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Back on 9/11

Posted by Darren Urban on September 11, 2014 – 10:17 am

It’s hard to believe, but before the Houston Texans came along and there were 31 NFL teams, there was a bye every week — including opening weekend. In 2001, that team that had to sit out the NFL’s first week of play was the Arizona Cardinals. So that “bye” week — if you can call it that, since the Cardinals last played a meaningless fourth preseason game and were mostly just waiting — came and went slowly, and the players were ready to get going with a road game against NFC East rival Washington coming up Sunday.

Back in those days, Cardinals coach Dave McGinnis met with the media daily, including the players’ off day of Tuesday, so I — working for the East Valley Tribune — was still going to be headed over to the Cards’ facility. But I was woke up a little early by my wife, who had flipped on the TV in our bedroom a little after 6 a.m. and said, “I think you want to see this.”

And on the screen, the World Trade Center, both towers, were already billowing smoke.

I ended up going over to the Cardinals’ complex earlier than I normally would’ve, because you just wanted to be around people at that point. By then, the Pentagon had been hit and you start thinking that the hotel you are going to be staying at in just a couple of days is only a couple train stops down from the Pentagon and what the hell is happening in the world? I sat staring at the TV screen in the media relations office, and at one point, Pat Tillman sat down beside me just shaking his head, and I couldn’t help but try and get a comment about the Cardinals-Redskins game that was to be played.

“The importance of football ranks zero,” Tillman said, and of course he was right. That day, so much was left unknown, but it was quickly determined that the games that weekend would be postponed and frankly, with a 2-year-old at home, flying toward all that chaos wasn’t something I really wanted to do — not that it mattered, after all air travel was grounded for the time being.

The Cardinals didn’t play a regular-season game until Denver visited the following weekend. I remember going to New York to play the Giants in December for a Saturday game, and heading out on Friday night with cohorts Kent Somers, Scott Bordow and Pedro Gomez. By the time dinner was over, it was 11:30, and we drove over to Ground Zero. For December, the weather was surprisingly mild, and I remember coming around the corner and being much closer than you’d expect to the crash site. Workers even at that hour continued to plug away at the wreckage, pieces of the bottom of the building still pointing haphazardly in the air around so much debris, the floodlights giving the whole area an eerie glow. Just outside the gates were the leftovers of all the makeshift staging areas from the disaster, hundreds of “Have you seen me?” posters still hanging from those who had hoped against hoped they hadn’t lost someone in the towers.

A few weeks later the Cardinals played their makeup game in Washington, and I ended up at the same hotel and I took the train to the Pentagon stop, seeing the damage and thinking how — the previous year — it had been so easy to walk near the Pentagon to see it up close and how that was never happening again.

Now, the Cardinals find themselves going to New York this week again, a couple of days after the anniversary. In 2005, the Cards played in New York on 9/11, which was memorable. I haven’t had a trip to New York — including one with my family — without visiting the area, and this time will be no different. Today, there are always a flood of memories that come rushing back from a day, and a time, that will always resonate.


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Cardinals among top 50 valued sports teams

Posted by Darren Urban on July 16, 2014 – 9:54 am

Forbes came out with another list ranking the (estimated) value of sports teams, in this case, the world’s 50 most valuable franchises. The Cardinals make the list at No. 40, with an estimated worth of $961 million. Only the Raiders and Jaguars don’t make the top 50 list among NFL teams, meaning that even though it is top-heavy with soccer clubs (the top three are soccer, a major nod to the global fan base the sport produces) the list still provides context of how powerful the NFL — which dominates the United States — remains.

The top team is the soccer club Real Madrid, valued at $3.44 billion. The top non-soccer franchise is the New York Yankees, worth $2.5 billion, at No. 4. The top NFL team is at No. 5, with the Dallas Cowboys coming in at $2.3 billion. The Patriots, Redskins and Giants are also in the top 10.

