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Cards will take Washington absence into account

Posted by Darren Urban on January 29, 2015 – 3:19 pm

One of the many things the Cardinals must sort through this offseason is what to do with suspended linebacker Daryl Washington if and when he returns — and how to plan for the season with his status in limbo for the next few months. Washington’s suspension, which is for a year before he can request NFL reinstatement, lasts until late May. That’s after free agency, and it’s after the draft. Until this suspension ends, it seems unlikely the NFL will hand down whatever suspension Washington might get for his assault conviction from last year.

That’s a lot of uncertainty, and why team president Michael Bidwill said Thursday the Cardinals are going to go through the offseason ready to not have Washington available — and if he is around, the Cards will be that much better off.

“He’ll be facing the issue with the domestic violence and there has been no determination of what happens there,” Bidwill said. “He was only suspended for the drug issue, so we want to make sure we understand what that (other punishment) is. Last year, we learned about his suspension after free agency. This year we are going to plan to make sure we address all the issues not knowing whether Daryl will be back for part of next season or all of next season. ‘Next man up’ is real but we have to make sure we’ve gone into free agency and addressed that situation.”

— Bidwill reiterated once again he is optimistic the Cardinals and Larry Fitzgerald will come to an agreement on a new contract.

“Larry and I have met about it, just he and I talking about it, and I know he’s interested in getting something resolved,” Bidwill said. “After the playoff game, he got away, left the country. He’s back now, it’s a busy week this week and we’ll start working on this next week. I think we’ll get this all worked out.

“He’s such a great person and a great player, he’s got many years left and I want to see him retire as an Arizona Cardinal. I want to see us move past getting this contract resolved and move forward.”

— The other Cardinal facing legal issues, running back Jonathan Dwyer, had his case play out Thursday. The running back, who had been arrested in September, pled guilty to a misdemeanor of disorderly conduct. He was sentenced him to 18 months probation and community service. Dwyer is scheduled to become a free agent in March.

— Bidwill said again he plans on giving General Manager Steve Keim and head coach Bruce Arians contract extensions soon.

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Keim talks Bowles interest and QB status

Posted by Darren Urban on December 29, 2014 – 8:25 am

The playoffs are here, but for 20 non-playoff teams, the business of the NFL does not stop. Black Monday arrived in the NFL and already there are five teams with head coaching openings: The 49ers, Raiders, Jets, Falcons and Bears. Cardinals defensive coordinator Todd Bowles is expected to generate interest in that market, and while the Cards gave Bowles a big raise this season, they also know there is the possibility Bowles could be offered and accept a head coaching job. It has always felt more like a question of when rather than if.

“Our expectations are that several teams will reach out to us,” General Manager Steve Keim said Monday during his weekly appearance on the “Doug and Wolf” show on Arizona Sports 98.7. “Now, it remains to be seen whether there will be mutual interest or not, but Todd has done an excellent job and at some point he deserve an opportunity. Hopefully for us we can keep him in place for a little while longer.”

The defense has had its issues the past two games but I do not expect that to undercut Bowles’ potential candidacy. I also think Bowles likes it in Arizona, and have always believed he will be very choosy in what jobs he may or may not want.

As for Keim, some of the other topics he covered the day after the Cardinals finished the regular season with an 11-5 record:

— The fact the Cardinals won 11 games playing four quarterbacks “is a testament to the coaching staff and their flexibility and quite frankly some of the young players who have stepped up,” Keim said.

The Cardinals are “the epitome of team,” Keim added.

— As for the status of quarterback Drew Stanton, he is “day to day and we’re hopeful” he can play this week, Keim said. Certainly the GM gave no indication Stanton was anything of a sure bet to be back. Keim said it was still unknown if Stanton could practice Tuesday.

— Even without Stanton, Keim (not surprisingly) professed confidence in Ryan Lindley’s ability to start. “I thought Ryan played a good game” Sunday, Keim said.

