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Blogs

The Cardinals and the Presidents

Posted by Darren Urban on October 11, 2012 – 3:28 pm

Larry Fitzgerald has had a chance to be around former President George W. Bush and former President Bill Clinton before — because, you know, that’s how he rolls — but the Cardinals wide receiver and a handful of teammates got a few minutes in with both Wednesday night, an experience they weren’t going to forget.

Kicker Jay Feely (who has played golf with Bush, actually), linebacker Sam Acho, wide receiver Andre Roberts and former Cards quarterback Rich Bartel all joined Fitz at the debate/speeches by the former Presidents at the Deutsche Bank Financial Summit. Before the event, for about 20 minutes, the quartet even got to sit and chat with the Presidents, talking “sports and policy,” Feely said. And also about Acho’s background.

Fitzgerald went to Africa with Clinton in the offseason to help distribute hearing aids together. The subject came up and Fitzgerald pointed out to Clinton that Acho too had done charity work  in Nigeria, adding that both of Acho’s parents do the same after being born and raised there before emigrating to this country. Acho’s father became a doctor, his mother a nurse practitioner. During the “debate” later in front of a couple of thousand people, Acho said, Clinton got a question about immigration in the U.S. and used Acho’s family as a perfect example of why it is important.

“I thought that was unbelievable,” Acho said.

The evening as a whole was fantastic, Feely said, because of the exchange of ideas.

“It was great listening and learning from them,” said Feely, who has talked about his own desire about getting into politics when his football career is over. “Whether you agree with one party or the other, you can learn from people. You have tremendous amount of respect for both men for what they have accomplished. I’ve listened to a lot of debates, there have been none better than that one. It wasn’t party politics. They both said things that wouldn’t necessarily go with their party line. They talked about solutions and answers.”

Hanging out with two Presidents wasn’t a bad deal either.

“To a certain extent, it feels larger than life,” Acho said. “I told Rich, ‘Man, these guys are going to be in stone.’ Look at Mount Rushmore. Yet we were sitting at a table with them and they are normal guys. They are unique. It was so cool to be in that environment. In 20 years I can tell my kids, ‘I was at a table with these guys, and I have pictures to prove it!'”

And the Presidents have jerseys to prove it as well (h/t to Feely on the picture.)

“It was fun,” Fitzgerald said. “I’ve had a chance to be around those guys on several different occasions. It was a great experience. I was happy my teammates could come.”


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Seahawks aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on September 9, 2012 – 8:33 pm

As well as the defense played – and make no mistake, the Cards would have been in huge trouble if the defense didn’t play the way it did – the way Kevin Kolb played when he came in in the fourth quarter was clearly the story Sunday. He airmailed his first throw well over Fitz’s head in a toss that looked like every ounce of adrenaline being pumped into one pass. But after that he was sharp, everything the Cards hoped he’d be. And that was his lone drive, save for his lone kneeldown at the end. He felt like the equivalent of a comic or rapper who just had the perfect finish, and then dropped the mic and walked off stage.

Kolb certainly didn’t act that way after – “To win a game in that fashion, the way the preseason went, I’ll definitely enjoy this evening,” Kolb said – you know he has to be feeling pretty good inside. The guy is human. Any one of us criticized to the level that he’s been criticized, redemption is always sweeter.

Of course, that’ll last a week, and he’ll start in New England, a brutal test, and he’ll have to put up or shut up again. But that’s in a week. Right now, it’s good.

– Everyone wondering about the relationship between Kolb and John Skelton, people talking about Kolb blowing off Skelton when he came off the field hurt in the Hall of Fame game or Skelton somehow acting happy when Kolb made mistakes in Tennessee are just foolish. When Skelton got hurt, it was Kolb on the field crouched down with the doctors, talking to him at that moment. Again, both guys desperately want to be the starter. But it isn’t personal, it’s why Kolb was never going to be a problem as a backup, and why there was genuine happiness for Kolb’s success in the locker room afterward.

