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Blogs

Hall important to Grimm, but he has priorities

Posted by Darren Urban on July 31, 2012 – 8:49 am

At each year’s induction ceremonies at the Pro Football Hall of Fame includes the chance for each Hall of Famer to return to Canton, don his gold jacket and take part in the festivities. That’s something Cardinals assistant head coach/offensive line coach Russ Grimm — inducted in 2010 — wants to do as much as he can.

This year, he can’t. The Cardinals won’t even arrive in Canton until Saturday night, and besides, Grimm said, “there are priorities.”

“I’ve got three young kids we drafted and a couple more young kids (on the offensive line), those are priorities,” Grimm said. “I’d rather spend an extra day in meeting time then sitting there in a gold jacket. That’s reality.”

The three draftees are guard Senio Kelemete, tackle Bobby Massie and tackle Nate Potter. Massie and Kelemete are second-string. They can use the time with Grimm.

But that doesn’t mean Grimm isn’t looking forward to the trip back to be around “a very humbling weekend.” Grimm will be part of the private tour the team will take of the Hall of Fame, and he still hasn’t had a chance to see his bronze bust in the Hall.

“I have the replica they give you but I want to see the one in Canton,” Grimm said. “I’m glad it happened. I didn’t play the game to get into the Hall of Fame. It’s a great reward. But it was getting to the point where family and friends were saying, ‘This is the year, this is the year.’ I was more excited just so I could stop hearing from people, ‘Aww, you got screwed.’ “

As for his gold jacket, that’s staying behind. He’ll wear Cardinal red this weekend. “I’m not even going to take it,” Grimm said. “It’s hanging in the closet.”


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The fifth belongs to the offensive line

Posted by Darren Urban on April 28, 2012 – 12:07 pm

A round after taking tackle Bobby Massie, the Cards go with Washington offensive lineman Senio Kelemete in the fifth round. Kelemete, 6-foot-3 and 300 pounds, played tackle in college but projects to guard in the NFL. Kelemete was a two-time captain with the Huskies, starting 41 of 45 games and getting on the Pac-12’s second-team all-conference. He only benched 20 times at the Combine (by comparison, new cornerback Jamell Fleming had 23 reps.)

“I see myself at left guard or left tackle,” Kelemete said. “Wherever they need to plug me in.”

He also said his strengths are his attitude, and bringing out the best in the players around him. The scouting reports call him tough and competitive, a guy who will get better with NFL coaching. The Cards needed to inject some youth on the offensive line and have done so with the last couple of picks. They need to be brought along under offensive line coach Russ Grimm and Kelemete seems like an ideal prospect. On the conference call, his voice inflection sounds a lot like the guy he would likely replace on the roster, Deuce Lutui.

UPDATE: Grimm said that indeed, Kelemete is projected as a guard. “It’s nice to know he can move out to tackle if you have to.” He also said the Cards “should” have enough depth. “You always like to have eight or nine you are comfortable putting out there.”


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Offensive line options

Posted by Darren Urban on April 4, 2012 – 4:33 pm

With the news Demetress Bell (I find it really weird he “fixed” the spelling problem but his Twitter account, which he controls, still says “Demetrius”) signed with the Eagles, the Cardinals move to the next step with the offensive line.

First, a word from offensive line coach Russ Grimm about free agent signee and versatile lineman Adam Snyder. “He was tops on our free agent list as far as offensive line was concerned,” Grimm said. “He’s a big physical guy, he’s smart, he has played a number of positions. Right now we have him penciled in at right guard but if we have to move it around before camp we’ll move it around.”

Snyder could play right tackle, but I’m thinking the Cards would rather keep him where he is. Bell would have worked in that regard, with Levi Brown being the other tackle. From here, the Cards can still draft a tackle — Reilly Reiff if he’s there, or Cordy Glenn, or maybe Jonathan Martin — and fill that spot. David DeCastro still is possible, but that would mean moving Snyder for sure. (They could go tackle (or guard) in a round later than the first.) I’m not sure free agency, with Bell gone, is a focus. For all those asking about Marcus McNeill, I’ve never got the sense they were interested, and his neck injury is a red flag.