— Keim said rehabbing quarterback Carson Palmer is doing well and is “as fired up as ever” to play in 2015. “He’s very excited about the future here,” Keim said. “I think it goes back to show you, when you go through some injuries, how valuable Carson Palmer really was. The guy was having an excellent year. I think he’ll have a little bit of a chip on his shoulder, and he’ll be ready to prove some people wrong.”

I think it’s pretty clear that Palmer will be the No. 1 in 2015, barring something crazy happening in the offseason.

— Keim, like coach Bruce Arians, wasn’t happy with the tackling. “The tackling in general was unacceptable,” Keim said. He went on to say that he tends to be old school on the subject, and that tackling does have a technique to it, it is “mostly want-to.” He reiterated he had been disappointed Sunday. “(The 49ers) made us look extremely bad in space,” said, noting that against the Panthers in the playoffs, “we’re going to have to get that fixed in a hurry.”

— Guard Jonathan Cooper (wrist) will also be day-to-day, Keim said.


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Keim: Fitzgerald cap number “baked in”

Posted by Darren Urban on December 22, 2014 – 8:21 am

We take a moment to look beyond last night’s ugliness against the Seahawks to talk Larry Fitzgerald. Or more specifically, Fitzgerald’s future.

Right before kickoff last night, profootballtalk.com reported that the Cardinals will not release Fitzgerald, even with that bloated $23.6 million salary cap number Fitz has on deck for the 2015 season. General Manager Steve Keim was asked about it during his weekly appearance on the “Doug and Wolf” show on Arizona Sports 98.7 Monday morning.

“We have to make good business decisions,” Keim said. “I don’t think it’s any secret that we said all along that it is our intent to have Larry Fitzgerald retire a Cardinal. I don’t want to get into it too deep, but with planning purposes and financially, from a cap standpoint and all those sort of things, we have Larry’s (cap) number already baked into our numbers.

“Now, any kind of business decisions moving forward, renegotiations with Larry and that sort of thing, we’ve had ongoing talks with (agent) Eugene Parker and we will continue to have ongoing talks. But again, the best I can tell you is that it is our intent to keep Larry and make sure he stays a Cardinal the rest of his career.”

It’s an interesting situation. If the Cards don’t want to release him, Fitzgerald has the leverage to say he won’t take any kind of pay cut. (It’s not a situation of restructuring anymore; That just balloons further cap numbers, Fitz gets all his money and the Cardinals will eventually pay an even harsher cap price.) Of course, Fitz’s huge cap number — without knowing what the overall cap will look like in 2015 — also could take away from upgrading other areas on the roster. This story will continue to be one to watch.

Other Keim comments this week:

— He said the Seattle loss left him “disappointed for our organizaton and disappointed more for our fanbase.”

— Keim wasn’t super specific with areas he was unhappy with after the game. “With the circumstances we were dealing with we knew it was a tough task,” Keim said, alluding to the quarterback situation. “We had to play mistake-free and that certainly wasn’t the case last night.”

— Keim said he was “a little disappointed” in the safety play and taking angles in space, the overall tackling and mistakes on defense. Offensively, he was disappointed in the lack of efficiency, which was not only poor throws from Ryan Lindley but also a failure to catch some balls.

— As bad as it got, the scenario still exists where the Cards can win the division. Keim said his feeling Monday morning is “no different” than the one he had after the ugly Atlanta loss, and the Cards bounced back from that.

— Keim is feeling personally responsible right now. “I put a lot of it on my shoulders as the General Manager,” Keim said. “I am so proud of our organization and in particular, our coaching staff. They have done a phenomenal job, and at the end of the day, I take it personal because I feel like I have given our coaches a gun with not enough bullets. Where we have let them down because they don’t have enough players, or healthy players, for that matter, to get the job done. But Bruce (Arians) has shown week in and week out he’ll defy all the odds.”

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Keim talks Stanton rehab, QB situation

Posted by Darren Urban on December 15, 2014 – 8:14 am

Steve Keim had a way to put things in perspective.

