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Saints — and playoff-hope — aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on December 18, 2016 – 8:22 pm

OK, so the Cardinals already knew their playoff chances were basically done after the loss in Miami, but they were officially killed off Sunday. Drew Brees hadn’t done anything for two games, and then he erupted to tear apart the Cards. All the while, it was the last home game of the year and one of those games where many players understood what that meant — Calais Campbell had already been talking about it, and Tony Jefferson tweeted about it pre-game — as contracts are ending and there is so much up in the air for 2017.

Carson Palmer is under contract for 2017. He was asked about next year, and he said he expects to be playing. Larry Fitzgerald is under contract for 2017. He said he will play the final two games “as hard as I can” and then see how the offseason plays out. If Fitz is gonna stick around, he’s going to want to know he’s got a chance to make the postseason and win.

Nobody coming into this season — even if you expected the Cardinals to take a step back from 13-3 — thought the Cardinals would be a pedestrian 4-3-1 at University of Phoenix Stadium. But here they were again, in a one-score game late, unable to win it like they had so many times the past two seasons at home. That’s what stuck with Bruce Arians, and that’s one of the (many) things to undo the 2016 season.

— It wasn’t his best game statistically but it was a very good game for David Johnson, tying the franchise record for touchdowns in a season and playing more regular wide receiver than normal because of a thin receiving corps. The Saints were also attuned to Johnson as a receiver, bracketing him often on passing plays — which is new for him.

“I was joking with one of their DBs and he was telling me when they were scouting us, (they said) don’t think of me as a running back, think of me as a receiver,” Johnson said. “That was cool to hear.”

— But Johnson now needs 200 receiving yards the final two games to reach 1,000, against two good defenses. So that will be tough.

— Palmer was good, and that was with an inability to hook up with John Brown on one wide-open deep pass (Brown did haul in a 30-yard TD bomb later) and with J.J. Nelson dropping what would have been a 56-yard TD bomb. It helped that the offensive line — from left tackle to right, Wetzel, Iupati, Shipley, Boggs and Watford — held up perhaps better than expected.

“I was happy with the way we played up front,” Shipley said. “There were obviously a couple things we would like back. But for a guy like Boggs who really hasn’t played and going against a top 10 pick (Nick Fairley), I thought he did admirable. There was one play early but other than that, he did a pretty good job. And Earl being in a position he hasn’t played in a long time, and Wetz, I don’t know what number combination of offensive line this is (for us) … I was happy with how the guys responded.”

— Another rough night for special teams. Chandler Catanzaro missed a long field goal and another extra point, although the latter ended up not mattering. Justin Bethel’s offsides on the field goal was painful though, as was the fact Bethel was offsides on three different kicks — the field goal and a pair of extra points, yards added on the kickoffs.

— Linebacker Sio Moore, on the questionable blow-to-Brees’-head penalty that killed the chance for the Cardinals to hold the Saints late in a seven-point game: “I didn’t even know the flag was on me until late,” Moore said quietly. “It was unfortunate timing for a call like that. I can’t argue with the refs. I’ve just got to figure what I’ve got to do so that situation doesn’t come up on my bill.”

— If you missed it, team president Michael Bidwill before the game addressed — strongly — the Michael Floyd situation.

— Campbell, in his ninth NFL season, scored on a 53-yard fumble return and that was the first time Campbell had been in the end zone since his senior year in high school when he had a four-touchdown game as a tight end. That was 2003.

— Tim Hightower is famous around these parts for scoring the game-winning touchdown in the NFC Championship game back in the 2008 season. He was traded away before the 2011 season, suffered a terrible knee injury and didn’t play in an NFL game from 2012-14, but has resurrected his career in New Orleans. Sunday, he scored two touchdowns in the same end zone where he beat the Eagles in 2008.

“I’m just thankful,” Hightower said. “This process has been one that has tested me in every way. … Just thinking of the last (Saints) loss here a year ago (in the 2015 opener). I wasn’t even on the roster. I was released the day before the game. It kind of had everything come back full circle. It was special.”

