,” he said. “I see it enough in practice.”

— Arians wouldn’t comment on the report he will be named the NFL’s competition committee. “Hasn’t been announced yet,” he said.


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Chargers aftermath, and Okafor

Posted by Darren Urban on August 19, 2016 – 11:26 pm

The Cardinals got a lot good work in this week while practicing in San Diego. Bruce Arians said that, his players did too. But the end result didn’t feel all that good. The offense looked ugly, which really isn’t what you’d like to see at this point of camp (and things went pretty well in the first-unit’s one series in the preseason opener, so it’s not like they were bad a week ago).

But then you throw in the news that best case scenario, linebacker Alex Okafor would have to play the season with a torn biceps tendon, and that’s only if he decides not to have surgery. That’s a tough call. Okafor is going to be a free agent after the season. If he waits on surgery, he won’t be a full strength and he’ll have to have surgery right before signing with another team. Surgery now, and he’ll have no season in which to entice teams to sign him. He called it one of the most difficult decisions he’s made (and he had to make the same exact decision already, with Arians, when he was a rookie in 2013.)

Okafor suffered the injury in practice Tuesday night. We’ll see what his choice is and what it means. Okafor is/was the third linebacker to give relief to starters Chandler Jones and Markus Golden.

— Interesting that Arians said Jaron Brown is the best receiver the Cardinals have right now. Brown did make a pair of great grabs against the Chargers. One of the few bright spots.

— Larry Fitzgerald sat with a minor MCL sprain, Arians said. It isn’t serious.

— Deone Bucannon hammered wide receiver Dontrelle Inman early in the game, a clean hit (a penalty wasn’t called and the replays I’ve seen show a hard hit to the upper chest) that knocked Inman’s helmet off. Inman was checked for a concussion and cleared, but did not return.

“I’m a physical player,” Bucannon said. “That’s what it is and I like setting the tempo for the team and making plays within the rules of football. I love playing the game with passion.”

— Couldn’t tell exactly how D.J. Humphries did at right tackle, but frankly, there wasn’t anyone on offense (except maybe Jaron Brown) that will be able to be excited about how he played.

— Cornerback Brandon Williams gave up a 13-yard pass early, but held up better in my opinion. Overall, it seemed like a better performance.

— Arians, in his postgame radio interview: “You can’t play the game without passion, energy or brains and we didn’t have any of the three.”

One more week of training camp to go.

Dontrelle Inman, Deone Bucannon


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Fitz among players sitting out Chargers game

Posted by Darren Urban on August 19, 2016 – 5:08 pm

Many of the names on tonight’s not-expected-to-play list for the Cardinals are known because they have missed practice time. The biggest name is wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, who sat out practice Wednesday and who is resting his knee — although Fitzgerald was running sprints pregame and looked fine. Realistically, Fitz doesn’t need much time in the preseason to be ready.

It means two of the top three receivers are sitting, because John Brown is still sidelined because he has not cleared concussion protocol. Is that a concern? Of course. You hate to have one of your top pass catchers missing most of training camp and that’s what is going to happen to Smokey.

Philip Rivers is among those not playing for the Chargers.

The full list of those not expected to play tonight. (Some injuries haven’t been specifically announced):

— CB Alan Ball
— CB Justin Bethel (foot)
— WR John Brown (concussion)
— C Taylor Boggs (calf)
— CB Elie Bouka (hamstring)
— WR Larry Fitzgerald (knee)
— WR Brittan Golden (hamstring)
— DT Iosia Iosia
— CB Asa Jackson (ankle)
— CB Mike Jenkins (hand)
— S Tyrann Mathieu (knee)
— DT Robert Nkemdiche (ankle)
— LB Alex Okafor
— DT Frostee Rucker (foot)
— DT Ed Stinson
— G Earl Watford (knee)


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Larry Fitzgerald tackling, ranked

Posted by Darren Urban on August 8, 2016 – 9:09 am

There were plenty of things to watch at Saturday’s Red-White practice, but in case you didn’t see it, Larry Fitzgerald made a catch heading out of bounds and before he came back inbounds, he took a slight detour to tackle former Cardinal and current game analyst Ron Wolfley before running back on the field. It was captured by various in-stadium cameras so it was preserved for all eternity.

Those that are around are well aware that Fitz likes to tackle innocent bystanders. Having covered this team for Fitz’s entire career, I’ve seen it many, many times. So I thought this might be an apropos time, in this day and age of power rankings, to throw in my own rankings of Fitz’s top five tackles. Unfortunately, one on James Harrison does not exist. Without further adieu:

5. Media members. Fitz isn’t shy of taking down a reporter. I’ve been on the receiving end of those a couple of times, although in recent years he prefers to toss the ball at me while I’m taking photos, so that’s a whole different balancing act.