Among NFC West teams, the San Francisco 49ers ($1.224 billion) are 20th, the Seattle Seahawks ($1.081 billion) are 28th, and the St. Louis Rams ($875 million and hoping for a new stadium, which would boost their value) are 45th.


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Soon, Veldheer should be left tackle

Posted by Darren Urban on March 11, 2014 – 3:30 pm

No, nothing is official. Free agent left tackle Jared Veldheer is not officially signed, instead headed here for an visit that will allow the Cardinals medical staff to check him out and for General Manager Steve Keim, team president Michael Bidwill and coach Bruce Arians — among others — to talk to the guy face to face. But multiple reports not only have Veldheer agreeing to a contract with the Cardinals but also details of a five-year deal. The main numbers are $17 million guaranteed and a $6.5 million bonus, and if true (and assuming Veldheer is the solid left tackle everyone expects) Keim once again weaved his magic for a reasonable deal that would be cheaper than the other top tackles on the market. All for a 6-foot-8, 320-pound behemoth who turns 27 in June.

Here is a contract breakdown (already) of Veldheer’s deal, courtesy of overthecap.com.

I don’t think there is any question quarterback Carson Palmer — who played with and was protected by Veldheer in Oakland — endorsed his former teammate. Bruce Arians has said the Cards get input on players from players once in a while. And there is no question Veldheer was an intriguing possibility because of his age and price tag. If all goes right in the visit (and there is no reason it shouldn’t) Veldheer should be holding a press conference sometime Wednesday. Certainly Veldheer is confident. Not only did he tweet a goodbye to Raider fans, but he also changed his Twitter description and avatar:


– In case you missed it, wide receiver Andre Roberts is headed to Washington on a four-year deal that reportedly has $8 million guaranteed. The wide receiver market hasn’t exactly opened with a bang like the tackle or defensive back positions have, so Roberts looks like he came out way ahead. Good for him. He’ll get a better opportunity to catch passes in Washington than he would have here behind Larry Fitzgerald and Michael Floyd.

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With 2014 schedule, London calling?

Posted by Darren Urban on October 8, 2013 – 3:03 pm

The NFL announced today that three teams will host games in London during the 2014 season: Jacksonville, Oakland and Atlanta. Why does that matter? Because you never know if the Cardinals could get picked to be the visiting team to a London game.

The Cards don’t play Jacksonville next season. But they do travel to Oakland, and with an away game at the “matching” NFC South team wherever they finish, there is a chance the Cardinals could have a road game in Atlanta next season — making then two of the three London games possible. We are far away from knowing for sure, of course, but it’s an interesting tidbit to chew on.

So, as long as we are discussion the 2014 opponents — because why wouldn’t you five games into the previous season — here is the list of the Cardinals’ schedule-to-be:


Philadelphia Eagles

Washington Redskins

Kansas City Chiefs

San Diego Chargers

NFC North “like” finisher (If Cardinals finish in second place in division, for instance, they play the second-place team from NFCN)

Seattle Seahawks

San Francisco 49ers

St. Louis Rams


Dallas Cowboys

New York Giants

Denver Broncos

Oakland Raiders

NFC South “like” finisher

Seattle Seahawks

San Francisco 49ers

St. Louis Rams

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Horton’s Norv Turner connection

Posted by Darren Urban on January 2, 2013 – 2:41 pm

First, a disclaimer: I have zero idea whom Ray Horton — if he were hired as Cardinals’ head coach — would hire as his offensive assistants, including coordinator. Horton said he knows who he would have on his staff, but alas, he isn’t sharing those names. This next anecdote, then, might just be an interesting story and nothing more.

But, for those asking, Horton not only has a strong connection with former Chargers head coach-and-pretty-good-offensive-coordinator Norv Turner, but a memorable moment too. Horton was finishing his playing days as a defensive back with the Dallas Cowboys in 1991 and 1992, which were the first two of Turner’s three seasons as OC for the juggernaut Cowboys back in the day.