— Hightower was in the same Cardinals draft class as Campbell. It wasn’t surprising to see the two friends swap jerseys after the game. Campbell said he knew Hightower was behind him on his touchdown run, as Hightower tried to Beebe Campbell from behind. “I felt it,” Campbell said. “I pulled the ball up when I felt him coming for it. I told him, ‘If you had knocked the ball from my hands, we wouldn’t have been friends any longer.’ ”

aftersaints


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Bidwill on Floyd: “Disappointed how he handled it”

Posted by Darren Urban on December 18, 2016 – 1:39 pm

Cardinals president Michael Bidwill just made an appearance on the Cardinals radio network’s pregame show, and was asked about the release of Michael Floyd. Bidwill said there had been a way for Floyd to remain on the team, but the Cards felt Floyd didn’t react well to the incident and the decision was made to move on.

“A lot went into (the decision to cut Floyd),” Bidwill said. “We got the news from sources early, and then the media, an hour-and-a-half before Michael called us. I was disappointed with how he handled it. I thought, even the two days we took before we made the final decision we were just going to release him, the story changed, there was no remorse. We asked him to be proactive in terms of his approach to this. He was unapologetic. There were a number of things (and) I was just not satisfied how he handled it.

“We just determined, you know what? He’s just not going to play for us again. Release him, it’s better to move on. I hope he gets healthy. I like him personally. He’s a great kid. I was really disappointed with how he handled this and you know, how he was handling his approach to the game, his approach to conditioning and approach to things, and I think it was affecting him, some of his issues were affecting him on the field.”

Bidwill reiterated the Cardinals asked Floyd to “proactively address” the situation in multiple conversations with Floyd and his agent and “they just did not want to do that.”

Bidwill said that could have led to Floyd remaining on the roster. “They certainly could’ve played it a lot differently,” Bidwill said. “We wanted to give him the opportunity to address his issues.”


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Notes and thoughts after Floyd

Posted by Darren Urban on December 15, 2016 – 10:13 am

The Cardinals moved on from Michael Floyd quickly after his arrest for suspicion of DUI, and maybe that shouldn’t have been a surprise. The team’s president is, after all, the chairman of the NFL’s conduct committee, and Michael Bidwill has strong feelings on off-field conduct. The circumstances had morphed for Floyd from the beginning of the season, when it was likely the free-agent-to-be was looking for a long-term contract that was probably going to be too rich for the Cards’ budget, to now, when he struggled every step of the way and had undercut his own open market — even before Sunday night’s/Monday morning’s incident.

But that part is over now. As for some of the details of the aftermath:

— This is the kind of thing that shakes up a team. “Obviously, this whole year has been kind of rough,” safety Tyrann Mathieu said. “And then seeing stuff like that happen, I think we’re all shocked and kind of in disbelief. We’ve got three games left to play so we’ve got to stay focused.”

— Yes, had the Cardinals carried Floyd through the end of the season and let him leave as a free agent, he likely would have figured in the equation for comp draft picks in 2018. But it isn’t a one-for-one thing. A team’s entire free-agent haul is compared (through a super secret formula based on the new contract and production) to what free agents were lost, and then the picks are distributed. With Floyd’s play this season, it was highly likely he was going to sign a relatively cheap, one-year contract anyway for 2017, in an attempt to rehab his value on the market and then try again in 2018.

Would he have been a comp pick factor? Probably. But it’ll be hard to tell how much.

— If Floyd is picked up on waivers, which we will know soon, he’s due $1.2 million. If not, he’ll be available as a free agent. UPDATE: The Patriots claimed Floyd off waivers.

— Carson Palmer was asked directly if he thought Floyd — who also had a DUI in college — had a problem. Palmer, who had already noted Floyd was a friend, quickly said no. He does face a possible suspension of a couple of games next season from the league.

— Where to now for the receiving corps these last three games? Coach Bruce Arians said Smokey Brown can “hopefully” get more snaps this week. J.J. Nelson has played better, but he still has to show he can do it consistently. Brittan Golden, you’re going to get some time. And this, more than any other reason, is why David Johnson may be a 1,000×2 guy after all.