4. Tackling Steelers OC Todd Haley during the game in Pittsburgh last year, only the latest example of Fitz dogging Haley in all the years they’ve known each other, dating back to Haley’s OC days in Arizona.

3. Fitz’s attempted tackle of OC Harold Goodwin, which instead turned into a Goodwin bear hug. Fitz didn’t read his keys at the Greenbrier that day.

2. Taking Wolf down (the fact we have multiple views of it on video just makes it better.)

1. Anytime Fitz takes down a kid with a big smile. I’ve seen it against the pee-wee football players that often play “games” at halftime of a Cardinals’ game, and I’ve seen it with the children of Cards’ people, like the sons of GM Steve Keim or VP of media relations Mark Dalton. Fitz is just a big kid in that regard.


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Analyzing the Fitz and Palmer deals

Posted by Darren Urban on August 6, 2016 – 12:57 pm

The news that both Carson Palmer and Larry Fitzgerald received one-year extensions was certainly noteworthy, especially when it comes to Fitzgerald. Yes, Fitz could still decide to walk away after the season and retire. But I don’t think that’s likely now that he’s agreed to another year. No longer will he be a free agent, and I just don’t see him choosing to walk away. I could be wrong — and if the Cardinals were to win a Super Bowl, I’d guess the temptation would be there — but if Fitz comes anywhere close to posting similar numbers as last year while the team can win, I’d guess he fulfills the 2017 portion of his deal.

— As for Palmer, Bruce Arians was blunt: “I don’t think anything changes other than he’s got another year.” Palmer was going to be around.

— Kent Somers reported the move doesn’t have an impact on the salary cap. Which again would revert back to the roster certainty the Cards get out of these moves as a reason to do them.

— What it does do with both is create a roster certainty for next season, important on a team that still has a number of key free agents-to-be. Michael Floyd will be a free agent and figures to command big dollars. If the Cardinals lose him, at least they know they (probably) still have Fitz to anchor the receiving corps.

— Arians also said Palmer’s deal doesn’t impact the search for a QB of the future. “It depends on who the hell is out there,” Arians said. “Who is it? If he’s there, we’ll take it. If he’s not there, we don’t need him.”

— Big props to Mike Disner (pictured below with GM Steve Keim), the team’s director of football administration who is the main contract negotiator. It was a big week for him, getting the the Tyrann Mathieu extension done and then the Fitz and Palmer deals. Maybe he can get some down time now.

PalmerFitzBlog


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Fitz messes with Smokey, and loafing rookies

Posted by Darren Urban on August 5, 2016 – 2:01 pm

All John Brown wanted to do was go to lunch. But Larry Fitzgerald, making an appearance in a near-empty locker room, was surrounded by media, and he was trying not to do the interview session alone. So he grabbed Brown’s backpack — Smokey kept calling it his “bookbag” — and took it. Brown wasn’t allowed to talk while in concussion protocol, but Fitz wouldn’t give up the bag. So there Fitz sat in his locker, Brown’s backpack secure between his legs, while Brown sat on the outside of the scrum quietly waiting.

At one point, Brown, tired of waiting, tried to sneak on the floor through some media legs to grab the backpack. Fitz saw it coming, and wouldn’t let him take it — all while continuing to answer questions. Smokey could only sit, head in hand, waiting like a kid who is stuck in the department store while mom is shopping.

Can’t blame Fitz for being in a playful mood after Friday’s big news.

On to football stuff, the first of which includes an irritated Bruce Arians:

— Arians’ problem is with rookies and effort, and he made it very, very clear after Thursday’s practice. “Do not like where some young guys’ heads are as far as the speed of the game for the allotted time practice is,” Arians said. “They won’t make our ballclub at the level they are going at, so we have had some conversations.”

Arians didn’t name names. And he made clear exactly what he meant: “They are loafing, especially on special teams, where they are going to make the team,” Arians said. “Turn that tape on, they ain’t going fast enough to make this team.”

“You’ll either be flipping burgers or bagging groceries or you might be here,” Arians added. “That’s your choice, in about three weeks. Because if you practice like you did, you ain’t getting in the (first preseason) game next Friday night.”

— DT Ed Stinson (calf) is returning to practice. Center Taylor Boggs (calf) got hurt Thursday and is out for now. No other injury changes.

— Rookie CB Brandon Williams is the starter right now, Arians said. “There ain’t nobody else out there challenging him right now.”


