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Blogs

Arians: “No reason” Cards can’t have home Super Bowl

Posted by Darren Urban on March 26, 2014 – 9:07 am

The subject is not taboo in Tempe, that’s for certain. Super Bowl XLIX, coming early next year after the 2014 season, will be played at University of Phoenix Stadium, and the Cardinals — after 10 wins last season and improvement — have mentioned the possibility of playing in the game. Just last week, when cornerback Antonio Cromartie was signed and team president Michael Bidwill appeared with Cromartie at his press conference, both alluded to the idea.

“You look for a team that has been a big-time contending team that is coming up for a Super Bowl,” Cromartie said. “A chance to play a Super Bowl in your own stadium would speak volumes.”

But coach Bruce Arians had the ear of the national media Wednesday morning at the NFL owners meetings, and not only did he address the idea, he emphasized his belief in his team making such a run.

“I ain’t afraid of it,” Arians said. “We played well at the end of the season. If we can do that early, the confidence of the core of the team is back. Our leadership is back. We are talented enough. Talent is not the issue. I told them that last year but they didn’t believe me until it was too late. There is no reason we can’t be the first team to play a home Super Bowl. Absolutely no reason.”

Arians has never shied away from being confident, in both himself and his players. He sets the bar high.

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Super Bowl centerpiece and other stuff

Posted by Darren Urban on March 18, 2014 – 4:54 pm

This year’s Super Bowl is going to be at University of Phoenix Stadium, in case you hadn’t heard. And in the days leading up to the game, there will be a multitude of NFL busy-ness going on in downtown Phoenix, including the NFL Experience — essentially the league’s football theme park. For those interested, there is a map below of how it will unfold early in 2015. Click on the picture for a full-size version.

– A good story by Kyle Odegard about new strength and conditioning coach Buddy Morris and his philosophy resides on the homepage. One thing that struck me was this Morris quote: “From my perspective, we can do all this stuff to improve their physical performance – bigger, stronger, faster, blah, blah, blah – but the bottom line is, can we keep them from injuries so they can play every weekend? That’s where my payoff is.” That’s obviously important for every strength coach, but rarely do you hear it communicated as so much more important than the other stuff.

– The addition of Roger Kingdom as a speed coach is also intriguing. I, like some have said to me, am curious on how it will impact guys like Larry Fitzgerald and Michael Floyd — neither of whom are slow by any means, but are not known for their speed.

– Other than the Mike Jenkins visit, it’s quiet on the Cardinals’ free agency front. Players are hoping they will still drum up the contracts they want, teams like the Cards figure it’s moving to a buyer’s market. We will see if anything comes about by the end of the week, before GM Steve Keim heads to the owners meetings next week.

– Cornerback/kickoff return man Javier Arenas, who didn’t figure to come back, agreed to a one-year deal with the Falcons. The Panthers reportedly have interest in the Cards’ other veteran free-agent cornerback, Antoine Cason.

– Big congrats to media relations coordinator/king of great notes Mike Helm, who, along with wife Marika became a parent this morning to new son Landon David Helm.

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Talk of Pro Bowl coming to Arizona

Posted by Darren Urban on February 25, 2014 – 5:04 pm

A couple of years ago, the Pro Bowl was moved to Miami, which that year was also the site of the Super Bowl. The idea was to incorporate the Pro Bowl on the front end of the Super Bowl week to come. Now come multiple reports that next year’s Pro Bowl is being seriously considered to move to University of Phoenix Stadium, which also will be hosting the Super Bowl a week later. First reported by Pete Dougherty of the Green Bay Press-Gazette, it certainly would make the Valley king of the NFL in late January.

It’s an interesting concept. The NFL still sees a lot of players bail out for the Pro Bowl and the league would like to slow that down. By the same token, you’d think Hawaii would be a bigger draw for players than anywhere on the mainland. At least the Pro Bowl was more competitive and looked more like a football game this past season.

Cardinals players wouldn’t even have to go anywhere. Of course, they are hoping to not even get to play in the game because their season would still be alive — although they wouldn’t have to travel for that game either.

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Calais Campbell appears on game show during Super Bowl week

Posted by since1898 on February 5, 2014 – 12:15 pm


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Pressure wins championships

Posted by Darren Urban on February 3, 2014 – 3:22 pm

The Seahawks’ defense is being lauded today and rightfully so for their throttling of the Broncos’ record-setting offense in the Super Bowl. There are a bunch of breakdowns out there comparing Seattle’s defensive year to those of the best ever, and the Seahawks deserve to be in that conversation with teams like the 2000 Ravens and the 1985 Bears (I’d think some of those Steel Curtain teams should be in the discussion too, but I digress.)