— This was probable even if Floyd wasn’t released, because like I said I didn’t expect his return, but the Cardinals will have to look seriously at drafting a bigger receiver now. Floyd won’t be around and Larry Fitzgerald’s status has reached year-to-year.

afterfloydblog


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That time Roy Green wanted a raise

Posted by Darren Urban on May 11, 2016 – 5:31 pm

Roy Green’s press conference today as it was announced he was headed into the Cardinals’ Ring of Honor stretched to 30 minutes as Green told stories about his time with the Cardinals, about his famous catch to beat the powerful 49ers at Sun Devil Stadium in the team’s first season in Arizona, about ex-teammates like Stump Mitchell and Ron Wolfley, about the Cards’ killer loss to the Redskins to end 1984, about towel-whipping then-Cardinals ballboy Michael Bidwill when Bidwill was a teenager working training camp.

(Green, with Bidwill laughing beside him, joked he would have treated Michael better had he known he’d eventually run the team.)

But at one point, Green told a story about a contract negotiation with Bidwill’s father, Bill. At the time, Green was serving as his own agent. And he decided — in the era before modern free agency — it might be time to play out his option and improve his contract status following the 1989 season.

“I told Mr. B I wanted to talk to him,” Green remembered. “He was like, ‘Yeah, come on in.’ He asked, ‘What’s going on?’ I said, ‘You know what, Mr. B? I’m looking for a raise, actually. I think that I’ve played well, blah, blah, blah.’ He looks at me and says, ‘Roy, you’re overpaid right now.’

“I wanted to laugh at that very moment but I had to keep my lawyer’s face on. I’m negotiating. In a few minutes after I got out of the office, I was dying. I couldn’t wait to go tell the guys what he had told me.”

MrBblogGreenUSE


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Bidwill on the passing of Joe Garagiola

Posted by Darren Urban on March 23, 2016 – 1:17 pm

Former player and announcer Joe Garagiola was baseball to me growing up. In those days, Arizona didn’t have a team, and games were on TV once a week basically — when Garagiola brought them into my house on NBC on Saturdays. Garagiola, who had been a part of the Diamondbacks since their inception (his son was GM at one point) passed away Wednesday. There was no better ambassador of the game. Garagiola was a St. Louis native, and had a relationship with the Cardinals and the Bidwill family from the franchise’s time in the city. Cardinals president Michael Bidwill released this statement about the passing of Garagiola:

“This is such a profound loss not only for the sports community but the nation as a whole. I literally know of no one who ever had a bad thing to say about Joe Garagiola. He was such a wonderful, gregarious and extraordinary man. Joe and my dad loved to talk about sports, ‘The Hill’ in St. Louis and their Catholic faith and we will always be grateful for the kindness he showed our family. Joe Garagiola was an American icon and he will truly be missed.”


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Bidwill talks “All or Nothing,” owners meetings

Posted by Darren Urban on March 22, 2016 – 8:42 am

Cardinals president Michael Bidwill is at the owners meetings in Florida this week, and Tuesday morning talked about a variety of topics — including the new “All Or Nothing” eight-episode series coming on Amazon that will chronicle the Cards’ 2015 season from the draft through the NFC Championship. Bidwill, appearing on the “Doug and Wolf” Show on Arizona Sports 98.7, said it was just about a year ago when he started a dialogue with NFL Films to capture many of the behind-the-scenes parts of the team “many people have never seen before.”

“I think it’s going to be very good for the Cardinals and the players and coaches,” Bidwill said. “We’re going to be able to tell some great stories.”

Bidwill said he believes the series won’t just be on the premium Amazon Prime but “potentially in front of their pay wall,” which would open up the availability to many more people. Ultimately that’s what Bidwill would like to broaden the fan base and “continue to improve our footprint” as a franchise.

As for the comparison’s to HBO’s training camp documentary “Hard Knocks,” Bidwill said “it’s different and I think it’s better. I wasn’t interested in doing “Hard Knocks” but I thought there were elements we could do in a completely different way.”

— The owners will vote on various potential rule changes/new rules on Wednesday. One is the concept of player ejections with two unsportsmanlike fouls or some variation there (Bidwill noted rules, if passed, can often morph during discussions). “It should be the rare exception that any of our players or personnel on the field are acting in an unsportsmanlike manner, and if it happens a second time, I’m all in favor of getting them off the field completely and sending a strong message,” Bidwill said. “Because we have millions of kids watching us. … National Football League football is about playing hard within the rules, within the white lines and doing it in sportsmanlike fashion.”

— On the concept of commissioner Roger Goodell retaining the power to discipline players — something the NFL Players Association would like to change: “At a very high level, it’s about the NFL brand,” Bidwill said. “We don’t want to outsource that ultimate decision about discipline to a third party. That’s just my opinion. I feel like no one has more reputationally to lose than we do, and we don’t want our commissioner to lose that power.”