“The three best records in the NFL after the fourteenth game are Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and Ryan Lindley/Logan Thomas,” the Cardinals General Manager said Monday morning during his regular appearance on the “Doug and Wolf” show on Arizona Sports 98.7. “It’s a credit to our organization and the job all the way down from Michael Bidwill to Bruce Arians, our coaching staff, our players, they have all done a fantastic job.”

There wasn’t a ton of specific info coming from the GM about his team’s quarterback situation. But he did acknowledge that the Cardinals will be going with some combination of Lindley and Thomas to play against the Seahawks Sunday. The Cards will add a quarterback, but it will be to the practice squad “for emergency purposes.” No, Kurt Warner is not walking through that door. (Which he never was, but I just wanted to use that line. Rick Pitino keeps on giving.)

UPDATE: The practice squad QB is Jeff Mathews, an undrafted rookie from Cornell who spent time earlier with Atlanta and Indianapolis.

Who the starting QB will be is TBA. Keim said simply “that’s a better question for Coach Arians.”

As for the injured Drew Stanton, Keim also sidestepped a timetable, because he said it’s really impossible to give one.

“With that type of knee injury, everybody heals different,” Keim said. “I know ESPN and some other outlets have put a timeline on it, which is extremely difficult to do. You can say it’s going to be four weeks, I’ve heard people say one-and-a-half weeks.

“Drew will be in there around the clock rehabbing. I know he’ll be ready to go as soon as possible.”

Keim reiterated Thomas could get a package of plays for the Seahawks game (that’s was as detailed as he’d get), so again, it sounds like both QBs could see the field. (Or the Cardinals are just building a nice ruse for the Seahawks to worry about during prep work.) Running the ball will be important, which really goes without saying.

“The thing that is extremely difficult to replace at any level is the quarterback,” Keim said. “I’ve said many times, there’s not even 32 quarterbacks to go around (to all the teams), so let alone you lose your starter — and it really hurt us because Carson (Palmer) was playing at a high level — and then you saw what Drew could do when he had the opportunity, which was win games for us and play solid football.

“To lose both those guys, it’s been extremely difficult to go through. But again, it goes back to the resiliency of our team.”

— It was the offensive line’s best game to date, Keim said. Guard Jonathan Cooper is “playing like a rookie” and needs to improve technically quite a bit, but it’s a start, Keim said.

— Keim called defensive end Frostee Rucker “an unsung hero” for his work of late. I’d second that. Rucker has been crucial in his role this season.


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Cromartie has ankle injury, and other Keim notes

Posted by Darren Urban on December 8, 2014 – 8:19 am

The short week has started. The Cardinals are already in meetings this morning, prepping for a Thursday night game in St. Louis, even as the win Sunday against the Chiefs has barely had a chance to register. That’s what happens on a short week; Bruce Arians said the coaches probably won’t even grade the Chiefs game because it’s already time to move ahead. Today is “Wednesday” in terms of the prep schedule, Tuesday is “Thursday” and Wednesday is a combo “Friday/Saturday” with travel mixed in. Hectic doesn’t begin to describe it.

So the newsiest thing coming out of GM Steve Keim’s weekly segment on the “Doug and Wolf” show on Arizona Sports 98.7 this morning was an update on cornerback Antonio Cromartie. When Cromartie first got hurt it did not look good, having to be helped off with help. Then it was announced it was an Achilles injury, which is really not good. A tear there and you are done for a long time.

But after the game, Arians said it wasn’t the Achilles, and Keim this morning said the preliminary diagnosis was an ankle injury affecting the peroneal tendon. Keim said at this point Cro is day-to-day, although he is getting more extensively checked out by doctors this morning.

“Things  can change, but it wasn’t on the surface as severe as I thought it looked,” Keim said.

More from Keim:

— He said he wasn’t sure how Andre Ellington’s workload will be handled next year, but that he needs to get fixed up now. The running back is will go on injured reserve as soon as today and is getting surgery on a hernia in Philadelphia.