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Fitz: Retirement? Figure out dinner first

Posted by Darren Urban on July 31, 2016 – 12:06 pm

Larry Fitzgerald met with the media today, and while there wasn’t much news out of it — OK, really no news — the Pro Bowl wide receiver was asked about retirement in the form of whether this would be his last training camp.

I have no idea,” Fitzgerald said. “I don’t even know what I’m having for dinner. Let’s start with the basics.”

That was the extent of the conversation, which figures to be a season-long topic that can’t be answered, because I think Fitz is exactly right — he doesn’t have any idea how his future is going to play out. Not yet.

Fitz did make clear how he feels about training camp though. He’s never been a fan, and that doesn’t change.

“Training camp stinks when you are bad (as a team), training camp stinks when you’re good,” Fitzgerald said. “It’s training camp.”

A reporter asked him about the grind of camp. That was a non-starter.

“Coach doesn’t allow us to call training camp a grind,” Fitzgerald said. “He says we stay in a five-star hotel, practice indoors. So it’s not a grind.”

— Bruce Arians said there was no new injury news. DT Red Bryant (Achilles) will miss one more day, while TE Jermaine Gresham (hamstring) is probably out another couple of days.

— Arians is looking forward to the players finally having pads in practice, which starts today. “A lot of the mental work is done, now it’s time to get the physical part of it started,” Arians said. “Making sure we get our pad level down and start playing football.”

FitzRetireDinner


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Fitz eloquent in his thoughts on Denny Green

Posted by Darren Urban on July 25, 2016 – 9:39 am

The passing of former coach Dennis Green came as a surprise last week. It was also a little bit a surprise when Larry Fitzgerald — who had known Green much of his life — didn’t weigh in. Today, it became clear why, as Fitz was apparently working on a longer piece about his feelings for Green on The Players’ Tribune.

Green played a huge role in Fitz’s life. As Fitz notes right off the top, Green got him the only two jobs he’s had — as Vikings ballboy, and then drafting him to be a Cardinal. What struck me in the well-written article was the part where Fitz acknowledged the pressure he felt as the No. 3 overall pick, knowing the Cardinals could have instead drafted a Ben Roethlisberger or Philip Rivers.

“I also remember that after that initial wave of excitement wore off, I felt a lot of stress,” Fitzgerald wrote. “Because I knew that I wasn’t just another player that the Cardinals were taking a chance on. I knew Coach had a big hand in having the team draft me with the No. 3 pick when they could have taken guys like Ben Roethlisberger or Philip Rivers. The Cardinals already had a young Pro Bowl receiver in Anquan Boldin. Wide receiver wasn’t a need position for them. So my emotions went from joy to feeling a lot of pressure. I didn’t want to let Coach Green down. I knew I had to go out there and perform well so people would know that he had done that he did a good job evaluating me. All I wanted was to do right by him.”

I don’t think there’s any question Fitzgerald made Green look good with the pick. It didn’t hurt that the Cardinals and Green eventually signed Kurt Warner, too, so that helped the cause.

Having covered that team, there was never really any question the Cardinals and Green were going to target Fitz. Even now, Fitz jokes that he could have been the No. 1 overall pick if it hadn’t been for Josh McCown-to-Nate Poole. But that was only part of a relationship that started when Fitz was 9, and why last week’s news was such a blow to the future Hall of Famer.

Dennis Green, Larry Fitzgerald


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Definitely no Brady versus Cardinals

Posted by Darren Urban on July 13, 2016 – 7:24 am

Patriots quarterback Tom Brady’s attempt for a new hearing for his four-game Deflategate suspension was turned down today by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, meaning — again — Brady won’t be playing against the Cardinals in the regular-season opener at University of Phoenix Stadium on “Sunday Night Football.”

Brady still could appeal to the Supreme Court, but that course of action (which would likely be an attempt to at least get a stay for the suspension, pushing it perhaps to 2017) is a longer shot than the Second Circuit move.

UPDATE: Brady announced he will no longer fight the suspension, so he is definitely not playing against the Cardinals.

The Cards have been asked about Brady playing or not playing, and yes, a couple have talked about wanting to play the best — which includes facing Brady. But I thought Larry Fitzgerald was pretty honest when he was asked about whether he’d rather play against Brady in the opener or not.

“Come on, man,” Fitzgerald said. “I think that’s a pretty easy question to answer. I love Tom, that’s my man, but if he doesn’t play, I wouldn’t shed any tears.

“I’d love to see him back the next week, though.”

It wouldn’t be the next week, either.

Tom Brady


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