— Bidwill didn’t say the Cardinals are on tap to play any of the international games on the horizon — there have been reports of potential future games in China and Germany — but was clearly behind the concept. “When you think about the global brand, the NFL is an important American brand and everyone wants to continue to expand their presence in the global marketplace,” Bidwill said. “We want to continue to bring live games to the international scene, that’s how many global sports grow.”

— Not surprisingly, he was bullish on the Cardinals’ offseason moves, especially the trade for pass rusher Chandler Jones.

“We all recognize what happened in the Super Bowl,” Bidwill said. “Steve and his team did a great job of crafting a trade that is true win-win with the New England Patriots.”

Michael Bidwill


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Documenting a season with the Cardinals

Posted by Darren Urban on March 21, 2016 – 2:15 pm

It isn’t unusual for an NFL Films crew to show up in Tempe a couple of times a year, gathering practice footage or working on a piece. But last year, the crew didn’t leave. Some of the faces changed, sure — when you are embedding with an NFL team, that’s a bigger job than for just one group of three or four. But someone was around all the time, in the offseason, at training camp, through the regular season and playoffs (and a week in West Virginia). Sometimes they were even on the Cardinals’ charter flight.

And now, the reason is out there: “All or Nothing,” an eight-episode series on Amazon, is coming.

(There is no set date of when the release will be. That’s still TBD.)

It’s a massive logistical undertaking. It’s unusual for a pro team, for sure, and certainly for an NFL team, but team president Michael Bidwill liked the idea and pushed for it from the top. He couldn’t have picked a much more intriguing season for which to do it. A franchise record for wins, Tyrann Mathieu’s big season and subsequent knee injury, Carson Palmer’s MVP push, Larry Fitzgerald’s renaissance, Dwight Freeney’s midseason arrival, five primetime games. I’ll be interested to see how they manage to break down eight episodes. Clearly there’s enough to do even more.

People talk about distractions, but since nothing will air until after the fact, last season isn’t impacted by the series (unlike, say, “Hard Knocks.”) Also, once the crew was in place, it never seemed that overbearing. Cameras were installed in offices and meeting rooms, used remotely from a “control room” set up in the facility so no one would be bothered.

Even as someone who is pretty embedded myself, I’m looking forward to see this inside view — views I don’t get to see either.

AllofNothingBlog


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Friday before the playoffs and Packers

Posted by Darren Urban on January 15, 2016 – 12:30 pm

Once upon a time, before the Cardinals ran their home playoff record all-time to 4-0 with a thrilling 51-45 overtime win over the Packers, before Kurt Warner had more touchdown passes (five) than incompletions (four), before Karlos Dansby’s fumble return brought Mike McCarthy to his knees, there was a baby on the way.

No, not my kid. (My boys were watching at University of Phoenix Stadium that day, in fact.) But I have a good friend who has covered the Packers for a long time. And he had a daughter due to be born about a week after that Packers-Cardinals tilt. A Green Bay win, and there was going to be some serious juggling to do in his life.

Cardinals cornerback Michael Adams unknowingly had my buddy’s back though, and Money Mike’s strip-sack of Aaron Rodgers, leading to Dansby’s return touchdown allowed no complications with job and family.

A few weeks later, I sent my friend a surprise gift. It was a picture – the one you see below – signed by Adams, addressed to baby Madison:

Madison – I’m glad I could make sure your Dad was there for you. Michael Adams

This is one of the first things I think of when I think of Cardinals-Packers in the playoffs – in addition to Warner, and Money Mike and Dansby and Early Doucet’s helmet flying off and Fitz’s diving touchdown and Rodgers being thisclose to hitting a wide-open Greg Jennings in overtime for what would have been a game-winning TD and made my friend’s life that much harder.

This game Saturday night, will it be as memorable? If it puts the Cardinals in the NFC Championship, I’m going to say yes.

— I think the Cardinals can survive the loss of Alex Okafor. Not sure yet how they make it happen – I will be curious to see if they use DT Josh Mauro on the edge in run-down situations – but I think they’ll be OK. They managed fine in run defense in the games Okafor missed (Steelers, Ravens, Browns) and against the pass, they should be good with Dwight Freeney and Markus Golden.