“Sometimes in football there are those fluke injuries,” Keim said. “And there are those guys who have rough seasons in terms of durability.

“Andre has got to stay healthy and I think this is an important offseason for him in terms of strength and conditioning, getting bigger, stronger.”

— Keim said the offensive line had its best game of the season, and thinks left tackle Jared Veldheer is “having a Pro Bowl season.”

— Linebacker Matt Shaughnessy banged up his shoulder late in the game and didn’t return, but Keim said he should be OK.

— Keim said he and Arians had “several conversations” over the last few weeks whether to make running back Kerwynn Williams active. They liked what they saw on the practice field, but there was an unknown once he would get into a game. Guess Williams answered that concern.

— It was director of football administration Mike Disner — the Cardinals’ salary cap guru, among other duties — who saw the ball pop loose from Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce and told Arians he should challenge. The resulting Cardinals’ recovery was a turning point in the game. Disner spends every game with the coaches in booth upstairs, and one of his duties is to help figure out replay challenges.

“Dis gave us for good information for once,” Keim joked. “Not many people know this, but one of my nicknames for him is ‘Dismal.’ Because he is the money man. So many times we are talking about potential free agents or guys I’d like to sign ad he’s the guy who gives me the thumbs up whether we can afford him or not. I call him ‘Dismal’ because too many times I get the thumbs down. (Sunday), ‘Dismal’ gave us some great news.”

— Keim opened his segment by praising the home fans. “They were a big reason why we won Sunday.”


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Keim: “We have two options”

Posted by Darren Urban on December 1, 2014 – 8:18 am

Sunday’s game in a microcosm, said General Manager Steve Keim, came down to that 55-yard Steven Jackson run just a couple of plays into the game. It should have been for about five or six yards. Instead, Jackson rumbled all the way inside the Arizona 5-yard line, and Keim wasn’t thrilled to see how he got there.

“The 55-yard run says it all, particularly the way we played all day,” Keim said during his weekly appearance on the “Doug and Wolf” show on Arizona Sports 98.7. “A combination of poor fundamentals and bottom line, want-to. It should have been a six-yard run, and you had a couple guys come up, bounce off him, not wrap up and use proper fundamentals, and you had a couple guys who didn’t look like they wanted any part of it. Which is disappointing.

“We have two options. We can feel sorry for ourselves and make excuses about being decimated by injuries, or we can come out swinging.”

— Keim didn’t have any injury updates. To recap: Running back Andre Ellington suffered a hip injury (Bruce Arians called it a hip pointer) but didn’t think it was serious. Safety Tyrann Mathieu broke his left thumb and was wearing a cast after the game. Right guard Paul Fanaika suffered a high-ankle sprain.

— Keim thought the run game wasn’t good enough (no surprise). He thought the pass protection was above average, but he reiterated a familiar refrain on quarterback Drew Stanton, that ball placement and accuracy must improve (although he noted receivers don’t always run the right routes or run to the right depth, which impacts passing woes as well.) The Cards definitely can’t afford a play such as Michael Floyd’s fumble when the offense looks like it’s moving.

As for waiting for Stanton, the Cardinals need him to play better. They can’t afford to wait for Stanton to gain experience. There is also the reality of the situation and a reason Carson Palmer is the normal starter. “He’s got to make throws when he has to,” Keim said. “In the NFL, some of these tight-window throws not many guys can make. That’s exactly why there is a supply-and-demand at the position. It’s hard to find elite quarterbacks. … But it’s not just Drew.”

— Keim called the play of guard Jonathan Cooper a “bright spot.” “He knocked some rust off,” Keim said, and while Cooper still needs to tighten up technically, “he finally looks like the guy we drafted in terms of quickness and movement. He looked, compared to the other four offensive linemen we had out there, like he was playing at a different speed. He looked very explosive.”