– Skelton’s ankle sprain means he’ll be down a little while, I’d think. Ryan Lindley becomes the backup in that case. You’d think they’d sign someone. It can’t be Rich Bartel – since Bartel was put on IR before being released on an injury settlement, he can’t sign with the Cards for six weeks (at least, that’s what he tweeted.)

– Kolb will need the running game. The Seattle defense is good, but for Beanie and Ryan Williams to combine for 23 yards on 15 carries? Ouch. Wide receiver Andre Roberts was the Cards’ leading rusher with his lone end-around for 15 yards. LaRod Stephens-Howling even vultured the lone touchdown with his one-yard run on third down.

– The run game is what made coach Ken Whisenhunt’s answer to a good day from the pass protection – one sack despite the fears of two new tackles – tempered. “They brought a lot of pressure today, and we didn’t run the ball good enough, so how can you judge a line?” Whisenhunt said. “Based on protection? In that they did well. We didn’t run the ball very well. We have to get that fixed.”

– It’ll be interesting to see how bad the shoulder injury is to Jamell Fleming, but Michael Adams had a very, very good game in his place. He had three tackles and three passes defensed, including a pair of impressive breakups on that final drive. “Like any other day’s work,” said Adams, who probably wouldn’t have played much other than special teams if Fleming hadn’t gotten hurt. “When your number is called, you go out and make plays. Today I was able to make plays. I’m living for today. I don’t know if I’ll see tomorrow.”

– The timeout fiasco wasn’t good. The officials admitted later they basically gave Seattle four timeouts. Here’s an explanation from a guy who knows his stuff. I fall in the it-is-what-it-is camp.

– Two sacks for Paris Lenon, his career high (and he’s below, belting Seahawks QB Russell Wilson). “I just played within the scheme,” he said. He had a very good game and showed why he is such an important cog. Daryl Washington had a very good game too, and Reggie Walker got a ton of playing time – while Stewart Bradley was relegated to special teams.

– Calais Campbell with yet another blocked field goal, after three last year. Huge Sunday, since without the block, the Seahawks are down just one late and easily kick a field goal to win (unless, of course, Campbell would have blocked that one – which is always possible.)

– Tight end Todd Heap came up huge in the winning drive, with two big catches. Larry Fitzgerald didn’t have a gigantic game, but Kolb found him twice on that drive too. Obviously the Cards want him to get the ball more often, although they were so bad in the third quarter, there were hardly any snaps.

– After Adrian Wilson’s interception, he gave the ball to Patrick Peterson for a return attempt at the end of the first half. It was a far cry from in Seattle last year, when Peterson made a pick at the end of the half and Wilson implored him to get down and not risk a fumble. Wilson seemed to have forgotten that. “I know my role, and my role isn’t a runner with the ball,” Wilson deadpanned.

That’s it for tonight. It was a grind for the Cards, but they won, and it’ll make for a much better week than the alternative.


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Haggans to Niners, and other comings and goings

Posted by Darren Urban on September 2, 2012 – 9:54 am

I don’t expect any official word about who the Cards are adding to the roster until tomorrow — including practice squad — but because of the wonderful world of social media and the internet, news has leaked out about a handful of people.

– It came out yesterday that the Cards had claimed outside linebacker Jamaal Westerman on waivers after the Dolphins had released him. Westerman, 6-3 and 255 pounds, spent the first three years of his career with the Jets, and playing all 16 games last season he had 3.5 sacks. He signed with the Dolphins in March and was recently released. The Cards needed a linebacker, because they had only three outside linebackers on the roster after cutting Clark Haggans and Brandon Williams.

– The 49ers also claimed Westerman. When they didn’t get him, they are going to sign Haggans to fill their need for a reserve linebacker. That’s an interesting turn of events.