The Cardinals also haven’t closed the door on a pair of their own free agents, right guard Deuce Lutui and/or right tackle Brandon Keith. Both of those players may end up on hold until after the draft, depending on who is chosen. At this point, it’s pretty clear that Brown/Daryn Colledge/Snyder/Lyle Sendlein will be four of the five starters. Obviously, who the other is will determine the landing spots for Brown and Snyder.

(It’s been pointed out that Jeremy Bridges has and can play right tackle, and if the season started today, Bridges would indeed play there. I expect the Cards to make a change there, however.)


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Offensive Lining up options early on

Posted by Darren Urban on January 18, 2012 – 4:51 pm

Sometimes, all signs point to a blog post. So you see a handful of assistant coaches re-signing — including offensive line coach Russ Grimm — and then Mel Kiper unveiling his first-of-the-season mock first round — with the Cards taking Stanford tackle Jonathan Martin — and then some Twitter talk about expected-free-agents-to-be like Carl Nicks and Ben Grubbs — a pair of upper echelon guards — and two weeks gone apparently means it’s time to revisit for the first of many.

The news Grimm returned was not a surprise. I know it was floated nationally other teams might have an interest in hiring him away and that he has ties to other head coaches, but I personally never thought he was going to go anywhere. For those wanting to know why the Cardinals and Ken Whisenhunt didn’t make a change, well, signs never pointed that way. Whiz has, while noting a few times the offensive line needed more consistency, still made sure at every turn to stay positive about the unit. You never got the sense he wanted to make a change there, and ownership must have had been convinced because I don’t see them offering up a new contract otherwise.

The personnel Grimm is going to work with, however, certainly seems likely to change, and possibly change drastically. Is Martin the pick at No. 13? No way to know right now. You’d figure offensive line or defense would make the most sense with the first choice, but we are so, so early in the process. Stanford guard David DeCastro could be another possibility. You figure top tackles Matt Kalil and Riley Reiff will be gone by then. Kiper is high on Martin’s potential, but then again, many felt Levi Brown could develop into a high-end tackle too and that hasn’t played out.

(I do promise this: If Andrew Luck is there at 13, the Cards will take him.)

Of course, that takes us to questions about Nicks and Grubbs and the subject of free agency. I could see the Cards, if they decide they like a tackle in the draft better than what they see in free agency, considering a big-ticket guard. But they already did that last year with left guard Daryn Colledge (whose cap number will be $5.5M next season and $6.5M after that going forward) and I’m not sure you do that with a second guard — especially when there are so many unknowns at tackle.

I could see them bringing Brown back at a reduced rate, but as I have said many times, I expect Brown to want to get cut and test the market first if he is going to have to take a pay cut anyway. (By the way, the picture below is Brown shoving the heck out of Seattle’s Chris Clemons after Clemons got a little chippy with prone Cards QB John Skelton in the finale.) The desire to bring Brandon Keith back may hinge on what happens with Brown.

Free agency starts March 13, and we should have an idea where the Brown thing is headed — at least, whether a deal can be reached without a release — a little before then. Obviously, that’s almost two months away. Lots of time for more speculation (without any concrete answers).

– A couple of interesting links from Cardinals past. First, concerning one of the true good guys of that Super Bowl team, fullback Terrelle Smith has gotten into high school coaching in California. But for a great read, check out this feature about long-time (and long-time ago) Cardinals long snapper Trey Junkin, who had his stalled career briefly return in 1991 only to have it end on a bad snap the last time the Giants and 49ers met in the playoffs.


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Revisionist History: Whiz’s arrival

Posted by Darren Urban on June 23, 2011 – 4:23 pm

The latest in a series of offseason posts looking back:

Despite the results of 2010, the Cards are still in the midst of their best stretch of football since moving to Arizona – which, of course, coincided with the hire of Ken Whisenhunt as head coach.

It came together relatively quickly. Dennis Green was fired the day after the 2006 season ended, and even though the players did their due diligence in taking the blame, ownership clearly had their thoughts on how the Cards had evolved – letting Green go, but extending the contract of GM Rod Graves and basically saying the roster was good enough with which to win, whoever the new coach was going to be.