Not surprisingly, Keim said he expects to see a lot more of Cooper, but with Fanaika’s injury, that may have been a given anyway.

— Keim said Patrick Peterson’s issues covering Julio Jones came down to the same issues of making sure he was technically sound, an area that Keim has previously talked about wanting to be more consistent from his cornerback. As for Peterson’s talk earlier in the week about winning a matchup with Jones, “You hate to take away a guy’s swagger,” Keim said, “but at the same time he’s got to compete and he’s got to produce.”


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Keim: Cards didn’t match intensity

Posted by Darren Urban on November 24, 2014 – 8:23 am

GM Steve Keim said he as a tendency to be a pessimist, and in some ways, his job is inherently so as the man in charge of trying to upgrade the team — even when they are 9-2. Sometimes, Keim said during his weekly appearance on “Doug and Wolf” on Arizona Sports 98.7, he said he can think “the sky is falling.”

The sky isn’t falling after a lone loss following six straight wins, of course, but now it’s about curtailing that losing streak. To make sure it’s not a streak. Ron Wolfley made a cogent point following the interview too, noting that a GM and a coach probably see the video through a different prism given their jobs. But Keim and Bruce Arians could certainly agree on one main point after Sunday’s Seattle loss: “In a hostile environment, you have to match their level of intensity in all three phases,” Keim said. “We certainly didn’t do that in two.” Offense and special teams didn’t do nearly enough.

— Keim said he thought the offensive line needs to be more physical. Other that acknowledging a comment that right tackle Bobby Massie didn’t have his best game, Keim wasn’t specific on the offensive line but instead talking about them as a group. The entire offense has to play “in better unison” in the run game. The protection could have been better too.

— It was hard to evaluate QB Drew Stanton because the run game gave him no help, Keim said, but it wasn’t Stanton’s best game, noting Stanton’s inaccuracy at times.

— There was a miscommunication between cornerback Patrick Peterson and safety Rashad Johnson on the early 48-yard pass to Ricardo Lockette, Keim said.

— Keim said he thought new defensive end Josh Mauro stood out (so did I). The rookie out of Stanford has long been on the Cardinals’ radar. Keim said the Cardinals tried to sign Mauro as an undrafted rookie back in May, but he decided to go to the Steelers. When the Steelers cut him at the end of the preseason, the Cards again tried to sign Mauro to their practice squad, but Mauro chose to stay with Pittsburgh’s practice squad. Finally, the Cards decided to sign Mauro off the Steelers’ PS to the active roster.

— Here’s why the sky isn’t really falling for Keim: “The thing that gives me confidence is men in that locker room and that coaching staff.”

 


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Hall nominees with Cards ties, and Keim’s story

Posted by Darren Urban on November 19, 2014 – 11:06 am

The Pro Football Hall of Fame has whittled its potential 2015 class to 26 names, and included in there are a three major contributors to the Cardinals over the years. One is coach Don Coryell, who was the man in charge of the Cards’ teams of the mid-1970s that was successful enough that every time the current team hits a win plateau or streak, it seems to date back to one of Coryell’s squads. The other two are part of the Cards’ Super Bowl team: quarterback Kurt Warner, and running back Edgerrin James.

(Cowboys safety Darren Woodson, who went to high school at Phoenix Maryvale, is also part of the group.)

James is probably a long shot to advance to the group of 15 that will be considered when the Hall selection committee gets together in Phoenix on Super Bowl eve to eventually name no more than five to the Hall of Fame. Coryell has got a better chance, I’d think, given his offensive innovations, especially coaching the Chargers in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Then there is Warner, who given his resume, figures to get into the Hall at some point. It would be fitting if that was this year — Warner’s first year of eligibility — with the class being named in Arizona.

— He’s not headed to the Hall of Fame anytime soon, but Steve Keim has worked hard for a long time to reach his goal of being a general manager. If you haven’t yet, check out my story about Keim’s belief even as a little kid he’d end up running a team.

