Cards, the Pro Bowl, and how it once was

Posted by Darren Urban on April 6, 2017 – 6:22 am

This is going to sound random — and, truthfully, it is — but there is a reason I am talking about the Cardinals and the 2009 Pro Bowl. I’ve been working on a piece about Larry Fitzgerald and his epic playoff run during the Cardinals’ Super Bowl season. That will be posted Monday. But one thing struck me as I looked back and researched things, especially when it comes to the Pro Bowl.

As everyone knows, the Pro Bowl is now held the week before the Super Bowl. Players chosen from the Super Bowl teams obviously don’t play, and at this point, many, many others find reasons not to play. Injuries, yes. And also, “injuries.” Back for the 2008 season, five Cardinals were picked to play in the Pro Bowl: Fitz, Kurt Warner, Adrian Wilson, Anquan Boldin and Sean Morey. That made sense. They all were excellent that season.

That year, the Pro Bowl was still being played the week after the Super Bowl. Everyone could still make it, but guys would still drop out. If anyone would drop out for a non-injury reason, it could understandably be players from the losing Super Bowl team — especially if it was a heartbreaking loss. But what I had forgotten was that all five Cardinals still showed up in Hawaii a couple of days later and player. In fact, Fitzgerald capped his great regular season and legendary playoff performance with a 5-81-2 line in the Pro Bowl and won MVP. That’s not a surprise, really. What was was the fact the Cards were 5-for-5.

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Everyone — including Deuce — conditioned

Posted by Darren Urban on July 31, 2010 – 10:32 am

The Cardinals just had their conditioning test and everyone passed, including G Deuce Lutui (whom Mike Jurecki reported yesterday weighed about 360 right now). Lutui actually looked pretty good running and beat out a teammate or two, although some of the veterans clearly know their pace and how fast (or slow) they can run to still make the make-able time. Everyone had to run two sets of 300-yard shuttles, save for the 10-year NFL vets like Bryan Robinson, Adrian Wilson and Anthony Becht.

(Of course, the loopholes kill. Punter Ben Graham smiled as he walked out of Walkup Skydome, where the running was held because of the rain. “Oldest guy on the team and I still had to run two,” he said. Graham is 36, but he’s only in his sixth NFL season — he gets no credit for the 12 years of professional Australian Rules Football he played. Not that Graham has any problem running two 300-yard shuttles.)

Coach Ken Whisenhunt isn’t speaking until after practice this afternoon. Lutui wasn’t available yet either, although I am trying to track him down. We’ll see if the rain comes back, forcing the first practice inside this afternoon. Or if the massive amount of rain already these two days will make it too slippery to be outside. This could be a very wet camp.

On a side note, congrats on a longer-than-expected career for former Cardinal Pro Bowl special teamer Sean Morey, who decided to announce his retirement today when he was supposed to start camp with the Seattle Seahawks. Morey was a good man who squeezed every bit of ability out of his body and gave everything to the Cards. He has become an advocate for the concussion issue in the NFL, although he fought the should-I-play-or-not issue himself. He’s an Ivy Leaguer so he will do fine post-football, but I am guessing he was hoping his NFL life would have lasted a bit longer.

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Beisel, RFAs re-sign

Posted by Darren Urban on March 29, 2010 – 12:00 pm

The Cardinals brought back middle linebacker Monty Beisel on a one-year contract Monday, something necessary to uphold a semblance of depth at the position. Four guys also signed their tender offers: wide receiver Steve Breaston, center Lyle Sendlein, defensive tackle Gabe Watson (all restricted free agents) and cornerback Michael Adams (who was an exclusive free agent). The Cards now have just one unsigned restricted free agent — guard Deuce Lutui. Again, the Cards also lost a free agent Monday when wide receiver Sean Morey signed with the Seahawks, a move that wasn’t surprising.

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Filling in the roster gaps

Posted by Darren Urban on March 24, 2010 – 1:47 pm

With the owners’ meetings wrapping up today and the pace of free agency slowing down, it may be a good time to look at where the Cardinals’ roster stands — and where there are holes that need to be filled by the time minicamp begins April 30.

This topic crossed my mind after writing yesterday about the signing of wide receiver Darren Mougey, who may or may not pan out but certainly isn’t been seen (at least as of now) as a replacement, whether it’d be Anquan Boldin or even Jerheme Urban. He’s just one of many receivers that will be on the roster this summer. Today, the Cardinals officially have 60 61 players on the roster, leaving 19 spots to be filled by the draft/undrafted rookies (which figures to total between 14 to 16, depending) and then some free-agent spots. There are seven veterans un-signed who could still return: LB Monty Beisel, FB Dan Kreider, QB Brian St. Pierre, S Matt Ware, K Neil Rackers, DT Bryan Robinson and WR Sean Morey (although I think Morey is more likely to end up in Seattle right now).