Whisenhunt was one of the first candidates in to talk to the Cards – among the other candidates were new Panthers coach Ron Rivera and current Colts coach Jim Caldwell – and when Whiz first showed up, Bill Cowher hadn’t yet resigned (that was to come a day or so later, with Whiz as a potential replacement) and the Falcons were still considering him. By the time Russ Grimm arrived for an interview himself, Cowher had stepped down and Grimm was also a Steeler possibility.

Eventually, the Steelers moved in a different direction and Whisenhunt was brought back for a second interview, along with Mike Sherman (who has since become a college head coach). Rumors were flying that the Cards wanted Sherman, but that never happened and in fact, the Cards insisted Whisenhunt had already become the top choice. Less than two weeks after Green was fired, Whisenhunt was named the new coach and, as then-tackle Reggie Wells said, the Cards could “move on to the next phase.”

When the process started, the Cards were likely third on Whiz’s list. He was considered, after all, for the Falcons’ job and he was from the area, and he was considered for the Steelers’ job, and he had been there for six seasons already. But he insisted that after considering everything, he liked what the Cards had to offer an incoming coach. He didn’t come in boasting about potential playoff wins (like his predecessor) but a quiet confidence, saying, “we’re not trying to change the world.” His key players, part of the process in talking to Whiz ahead of time, were on board.

Then, under Whisenhunt, the Cards did some unprecedented winning, the most important aspect of the hire. And the reason that proved the decision to be the right one.


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Going out on your own terms

Posted by Darren Urban on May 11, 2011 – 12:50 pm

The Cardinals wanted guard Alan Faneca to return in 2011, but he chose to retire (already losing almost 60 pounds this offseason). It’s an option most NFL players don’t get. Assistant head coach Russ Grimm went on Sports 620 KTAR and mentioned he too could have come back for one final season during his Hall-of-Fame career with the Redskins but went the same route as Faneca, deciding he simply couldn’t play at the level he wanted to play at any longer.

(Then again, sometimes guys go out when they are still playing at that level. Jim Brown, Barry Sanders and a certain quarterback that shall go unmentioned around these parts).

“It’s unusual but I commend Alan for being able to make that decision,” coach Ken Whisenhunt said. “I think the greatest percentage of guys that I have played with, that I have talked to during the years, always end up bitter at some point because they end up forced to leave the game before they are ready, or when their perception of themselves is different than how other people view them.

“I believe Alan can still play so I commend his values for thinking it was his time to call it quits and he went out on his own terms. It’s something not very many guys in this business get to do.”

Faneca did.

“Unfortunately we’ve seen two guys do that in the last two years, in Alan and Kurt,” Whisenhunt added with a small smile. “From a selfish perspective, that’s not what you want to see. But you understand that’s part of the game.”


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Faneca decides to retire

Posted by Darren Urban on May 10, 2011 – 11:49 am

Kent Somers (and other outlets) is/are reporting that guard Alan Faneca has decided to retire from the NFL, something Faneca said he was heavily considering when we got to the end of the season. Faneca played the final season of his 13-year career with the Cards, after playing for the Steelers and Jets. Had things gone differently, he likely would have ended up in Arizona longer because of his relationship with offensive line coach Russ Grimm, but when he was available back in 2008 the Cards couldn’t make it work while trying to sign Larry Fitzgerald to his new deal. So the Faneca-Grimm reunion had to wait until 2010.

Somers has a statement from Faneca, which says in part that the greatest memory he has from the NFL is the friendships he has made.

The Cardinals would have liked to have Faneca back this season but knew all along he would probably step away. He wasn’t the player that once made nine straight Pro Bowls but Grimm insisted he was still effective. He definitely was a good presence in the locker room, something the Cardinals will miss now that he is moving on to a different part of his life.

Given the current roster, Rex Hadnot would figure to immediately be penciled into Faneca’s left guard role, although offensive line remains unsettled given the expiring contracts of fellow starters Lyle Sendlein and Deuce Lutui and the fact free agency has yet to begin. UPDATE: Faneca went on Sirius radio saying he basically had decided a month ago he was ready to step away, but with the draft coming up, he decided to wait and allow the Cards to take someone if they wanted. Coach Ken Whisenhunt said he had talked extensively to Faneca right after the season (and before the work stoppage) and knew retirement was a very real possibility. Click here to read a full story with Whisenhunt quotes.