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Keim: It’s about being proactive and aggressive

Posted by Darren Urban on November 17, 2014 – 8:09 am

General Manager Steve Keim didn’t have a whole lot of newsy things to say during his weekly appearance on the “Doug and Wolf” show on Arizona Sports 98.7, but that’s probably a good thing. He did talk a little bit about giving the contract extension to defensive coordinator Todd Bowles — who just happened to have his unit play excellent in the first game since signing.

Keim said Bowles had obviously earned it. But bigger picture, Keim said the mindset he and the new football staff had when being hired was that with every decision “we wanted to be proactive and we wanted to be aggressive, to change the culture.” That means locking up quality assistants. Keim reiterated that it won’t (and can’t) stop Bowles from taking a head coaching job after the season. But, Keim added, in talking with Bowles on the subject, “I know it will take a special opportunity for him to leave us.”

Other quick hits from Keim:

— Asked to pick one player who stood out against the Lions, Keim didn’t hesitate in naming cornerback Patrick Peterson. Peterson’s play has no doubt jumped over the past three games. Now we get Richard Sherman week!

— Keim raved about the physical nature of safety Deone Bucannon’s play. I know there was one early running play, when the Cards were in nickel and Bucannon just shot the gap to make a tackle for loss. An excellent effort.

— With two more sacks, linebacker Alex Okafor has “brought a pass rush we’re desperately seeking,” Keim said. Keim added Okafor has “probably missed four or five” more sacks the last few games on technique errors that he should clean up.

— The pass protection was excellent, Keim said, and he praised the interior of the offensive line for their play against a stellar defensive front. That was a big deal after the microscope was on the interior for the last week.

— Keim noted Larry Fitzgerald was able to come back and play after his knee was “dinged up” and said overall injury-wise, “on the surface it seemed like we came out OK.”


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Keim: Waiting on injury, and the offensive line

Posted by Darren Urban on November 10, 2014 – 8:10 am

General Manager Steve Keim didn’t have much of an update on quarterback Carson Palmer this morning during his weekly appearance on the “Doug and Wolf” show on Arizona Sports 98.7. Keim said Palmer will undergo “a number of tests” Monday and the Cardinals should have an update with Palmer’s knee injury later Monday. That Keim didn’t have much to say isn’t surprising, but as I mentioned last night, you hope for the best but plan for the worst.

After a win in which the Cardinals only rushed for 28 yards, though, Keim did have some thoughts on the offensive line. He was blunt: Keim said he thinks one of the “primary reasons” the Cardinals were 8-1 is the play of offensive tackles Jared Veldheer and Bobby Massie. As for the interior — guards Paul Fanaika and Ted Larsen and center Lyle Sendlein — Keim said he has concerns about their consistency.

Bruce Arians was asked after the game, following his talk about how the Cardinals got their “asses whipped” up front leading to a lack of a run game, whether there was a chance guard Jonathan Cooper could get a start against Detroit. Arians answered without hesitation: “None.”

Keim has suggested in recent comments that he thought Cooper could end up playing some, although that belief isn’t held by the coaching staff. And Keim said it’s up to the coaches.

“Anytime you are 8-1 there is a certain chemistry, and a lot of times coaches don’t want to mess with chemistry, which I certainly can’t argue with,” Keim said. “The other thing is, I’m the General Manager. It’s my job to add players to the roster, help pick the players. But I am always going to defer to the coaches when it comes to playing the players. It’s not my job to tell Bruce Arians or Harold Goodwin who to play from a personnel standpoint. That’s a decision those guys have to make, and if those guys think it’s in our best interests to play the two guards we currently have out there right now, that’s what I’m going to go with.”

— As for Drew Stanton, who will step in at QB assuming Palmer is out, Keim talked about the confidence the team has in Stanton. He made the point that, if the Cardinals didn’t think he would be able to step in after seeing him since the beginning of 2013 after Stanton signed, the Cards would have made a move to replace him.


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