– There still isn’t any official word on the practice squad, but because of the Twitterverse, there have been a handful of names floating out there that are supposedly going to be on the Cards’ PS (which could begin to be put together yesterday). Included are former Arizona State receiver Gerell Robinson (cut by Denver), recently released defensive tackle Ricky Lumpkin and linebacker Colin Parker, and offensive tackle Steven Baker, a 6-8, 310-pounder cut by the Colts. UPDATE: As AndyStandsUp pointed out in the comments, there was also a report that former University of Arizona outside linebacker Ricky Elmore will sign to the Cards’ practice squad.

UPDATE II: Tight end Steve Skelton is practice squad-bound too.

– Quarterback Rich Bartel, who had been placed on injured reserve with a bad shoulder, tweeted out he was throwing well, had passed a physical, and was actually going to be released.


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Cards cut to 53

Posted by Darren Urban on August 31, 2012 – 4:52 pm

The key point anytime a team gets to the 53-man roster on final cuts is this: It’s never quite the final roster. That’s something to keep in mind when looking over the Cards’ cuts today, which leaves an unbalanced roster for now.

The team decided not to move tackle Levi Brown off of injured reserve, leaving 22 cuts to be made:

Injured reserve — RB Javarris James (knee), QB Rich Bartel (shoulder)

Waived-injured – LB Brandon Williams (shoulder), WR Stephen Williams (Achilles)

Released – CB Crezdon Butler, LB Antonio Coleman, S Blake Gideon, LB Clark Haggans, G Russ Hochstein, DT Ricky Lumpkin, LB Colin Parker, CB Larry Parker, WR DeMarco Sampson, TE Steve Skelton, RB Alfonso Smith, LB Quan Sturdivant, DE Ronald Talley, DE Everrette Thompson, TE Martell Webb, C Scott Wedige, WR Isaiah Williams, T D.J. Young.

So this is what we get out of this:

– The Cardinals cut Sampson and Stephen Williams, leaving five receivers and undrafted LaRon Byrd (pictured below) as No. 5.

– OLB Quentin Groves makes the cut but both Clark Haggans and Brandon Williams are out – you’d have to think another linebacker is on the way.

– Right now, the Cards have 11 defensive backs and nine offensive linemen, and you figure one or the other, if not both, will be trimmed down. All three OL draft picks are on the squad right now. The defensive backs will have to come down if you are looking for a place to cut to add at another position. In my guess at 53, I had guessed six WRs and eight OL, and the Cards took one from receiver to add to the line. And they took one of eight linebacker slots and added it to the 10 defensive back spots, so I was kind of close. We’ll see how it shakes out.

– Running back William Powell indeed makes the team too.

– This group probably won’t be the exact group that hits the practice field Monday. That’s the cold reality of the NFL.


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Broncos (and preseason) aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on August 31, 2012 – 12:25 am

The Cardinals avoided overtime Thursday night (thank goodness). And now the fun begins.

Final cuts are in a matter of hours, coach Ken Whisenhunt will have a press conference at 2 p.m. Arizona time. So, in the interest of getting some sleep, some highlights and thoughts from the preseason finale to tide you over until the real news tomorrow (which should be cuts and possibly could include a starting QB choice):

– Injuries probably didn’t make roster picks, but they might have cemented them. Rich Bartel was 4-for-5 before leaving with a right shoulder injury, although the way rookie Ryan Lindley performed, Lindley was probably always going to be the pick. He’s got a lot of upside. If Javarris James was in the mix at all at running back, that ended when he tore his ACL on Omar Bolden’s 103-yard kickoff return. That’s just unfortunate.

– If I had to do my 53-man roster over, I might change a couple of things. Or at least seriously consider it. Now I’m finding it hard to believe outside linebacker Quentin Groves doesn’t stick around. The other backup outside linebacker choice then would come down to Clark Haggans or Brandon Williams. In the secondary, undrafted rookie Blake Gideon got a ton of playing time, and while Rashad Johnson and Adrian Wilson sat out, I start to wonder if Gideon could have a chance to slip on the roster, in place of Johnson, maybe? And there is little question there is a decision coming between A.J. Jefferson, Greg Toler and Michael Adams. There will be some drama tomorrow.