(On my 60-man count, I am including all the restricted and exclusive rights free agents who have yet to sign their tenders, because they eventually will.)

What spots need shoring up? The Cards need at least one more quarterback, and even if St. Pierre comes back, they need someone young, at least for camp. They need another receiver or two, although I am guessing whether they chase a veteran may depend on what happens in the draft. Remember, at that spot, a fourth receiver would likely need to play special teams and guys like Kevin Curtis or Torry Holt tend not to want to do such things.

The Cards definitely need to look at nose tackle, especially if Robinson doesn’t return. They need inside linebackers even if Beisel comes back (which I expect). They probably could use another young pass rusher at outside linebacker without knowing exactly what Cody Brown/Mark Washington/Stevie Baggs brings to the table. I wouldn’t be surprised to see them get another cornerback — you can never have too many — and a return man is also needed if Steve Breaston is going to be the No. 2 wideout.

Numbers-wise, here is the current 61-man breakdown by position:

  • QB  2
  • RB  4
  • FB  2
  • WR  6
  • OL  11
  • TE  4
  • DL 9
  • OLB  6
  • MLB  4
  • CB  6
  • S  5
  • Specialists  2

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Now where on free agency

Posted by Darren Urban on March 22, 2010 – 4:58 pm

General manager Rod Graves is in Orlando right now for the owner’s meetings. I’m not sure exactly what happens with the Cards now in free agency — I am trying to get that answer — I wouldn’t be surprised if the plan, at least until the draft, is to chase a few of the Cards’ own un-signed guys like Bryan Robinson and then wait until after the draft to see where else the roster needs talent.

One spot the Cards will keep considering outside in free agency is kicker. Jay Feely is still in play — he finished up his visit Monday — and there remains the option of bringing back Neil Rackers. Safety Matt Ware, despite earlier reports elsewhere in the NFLverse, has not yet re-signed and I don’t get the sense that’s imminent. I still think he eventually returns. Wide receiver/special teamer Sean Morey wants to return, I believe, but he has yet to re-sign and took a visit with the Seahawks.

UPDATE: Well, I was partially on track. I heard back from Graves, who said the Cards will continue to consider free agents. But if the Cards sign players from elsewhere, they would “likely be to replace some of our own UFAs that we do not have agreements with.” That’s the category Feely would fall under, and would come into play, it would seem, if guys like Robinson, Morey, Ware, linebacker Monty Beisel, quarterback Brian St. Pierre or fullback Dan Kreider don’t return.

I think the free agency market will be very interesting post-draft. Veterans who are waiting now for bigger potential deals probably aren’t going to get them, and historically it’s even harder to get a decent deal after the draft because teams have filled up their holes with new talent that can be home-grown. What happens to Mike Gandy or Chike Okeafor, for instance (other than that they won’t be in Arizona)? And will anything change this week, after NFL owners are going to get the low-down of exactly where things stand with the impending labor problems?

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More Ravens than Cards in Tempe

Posted by Darren Urban on March 6, 2010 – 2:25 pm

Anquan Boldin’s farewell appearance at the Cardinals’ facility was today (going on now, in fact) at Kurt Warner’s annual charity flag football tournament. There is a bit of irony in the fact that, after Friday’s trade, there are actually more active Ravens playing in the tourney (Boldin, tight end Todd Heap and quarterback Joe Flacco, pictured below) than Cardinals (Larry Fitzgerald and Sean Morey, although the recently retired Warner and quarterbacks coach Chris Miller are also out there).

Boldin talked for a while about leaving Arizona. He said it was “bittersweet.” He said he had mixed emotions. And he said change was good.

“Change is necessary for everybody in life,” Boldin said. “In order for you to grow, there has to be change even when sometimes it’s not wanted.”

He chuckled the Anquan chuckle — that one he always gave you that meant he wasn’t going to say what he really wanted to say — when I asked him if he and the team had a good enough relationship that perhaps some day, if the team happened to invite him into their Ring of Honor, he would accept. “Ring of Honor?” Boldin asked with a smile, before turning serious again. “At this point, I’m not even thinking about (that far in the future). The only thing I am considering is that I have to make a move to back East.”

I suppose, sometimes, change is necessary.