Horton explained their relationship, which I chronicled back in a story when Horton arrived in Arizona in 2011:

The greatest compliment Horton said he ever received came from Norv Turner, who was the offensive coordinator for the Cowboys during Horton’s playing days in Dallas. As Horton’s NFL career came to a close, Turner – who figured to get a head coaching opportunity soon – asked Horton to be on his staff, whenever that might be.

Horton was perplexed. He talked to a lot of coaches in Dallas, but they were defensive coaches, given Horton’s position. He hadn’t interacted with Turner nearly enough to produce an invitation to work for him. Turner told him he wanted Horton because all the Dallas defensive coaches spoke so highly of him – and that willingness from Turner sticks with Horton to this day.

When Turner ended up as the Washington Redskins head coach in 1994, he indeed brought Horton aboard. Horton was on Turner’s staff for three seasons as a assistant defensive backs coach and defensive assistant before he was plucked to be defensive backs coach in Cincinnati. So yes, there is definitely a connection with Horton and Turner. Does that mean Horton would reach out to Turner to be OC? Again, no way to know. But it wouldn’t be a shock given their history.

– More updates on the general manager front. I’d expect in-house candidate Steve Keim to be interviewed this week. Keim is also reportedly going to interview for the GM jobs in both San Diego and Jacksonville. Tim Graham also reported that the Cardinals will interview Redskins director of pro personnel Morocco Brown — he’s held his post for five years — for the GM job. The Rooney Rule also governs general manager searches, and Brown would fulfill that requirement for the Cards. Coincidentally, Brown, like Keim, played football at North Carolina State (although Keim was gone by the time Brown arrived there.) UPDATE: The Brown interview has been confirmed.

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A little extra to spend

Posted by Darren Urban on March 12, 2012 – 5:12 pm

The NFL announced Monday,with free agency so close, that they were hitting the Redskins and Cowboys with removal of cap space this year and next because of violations when the league was uncapped in 2011. The details aren’t as important for the Cards except for the part where the league is giving that extra cap space to 28 other teams (the Saints and Raiders had minor infractions so they don’t get extra space, but they aren’t docked either.)

The extra space is $1.6 million, according to ESPN. At this point, any little bit helps for the Cards. The next day or so, when teams must comply with the cap and begin free agency, could be busy across the league and have results like today when the Texans surprisingly cut right tackle Eric Winston for cap reasons.

Wow, a post that didn’t mention Pey … dang it!

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So many unknowns with Manning

Posted by Darren Urban on March 7, 2012 – 4:49 pm

Let’s start here: Peyton Manning, at his press conference Wednesday to announce his release from the Colts, said “I haven’t thought a lot about where I’ll play.”

You can argue about whether that’s true or not, but only Peyton knows for sure. So that leaves everybody scrambling today to guesstimate what will happen with Manning. SI’s Jim Trotter said one team exec thought between nine and 11 teams would be chasing Manning. That number sounds about right, and the usual suspects — including the Cards — have been named many, many times across media platforms.

I’ve had a lot of questions of how “serious” the Cards would be about Manning. That I can’t answer. Not one time, on or off the record, has anyone in the building talked about Manning specifically. That wasn’t going to happen when he was still a Colt, and it probably won’t change even now. The best you can do is connect some dots, from the door general manager Rod Graves left ajar in Indy when he said the team will continue to look for ways to improve. Certainly, no one has dismissed the idea publicly, and there have been a lot of outlets (starting with Charley Casserly, remember?) that have connected Manning with the Cards or said the team will have interest — and I would agree. Fox’s Adam Schein even reported that the Cards not only will chase Manning but have a plan to bring in receiver Reggie Wayne too. (That would be a surprise to me, but ruling things out at this point would probably be a mistake.)

At this point, though, nothing is much different than when speculation began weeks ago. Teams must figure out if Manning has interest in playing for them (I am guessing there are not really nine-to-11 teams that Manning would play for, although he might not tell them that to keep his heavy leverage.) He’ll have to have a workout at some point for all the teams that want to see it. He’ll have to submit to physicals. His health remains a big deal.