– Ryan Williams did not play as Whiz took a long look at both William Powell and Alfonso Smith as they battle for a roster spot. Powell had 18 yards on nine carries, Smith five on five, and neither really stood out Thursday (although Powell did have a nice kickoff return late.)

– I thought Beanie Wells looked very good in his start. He had 35 yards on seven carries, although he said he needs to get better. “I have to get my leg drive and get my feet under me,” Wells said.

– LaRon Byrd had a couple of nice grabs among his three catches for 47 yards and if he didn’t solidify his spot, it’ll be because the Cards only keep five receivers. But if they keep six, he’s in, I’d think.

– Michael Floyd had an amazing touchdown catch for his first in the NFL. Ball bouncing around, Floyd grabbing it while he was hanging parallel to the ground and holding on as he crashed to the turf. “That was a much more acrobatic circus catch than I ever could have made,” fellow wideout Larry Fitzgerald said. Methinks Fitz is a bit modest, but no matter. It was a great play.

– The Cards have to be thrilled with what Lindley showed, especially for a rookie and a guy they picked in the sixth round. He had a couple of clunkers (although his one interception was a mistake by receiver Isaiah Williams, who didn’t pick up a checked call at the line, and the other pick was called back with a penalty). Bhe threw the TD and threw some darts and maneuvered the Cards to a late tying drive thanks to a 56-yard bomb to Williams (pictured below). The Cards couldn’t get it in the end zone, but again, Lindley looks like he has a potential future.

– Lindley had some decent protection early with the starting offensive line (although rookie right tackle Bobby Massie did have a couple of hiccups on an early drive with a holding penalty and to get beat for sack.) Will I be surprised to see the Cards pick up an offensive lineman via waivers as teams cut? Absolutely not.

– Whisenhunt said the Cardinals haven’t ruled out using the new IR rule – which allows players with major injuries to return later in the season without taking up a roster spot – on tackle Levi Brown. The Cards will talk more about Brown’s prognosis to return. The decision has to be made by Friday afternoon.

In fact, most of the news will come down Friday afternoon. So with that, I’ll say goodnight.


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Lindley gets the QB start against Denver

Posted by Darren Urban on August 27, 2012 – 11:30 am

Coach Ken Whisenhunt didn’t make a decision on who his starting quarterback will be when the regular season starts, but he did make a decision on who will start against Denver in the preseason finale — and it isn’t Kevin Kolb or John Skelton. It will be rookie Ryan Lindley.

In the last preseason game, it doesn’t make much sense — given who the Broncos will or, more importantly, won’t play — to play starters, Whiz said. Kolb and Skelton likely will sit out, in fact, with Rich Bartel coming in in relief of Lindley. William Powell, who leads the NFL in rushing, is going to get a start at running back (although Beanie Wells and Ryan Williams will each get a chance to play to knock more rust off). This is about getting some reps against defenders higher on the food chain for guys like Lindley and Powell.

One thing Whisenhunt made very clear: Lindley, regardless of his performance, is not in the mix to be a starter in the regular season. He was even asked about all the fans looking for Lindley to play if Ryan has a good game. Whisenhunt knows that influx of opinion is possible — but again, emphasized Lindley will not be starting when the games count.

The decision for the quarterback is coming, obviously, but Whiz still isn’t saying when. Practice this week remains part of the evaluation process between Kolb and Skelton, although with Lindley and Bartel needing reps to prep for this game, you have to wonder how much more evaluation Whisenhunt and the coaches really still need to make. (As I mentioned the other day in response to a blog comment, what Whiz is telling all of us and what he is really thinking aren’t necessarily the same thing.)

The depth chart was officially changed, with D’Anthony Batiste now the starter at left tackle and Bobby Massie at right tackle. Whisenhunt wouldn’t rule out the Cards adding a tackle through free agency or waivers, but noted that he liked how Batiste played.