Defense doesn’t necessarily win championships — I saw a stat that said the team with the higher-ranked defense actually has lost six of the last eight Super Bowls — but it certainly doesn’t hurt. But I believe pressure can help win a title, and that’s certainly what the Seahawks did to Peyton Manning and why the Cardinals had defensive success this season.

Profootballfocus.com charted that the Seahawks blitzed Manning on only six of 51 dropbacks in the Super Bowl, yet were in his face all game. That’s the kind of pressure the Giants put on Tom Brady in the last Super Bowl played in Arizona, the one in which New York placed the stunning upset on the previously undefeated Patriots. When you can pressure with four, everything changes.

The Cardinals had a lot of pressure success in part because defensive coordinator Todd Bowles was a genius with mixing up attack plans on the quarterback, and there was a lot of blitzing involved in that. They also benefited when linebacker John Abraham played like the John Abraham who had spent a career getting double-digit sacks every season. That kind of rusher is important. And going forward, it’s one of the reasons General Manager Steve Keim will lean toward not only the offensive but the defensive line in terms of trying to make the most improvement. It’s great to have one of the best cornerbacks in the game in Patrick Peterson, but without pressure, it doesn’t mean much. The same goes for Seattle’s Richard Sherman and the rest of that defensive backfield — they can afford to be aggressive, because they know the pressure will be coming sooner rather than later.

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Cheerleader Kristen visits Camp Zama Military Base in Japan for Super Bowl weekend

Posted by since1898 on January 31, 2014 – 9:34 am

FOLLOW @AZCARDSCHEER ON INSTAGRAM TO SEE MORE OF KRISTEN’S TRIP

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Fitz talks contract and the never-ending rumors

Posted by Darren Urban on January 30, 2014 – 1:22 pm

If there has been one constant for Larry Fitzgerald every offseason it’s been some kind of (wild) speculation that he could be on the move. This usually tends to come up right around the Super Bowl, so when Fitz is doing his annual trek through Radio Row that week, he ends up needing to address it. Sort of address it, I guess, because Fitz is as adept at sidestepping such controversy as he is high-pointing a catch. He also, as usual, had to talk about his contract, which sports the scary $18 million salary cap number for 2014.

Fitz was back on Radio Row today, so of course, the popular topics came up. During an interview on “The Dan Bickley Show with Vince Marotta” via Arizona Sports 98.7, Fitzgerald was asked about the potential restructure of his contract. That’s always interesting, since restructuring is not a pay cut and usually puts more money in the player’s pocket right away. And while Fitz didn’t say it directly, he did seem to leave the door cracked — a teeny-tiny bit — about a pay reduction. (Although, no, I don’t see Fitz agreeing to a pay cut. He’s a businessman. That will be very, very interesting to see how it comes out.)

But in terms of talking to the team about his contract, Fitzgerald said “when those discussions come I will do what I need to do. I have a great relationship with (GM) Steve Keim, he drafted me in Arizona. I understand his vision and what he is trying to do and the direction he is taking this ballclub. I understand at 30 years old there are things that need to change. That’s part of football, that’s part of being an older veteran.

“I want to see this team do well. I love this group of guys. Patrick (Peterson’s) deal is coming up and he needs to be compensated as the best corner in the game, which I feel he is. We’ve got to take care of Karlos Dansby, Frostee Rucker, there are a lot of guys that deserve to be compensated for their play. And I understand that.”

Earlier in the week, there was a report out of New England saying the Patriots had been interested in dealing for Fitzgerald in the offseason of 2013. How deep this was is up for debate, but again, even if the Cardinals were looking to trade Fitz — which I don’t think they are — there are a ton of moving parts because of the contract and the dead cap money that would come with it. During an appearance on WEEI, which is the big sports talk station in Boston (and which posted the photo below), there wasn’t a ton of Patriots/Fitz talk, but inevitably, it came up.

“If (the Cardinals) felt like that’s what they wanted to do, I would have no choice,” Fitzgerald said about such a trade. “Playing with Tom Brady, you couldn’t go wrong with that.” Fitzgerald added that “I have no idea if it was true.” Jim Gray, the TV/radio personality who knows Fitz (and Brady, for that matter) well having hosted their weekly radio Monday Night Football radio interviews — Fitz’s spot is sponsored by University of Phoenix, dontcha know — for a few years, was on the air too. He said to Fitz directly “Did (the Cardinals) ask you?”

Fitz was quick in his response. “No.” Fitz knows such questions are coming. He still never sounds comfortable having to deal with them.

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Take offense? Or get defensive?