“I’m throwing it pretty well,” Manning said at his presser today. “I’ve still got some work to do. I’ve got some progress to make, but I’ve come a long way. … I’m feeling closer and closer. I have to remind myself that it is March. I have a hard time doing that at times. It sure feels comfortable.”

His release allows teams — on-the-record and otherwise — finally feel comfortable letting people know of their interest. There have been reports today about the Seahawks, Redskins, Jets and Broncos seeking Manning, and the Dolphins have long been a no-brainer. As for the Cards, I agree it fits on a lot of levels, from the dome to Fitz to the fact Whiz worked well with Kurt Warner and has shown himself flexible enough to fit a talented QB into the offense. Logistics could be difficult, such as the roster bonus Kevin Kolb is due in 10 days. Trotter said he heard Manning will need time to collect himself after an emotional separation from Indy.

Manning, who has a home in Miami, was followed long enough by a media group after returning there today that he finally stopped to talk (that would get real old real quick). He told those reporters he didn’t know what teams were interested in him and “I don’t know if it’s like college recruiting where you take visits. It’s all new to me.”

It’s all new to everyone. Health issues aside, I don’t remember such a high-profile player being on the open market like this, an iconic player, who at least still has a chance to be playing at a high level.

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Cards sell out game against 49ers

Posted by Darren Urban on December 8, 2011 – 3:01 pm

The Cardinals officially have sold out Sunday’s game, meaning it will not be blacked out locally and instead be shown on Fox (Ch. 10) in the Valley. The game is the 61st straight time – out of 61 possibilities – in which the Cards have sold out University of Phoenix Stadium.

That’s an impressive total (46 of those games are from the regular season) but they have a while to go to match the longest streaks. Both the Denver Broncos and Washington Redskins have sold out all their regular season games since 1974. The Steelers since 1976. The Jets date back to 1981, the Giants 1981 and the Packers 1989.

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Beanie and the five-minute mark

Posted by Darren Urban on September 19, 2011 – 4:50 pm

The sequence in question — really only one play, when you break it down — is innocently buried in the play-by-play of Sunday’s 22-21 loss in Washington:

Arizona Cardinals at 5:17
1-10-ARZ 20 (5:17) C.Wells right guard to ARZ 23 for 3 yards (R.McIntosh).
2-7-ARZ 23 (4:35) (Shotgun) K.Kolb pass incomplete short right to E.Doucet.
Penalty on ARZ-T.Heap, Illegal Motion, declined.
3-7-ARZ 23 (4:32) (Shotgun) K.Kolb pass incomplete short right to E.Doucet (R.Kerrigan).
4-7-ARZ 23 (4:28) D.Zastudil punts 41 yards to WAS 36, Center-M.Leach, downed by ARZ. WAS-D.Gomes was injured during the play.


Many (as in people commenting on my Twitter feed and on the blog) seem to wonder why, on that second down play, Beanie Wells was not given the ball. The clock would have kept moving, some said. Beanie was running well, said others. In the end, the sport of second-guessing play calls may rank up there with reasons people like to watch the games. Here are my thoughts on that sequence — the choices make sense to me.

If the Cardinals had still been ahead, 21-13, and had been able to prevent that painful fourth-down touchdown pass moments before, I get running Beanie a few times. But even after the Cards knocked down the two-point conversion, they were only up by two points. With five minutes left, the playbook still has to be wide-open — you can’t just grind the clock and punt. Not when a field goal beats you. Could a Beanie second-down run made it third-and-2? Sure. It could have also been stoned (and the Redskins were looking run-first at that point) and you’d be faced with third-and-7 anyway.

One thing I will say: It seemed like the second-down shotgun look would have been helpful to a Beanie quick draw; Wells gained 45 of his yards on three rushing attempts when quarterback Kevin Kolb started in shotgun on the play.