It was a lot to digest, especially since the Cards still don’t have a QB announcement.

The players aren’t available until later this afternoon, with the team headed over to ASU’s Dickey Dome for practice first.


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Ignoring the storm

Posted by Darren Urban on August 14, 2012 – 6:39 pm

One of John Skelton’s greatest attributes is his sense of calm. It’s one of the reasons he can be so effective in the fourth quarter, because he doesn’t get rattled. So it makes sense that, even with his name at the center of the NFL world most of Tuesday because of a national report he might be the starter, Skelton shrugged it off.

“For me, not speaking for Kevin, I take it the same way whether it is a local reporter reporting something or a national outlet, it doesn’t faze me either way,” Skelton said. “I think it’s fair to say I haven’t really thought about (getting it over). My goal every day is to come to practice and get better. It’ll all work itself out in the end.”

Skelton does think he’s much improved over the Skelton of training camp 2011. “I think I am, and I think coaches will say the same thing and I think players will say the same thing,” he said. “Really, getting better day in and day out and getting consistent with it is my goal.”

– I thought Kevin Kolb had arguably his best practice of camp today. Maybe all the news swirling around motivated him (maybe that’s what the news was meant to do.) I thought Skelton struggled for the first part,overthrowing several times, but in the final segment of 11-on-11 looked much more sharp.

– DL Nick Eason returned to practice after missing almost two weeks to tend to his ill mother, who later passed away. LB Zach Nash, who hurt his ankle early in training camp, also finally came back to practice.

– QB Rich Bartel was ill and sat out. CB Greg Toler left after tweaking his right knee (the opposite one that he tore ligaments in last preseason). LB Paris Lenon (ankle) and WR LaRon Byrd (shoulder) remained out.


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What the Cards have in Lindley

Posted by Darren Urban on May 4, 2012 – 10:28 am

So the questions began yesterday, asking me my thoughts on Sports Illustrated’s Peter King saying that sixth-round draft pick Ryan Lindley — the second of two sixth-round picks, mind you — not only had a better chance to make an impact as a rookie than guys like Miami’s Ryan Tannehill or Seattle’s Russell Wilson, but could be playing by midseason. I know Peter a little and respect him greatly as a reporter. I wouldn’t be shocked if someone from the Cards whispered in his ear how much they like Lindley’s potential. But to be playing by midseason? I can’t see that as anything but ridiculous — barring injuries.

But Darren, you’ll say, the Cards just did it with Max Hall and John Skelton in 2010, and you would have said the same thing about those guys in May that year. Which is true. But I will argue 2010 and the Hall situation is precisely one of the reasons Lindley won’t play. Hall wasn’t ready, but the Cards had nowhere to turn once Derek Anderson failed.

This year, the Cards have two guys who they can go to in Skelton and Kevin Kolb. Neither, I believe, is in the place of Matt Leinart, who had already had multiple chances to convince the coaches he was the right choice and never did win them over. There is a little matter of the $7 million bonus the Cards just gave Kolb, which you don’t do and then dump a guy (which is what it would take for Lindley to be in a spot to play.) And there is also the circumstances of both Lindley’s rookie status — we know coach Ken Whisenhunt would rather not play rookies too soon — and where the season would have to be to create a Lindley opportunity. The Cards would have to be 1-7 or 0-8, I believe, and have not one but two QBs to be terrible for Lindley to get a shot. I just don’t see that happening.

(He’s got to beat out Richard Bartel for a roster spot too. Bartel isn’t going to just give it up.)

So what do the Cards have in Lindley? Football-wise, they have a big, strong pocket passer with potential. It may even be better in the locker room, at least according to his former college receiver and new Cardinals teammate DeMarco Sampson (pictured below with Lindley.)

“Just having him on the team, it’s selfish, but those last two seasons at San Diego State, he helped me a lot, having me stop all the partying, keeping me on the straight and narrow,” Sampson said. “He’s an uplifting guy. He’s a great teammate. He’ll never try to tear anyone down.