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Draft teaches Grimm East, not West

Posted by Darren Urban on April 27, 2011 – 4:35 pm

When Russ Grimm was drafted in the third round of the 1981 draft, he got a call from the Washington Redskins telling him he was going to be their selection.

“When they said Washington Redskins I thought, ‘OK, Sonny Jurgensen, Billy Kilmer,’ things like this,” Grimm said. “But I always in my mind had pictured that the Redskins were in the state of Washington, not the nation’s capital. So I got my ticket and they said, ‘Washington, D.C.,’ and I said, ‘Ahh, that’s not that far away.’ So it worked out pretty good.”

Grimm was from Pennsylvania. He clearly has a better grasp of the nation’s geography these days.

This and other memories are part of the draft memory video package just posted. And if you missed it yesterday, the boys in the video room also put together a good look at how the Cards put together the top 120 draft board. Soon, we will have a short video roundtable posted between myself, Ron Wolfley, Dave Pasch and Paul Calvisi over the Cards’ top pick tomorrow. (And here it is.)

The draft is almost here.


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Tell us your game day story

Posted by Darren Urban on April 13, 2011 – 9:59 am

Many of you – all of you? – have your traditions on game day. It might have to do with tailgating or face painting or something else off the beaten path, as you gear up for a Sunday of football at University of Phoenix Stadium.

What the Cardinals want to know is your story. About your tradition(s).

I don’t want to get too detailed right now (because really, what’s the fun without a little suspense?) but we’re looking for you to lay out your Sunday-for-football for us. We have a couple of projects we are working on for which this info is crucial. So tell us your rituals, your routines, your stories. Send them to askdarren@cardinals.nfl.net (with “Traditions” in the subject line). Be as detailed as possible. Let us know, like Larry Fitzgerald uses Russ Grimm to toss him a ball over his head from behind a few hours before kickoff, how you prep for a game. Be sure to include a name and a way to be contacted. We will see what Game Day is all about.


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Did Coach play?

Posted by Darren Urban on February 22, 2011 – 11:37 am

It was a topic that was mentioned more than once when the Cardinals had hired Ray Horton – who played in the NFL for a decade – as their defensive coordinator. The idea that players might have a deeper respect for someone who had been them.

Horton summed it up pretty well, I think, with this line: “It gives you some credibility that you have sat in the same chairs they’re in,” he said. “It helps until they say, ‘Why’d you call that?!?’ ”

And ultimately, that seems to be the general feeling.

“I have seen some very good coaches that didn’t play,” said head coach Ken Whisenhunt, who of course played near a decade himself in the NFL. “So I don’t know if it has an impact if you can’t coach. Players are smart enough, if you’re not getting it done on the field as a coach, they’ll recognize it pretty quick. If you have been a player, obviously you get a little bit of respect, because they know you’ve been through some of the same battles they have.

“But if you’re not a very good coach, it doesn’t matter what you say or what your background is, guys are going to tune you out pretty quick. They are interested in winning and getting better. If you can help them do that, they’ll listen to you.”

Of the current staff, Whisenhunt, Horton, assistant head coach/offensive line coach Russ Grimm, quarterbacks coach Chris Miller and assistant defensive backs coach Deshea Townsend played in the league. The majority did not.

“Once you get into (practices and meetings) you don’t think about it,” cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie said. “But if they played your position, it’s better because they understand you and the thoughts you have.”

The defensive backs may have the most interesting combo given the three latest hires. Horton played, but has been out of the game for 17 seasons. New defensive backs coach Louie Cioffi didn’t play (and in fact was on his first NFL coaching staff at age 19 as a Jets assistant). Meanwhile, Townsend not only played, but he was just playing as recently as November and will be learning the coaching ropes on the fly.

“I think the main thing a player wants is consistency,” Townsend said. “That’s what I wanted, to (have a coach) say one thing in July and to say the same thing in February. You don’t want a guy saying something and changing his mind. And be fair.

“You’re going to have to make decisions, but everyone in the room has to be accountable. I loved to have a coach who, when he made a mistake, he said it and when I made a mistake, he let me know. We have to grow that and teach them what we are looking for, but to be true professionals, those guys have to understand that’s the business of football.”


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