Milking the clock makes no sense to me. If you don’t get the first down and drain the clock, all it would have meant was that the Redskins kick the game-winning field goal as time expires rather than the Cards getting a final drive chance with 1:46 left — and that pass to Chansi Stuckey made things look at first so promising, until he was stripped.

As for Wells’ only having three carries in the first half before getting 11 in the second half, Whisenhunt said “we didn’t have a lot of opportunities in the first half.” (The Cards did only have 18 20 first-half plays). “In the second half, we got into a package where we were having success. It was giving them problems and Beanie ran the ball very well.”

“You’d like to start out a little better than we did but we didn’t,” Whisenhunt added. “That’s something we are going to continue to work on.”

Wells looked frustrated after the game, but that could have been more about the gut-punch loss. The Cards only had three fourth-quarter possessions, and one lasted one play, the 73-yard bomb to Fitz. Then came the above possession, and then the final Stuckey fumble possession.

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Redskins aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on September 18, 2011 – 7:45 pm

Beanie Wells, like his teammates, was frustrated. The running back sat at his locker after Sunday’s one-point loss to the Redskins, having seen one slip away. He had watched friend and former teammate Tim Hightower light up the Cards in the first half, and then Wells – who had just six yards rushing on only three first-half carries – roared back in the second half. He ended up with 93 yards on 14 carries and nearly overtook Hightower (96 yards on 20 carries) despite the latter’s head start.

His second-half coming out was “just about opportunity and execution,” Wells said, and I’m sure he wasn’t thrilled it took a half to get there. More importantly, his comment serves well the Cardinals’ entire game Sunday. They had opportunity. They didn’t execute.

The defense is going to have a chance to rally big next week playing in Seattle. Clearly the Seahawks are offensively challenged. Of course, the Cards don’t have the luxury of making any assumptions right now.

– The game played out like bookends. Although the fourth quarter had a different vibe than the first, the end result was the Cards ran six offensive plays in the first quarter, and six in the fourth. The blame falls on both sides – the defense has to find a way to get off the field, the offense a way to stay on – and it’s difficult to win under those circumstances.

– The Redskins, by the way, had 25 plays in the first quarter and 31 in the fourth.

– The way Kevin Kolb took the hit from London Fletcher and still delivered that ball, I mean, that’s the reason his ex-Philly teammates kept swearing by the guy and saying he’d play well in Arizona and why his new teammates love him already.

– Kolb also did the most important thing with Larry Fitzgerald – he just gave Fitz a chance. I know Fitz was wide open, but Kolb was worried he had overthrown him. Nope. Fitz made it work.

– You don’t want to overstate the importance of an injury, but given the way linebacker Daryl Washington played in the opener and given his speed, I find it hard to believe the Redskins would have run the ball so well had Washington been able to play.

– That’s three field-goal blocks for Calais Campbell in his career. Having a 6-foot-8 weapon in the middle there is crucial. Campbell needs to make more of an impact on defense, however.

– Just for a brief moment, I thought Patrick Peterson – maybe, just maybe – was going to break that final punt return.

– You noticed Peterson and A.J. Jefferson a lot less Sunday than last week, Of course, the Redskins were running it more (and with more success) than Carolina did.

– Wells had a good day after he started getting the ball more. It sure seemed like he had most of his success, interestingly, on the quick draw off shotgun snaps.

– Two TDs in two weeks for tight end Jeff King. He’s already one short of his career-best season.

– Former Card RB Tim Hightower got away with baiting the Cards into an early penalty, giving a shot to linebacker Paris Lenon well after the play, setting off a scrum that ended with safety Kerry Rhodes getting nabbed for an unsportsmanlike penalty. Hightower said he knew how to push the buttons of his former teammates. You have to stay out of that stuff if you are a Card (although I’m not sure why Hightower wasn’t flagged in the first place.)

There isn’t a ton to analyze at this point. The Cardinals will have to find a way to slow opponents. Because certainly, when you have a chance to win a road game, you don’t want to see it fade like Sunday’s did.

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