“He has a lot to learn, but he’s a good listener. He takes criticism well. He’s all upside to me. I’m biased I know, but he’s the type of guy you want on your team. I’m willing to put money on, if they wanted him to play receiver, he’d try it to help the team.”

There are reasons to like Lindley and what he can be. But you take a guy in the sixth round to sit, learn and develop. Not to play right away.


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McNulty move meant to be proactive

Posted by Darren Urban on February 8, 2012 – 3:38 pm

John McNulty was talking with Larry Fitzgerald after interviewing for the Cards’ open spot of quarterbacks coach. Fitz liked working with his receivers coach enough that he flew McNulty to the Pro Bowl this season as a guest, and he wondered (worried?) aloud to McNulty about who would end up coaching Fitzgerald if McNulty moved to work with QBs.

But McNulty had a simple thought: He thought he could help the quarterback spot, and that, in turn, could help the whole offense.

“I said, ‘Larry, we can sit here and complain about it and be frustrated, or I can try to do something about it,’ ” McNulty said. “I coached the position before, I think I can help those guys and I feel I can get them in a position where they can be more productive for our team. As opposed to, ‘I hope the next guy does this’ or ‘I wish we would do that.’ I figured I’d just throw the hat in the ring.”

One thing you definitely get the feeling of, and it’s McNulty’s passion and confidence in his new job. That’s what came across when he interviewed for the spot (and why both Ken Whisenhunt and president Michael Bidwill were so impressed).

“We’re beyond the replacing-of-Kurt-Warner at this stage,” McNulty said. “That’s not what we are talking about. When we are talking about production, you don’t have to win the game on your own, put the team on your shoulders.

“I’ve always taken a ground zero-type approach to teaching even the most base plays and teaching the fundamentals, where the mental and physical kind of mesh to the point to where, when it is all flying at you full speed, your body, your footwork, your training takes over, and you are able to operate with an efficiency to where the play is designed to operate. Anything after that, there’s enough going on in the game that anything can happen, good and bad. But you have to be on point with what you are supposed to do. That comes with repetitions.”

McNulty would love to get Kevin Kolb, John Skelton and Rich Bartel working on those reps now, although the new collective bargaining agreement prohibits work with coaches for a while. Whenever it is, however, McNulty wants his players going over footwork, mentally picturing plays and blitzes and the like, and having the quarterbacks do it over and over. And over, and over again.

“The nature of the business, if you are not productive, you won’t play,” McNulty said. “We have talented guys that have shown they can play and win games. It’s a matter of doing it more consistently.”

There is a familiarity with the quarterbacks that will help with the process. McNulty has seen Kolb and Skelton each from the first days they arrived in Arizona and has been able to observe what their strengths are and what needs improvement. Those are specifics with which to start, although, McNulty said, “there is no preconceived notion of who is going to be ‘The Guy.’ Just more of a knowledge base.”

As for Fitzgerald’s new boss, Fitz kept it simple in a text message when asked about what he thought of Reich coming aboard: “Congrats, and welcome to the family.”


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Washington, Stephens-Howling inactive for Redskins

Posted by Darren Urban on September 18, 2011 – 8:34 am

In what is no surprise after both missed all week of practice, LB Daryl Washington (calf) and RB LaRod Stephens-Howling (hand) are inactive for today’s game. Paris Lenon will slide into Washington’s spot and Stewart Bradley will get his first start for the Cardinals as the other inside linebacker. Chester Taylor will get Stephens-Howling’s spot.

John Skelton remains inactive at QB, meaning that, for the time being, Rich Bartel has won the No. 2 quarterback role, since Skelton has recovered from his ankle injury.

The other inactives include CB Crezdon Butler, who suffered a significant ankle injury last week in practice, CB Korey Lindsey, TE Jim Dray — who is still recovering from his pectoral strain — and T D’Anthony Batiste.


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