— Saw this nugget from another Packer writer friend of mine, Wes Hodkiewicz: The Packers are 10-0 this year when hitting the QB at least five times. On the flip side, you have the Cardinals offensive line, which has allowed only 27 sacks this season – tied for fourth-fewest in the NFL.

“Knock on wood,” offensive coordinator/line coach Harold Goodwin said, chiding the reporter for bringing it up. “You can’t do that to me.

“We’ve done a decent job all year of protection. I don’t know where we’re ranked or finished, as far as how many. I really don’t pay attention to that. We’ve just got to make sure we’ve got 11 guys on the same page, which is the biggest thing when it comes down to protection, and win the one-on-one battles up front.”

Goodwin said the Cards lost two such battles early in the last Packers meeting. They know – as they have known all season – protecting Carson Palmer is crucial.

— That said, Palmer has been so fantastic this season with his footwork and moving in the pocket. He’s not Rodgers or Russell Wilson, but he’s better than Palmer 2013 or 2014 in that regard.

— Goodwin on getting Larry Fitzgerald to block so well: “It comes with a lot of choice words, is what you say to him to get him to block. ‘If you want the ball, bleep, bleep, bleep, bleep, you’ve got to block some.’ ”

Goody smiled as he said it. There is little question Fitz has become arguably the best blocking wide receiver in the game. Oh, and he had 109 catches too.

— Hall of Fame cornerback Roger Wehrli will man the Big Red Siren Saturday pre-game.

— GM Steve Keim and team president Michael Bidwill will speak at a pre-game pep rally on the Great Lawn at 4:15 p.m. Saturday. And don’t forget Flo Rida is singing at halftime.

— This feels like a David Johnson game to me.

— Bruce Arians said the 13-3 season has been “fun.” But (and there is always a but) “it doesn’t mean crap if we don’t win it.”

— Which leads me to this: There has been a lot of talk about pressure this week, and undoubtedly, the Cardinals understand that after a 13-3 season, winning at least one playoff game is expected. But as the talk veers into the favorite and the underdog and that pressure I mentioned, it’s better to be the better team. Just in my history covering this team, I’ve seen losing streaks and the Monday Night Meltdown and fumbles in field-goal range and horrific blowout losses. I’ve seen “the worst playoff team in NFL history” – yes, that was a hell of a ride – and injuries overwhelm a playoff team in New Orleans and trying to win a postseason game with a third-string quarterback.

This is the first time the Cardinals were considered better, the first time they’ve earned “better.” And it’s the position where you want to be, pressure or not.

MoneyMike


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More NFL games coming internationally

Posted by Darren Urban on October 7, 2015 – 10:25 am

The Cardinals’ regular-season game in Mexico a decade ago was one of a kind.

But maybe it won’t always be.

The NFL owners approved a resolution Wednesday to extend the league’s ability to play games that count outside the United States through the 2025 season. Games previously have been in the United Kingdom, but there is a good chance the league will also look elsewhere. There was already talk of a Pro Bowl in Brazil, so perhaps a game could go there. And Mexico remains an obvious possibility, although the league will want to make sure whatever stadium teams play in is up to NFL standards. (When I was at Estadio Azteca in 2005, there were some spots that definitely needed upgrades. Not sure how things stand now.)

“We think it’s time to expand our International Series to other countries and respond to the growing interest in our game not only in the UK, but elsewhere around the world,” commissioner Roger Goodell said.

Next year’s international games, plus the other countries who could eventually host games, will be named later this fall.

What does this mean for the Cardinals? I’m sure Michael Bidwill would like to have his team in an international game. The catch, as there are with every team, is that someone has to give up a home game to play away. With 98 straight sellouts, I’m sure the Cardinals would rather make an out-of-country trip, wherever it might be, a road game and keep their home dates. Also to consider is the recent rule that franchises that are awarded Super Bowls eventually have to give up a home game to play internationally. Whenever the Cardinals and Arizona bid for another Super Bowl — and that will happen — the Cards will be on the hook there.

MEXICO NFL 49ERS CARDINALS


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Adrian Wilson’s goodbye and his Pat Tillman help

Posted by Darren Urban on April 20, 2015 – 5:21 pm

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.

AfterDubBlog


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