Posted by Darren Urban on January 28, 2014 – 12:47 pm

When the Super Bowl is played Sunday, it will feature the best offense in the NFL — Denver scored 606 points this season, an incredible 37.9 per game — against the best defense in the NFL — Seattle not only allowed the fewest yards, but also the fewest points this season. A tangible example of the irresistible force meeting the immovable object. It’s hard not to see it as the answer about that “defense wins championships” cliché that floats out there.

It also got me thinking about the Cardinals, and their better recent teams.

The 2008 Cardinals made the Super Bowl after scoring 427 regular-season points (26.7 points a game) and followed up in the playoffs with 30, 33 and 32 points before scoring 23 in the Super Bowl. Of course, that team allowed 426 points, which is why they eeked out a 9-7 record. It was a potent offense. This season, the Cardinals put together 10 wins in large part because of the defense. The Cards were tops in the league in run defense, sixth overall and seventh in scoring defense. It would be interesting to consider that 2008 offense — Kurt Warner, Fitz in his prime, Anquan Boldin, 1,000-yard Steve Breaston and the Edge/Hightower RB tag-team going against the 2013 Cardinals defense.

Which is the better path to take? It’s hard not to think that defense wins titles. It’d be good to see Peyton Manning win another Super Bowl, but I’m not totally sure why the Seahawks aren’t favored in this game, at least a little. Maybe it’s because of last year’s Super Bowl, when a couple of defensive-dominant teams ended up playing in a scorefest. That was in the climate-controlled Superdome, though, and Manning won’t have that advantage Sunday.

As far as the score-first Cardinals versus the defense-first Cards? There’s a reason why Kurt Warner has said this year’s Cardinals team was better than his 2008 version. Part of that was that this year’s team could score a little bit too — with 379 points (23.7 a game) it wasn’t like the Cardinals couldn’t find their way into the end zone. I’d argue that Andre Ellington gave the offense an explosive element that 2008 offense didn’t really have either. Nevertheless, it’s a great debate to have.

ThenNowBLOG


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The NFC left to the West

Posted by Darren Urban on January 12, 2014 – 2:01 pm

If the NFC West was the best division in the NFL this season, it’s only fitting that the NFC Championship comes down to the 49ers visiting the Seahawks. The Cardinals, of course, know both intimately. It hasn’t been a great matchup for the 49ers in Seattle — yes, the Niners beat the Seahawks in the last meeting, but the last two times the 49ers have gone to Seattle, the Seahawks have won 29-3 and 42-13. Pretty dominant and one-sided.

I’d be shocked if the 49ers don’t make it much closer. The Seahawks deservedly will be favored though, and it will be difficult to pull off a road win. Then again, the 49ers are playing very well, better than the team that went into Seattle much earlier this season. I’d also guess that regardless of the AFC team, the winner of 49ers-Seahawks will be favored in the Super Bowl in the cold of New York. Both teams have been the best in the NFC all season. And, with the Broncos possibly sprinkled in, they have reason to lay claim to being the best two teams in the NFL.

You can be sure there are a lot of Cardinals seeing the results of these playoff games and wishing they would have had a chance to be in the mix, especially with the way they played against both teams in the last two weeks of the regular season. With that, I have to include a tweet — a re-tweet, actually — from the Cardinals’ official Twitter account from earlier today. No, I was not the author.


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Flashback with an Edge

Posted by Darren Urban on October 1, 2013 – 4:46 pm

Before we fully move past the trip to Florida and the week away, there was an Edge sighting Saturday night.

It was interesting, since the last time I saw Edgerrin James was in Tampa, in the aftermath of that difficult Super Bowl loss. Edge wasn’t in the locker room the next day when EdgeLamboUSEcleanout happened and he was cut a couple months later, not surprisingly, never to come back to the facility. But there he was Saturday night, coming out on the back patio of the Marriott Waterside to get Darnell Dockett. I happened to be sitting out there watching a college game, and I wasn’t going to say anything — but Edge, wearing a wide smile, coming over to say hello and shake hands.

He still has dreads but they are shorter than they were in 2008, but he still looks the same. Somehow, the Super Bowl week came up in the brief conversation and it wasn’t football. It was about the Lamborghini he bought that week as a gift to himself for making the game. The sporty white car (actual Edge Lambo pictured right) literally was delivered to the team hotel when the Cards arrived for the game and was parked out front all week.

These many years later, Edge said the dealer had wanted to have him take a test drive. Edge turned that down and bought it without having climbed into the seat. The funny thing is, Edge doesn’t have it anymore. He sold it. He said it rained too much in Miami to have it around.

Edge always was one of a kind. He was at the end of his career that season with the Cards, yet the Cards don’t make it to the Super Bowl without him in the postseason.

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