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Warner comes back

Posted by Darren Urban on March 3, 2010 – 1:50 pm

I mean, back to the Cards’ Tempe facility to play his annual charity flag football tournament. … No, not back with the Cardinals after choosing to reverse his retirement decision. I apologize if the headline was misconstrued.

Anyway, it is time for Warner’s annual tourney, which will be held Saturday on the Cards’ practice fields. He’s got a star-studded list (although it’s not always a lock every guy actually makes it): Besides Warner, the “QBs” for the tournament are Aaron Rodgers, Matt Ryan, Joe Flacco, Philip Rivers, Todd Heap, Michael Strahan, Marshall Faulk and then the Cardinals’ contingent — former Falcons QB and current Cards’ quarterback coach Chris Miller, Larry Fitzgerald, Anquan Boldin and Sean Morey.

Before you ask, sorry, the event isn’t open to the public. The teams/corporations involved pay Warner’s First Things First foundation big bucks for exclusivity. And I’d expect Warner’s team to be in the title game once again. Warner always wants to win anyway, and now, this is his lone football outlet.

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Cards notch a special top 10

Posted by Darren Urban on February 15, 2010 – 1:35 pm

Ranking special-teams units across the league is not an easy task, so when Rick Gosselin of the Dallas Morning News came up with a system to do so, it’s become universally regarded as the best way to sort out such things. And this season, Gosselin’s rankings put the Cards eighth.

“Our specialists had a good year,” Spencer said, noting improvements in punts inside the 20, net and gross punting averages, and field-goal-made percentage. “The return game showed some life.

“It was an excellent effort by our veterans and out young guys.”

Rookie LaRod Stephens-Howling made an impact both in coverage and as a kickoff return man, while Sean Morey was a Pro Bowl alternate this season on special teams. Punter Ben Graham was snubbed for the Pro Bowl himself after tying the NFL record for punts inside the 20. Neil Rackers made an NFL-best 94.7 percent of his field-goal attempts. The Cards also got impactful seasons from guys like Jason Wright and Kenny Iwebema, among others.

“It’s amazing how smart you become when you have good players,” Spencer said.

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Breaking down the roster

Posted by Darren Urban on January 21, 2010 – 12:35 pm

Right now, the Cards are knee-deep in offseason meetings, meaning I haven’t had a chance to talk to general manager Rod Graves for a story. That will be coming. In the meantime, I have collected all the contract situations (at least, organizing what year each player is signed through, or their free agent status) in a file you can find right here. It doesn’t cover every single player on the roster but it has everyone I considered a contributor this season or someone who needed to be addressed.

Officially the Cards have 14 unrestricted free agents and 10 restricted (the numbers would have been 17 and 7, but Gabe Watson, Deuce Lutui and Jerheme Urban all are going to be hamstrung by the new rules when the NFL deals with an uncapped offseason). On offense, the Cards seem to be in good shape. Starters Dan Kreider (FB), Anthony Becht (TE), Sean Morey (special teams) and Mike Gandy (T) — along with Jeremy Bridges (G/T) are unrestricted. Bigger questions are on defense, where Karlos Dansby (LB) and Matt Ware (S) could walk away, and the Cards are in transition with veteran UFAs like Bryan Robinson, Chike Okeafor, Bertrand Berry, Ralph Brown and Monty Beisel.

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Cards in Pro Bowl dwindling UPDATE

Posted by Darren Urban on January 20, 2010 – 11:19 am

Larry Fitzgerald isn’t going to play in the Pro Bowl because of injuries (Fitz is citing the knee he hurt against San Francisco), news that came out when the New York Giants announced Steve Smith is going to replace Fitzgerald. Cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie is already out because of his knee injury, and safety Adrian Wilson has said, with his wife expecting, he isn’t going to go. That would leave defensive tackle Darnell Dockett as the only Card, unless one of the Cards’ alternates ends up getting to play.

UPDATE: Thanks to Mike Sando, it’s been hashed out that alternates Kurt Warner, Antrel Rolle and Sean Morey still have a good chance to be invited to the Pro Bowl, given other possibly dropouts. Their status will be resolved based on who wins the NFC Championship game, since the Vikings and Saints each have multiple players that would have to drop out. Warner, it turns out, is a second alternate behind Donovan McNabb. So I guess that finally clarifies my ramblings of the other day. Sando suggests injuries would stop Rolle, but my guess is that Rolle — who said he was fine after getting concussed against the Saints — would desperately want to appear in his first Pro Bowl, especially since it’ll be at home in Miami.

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