That’s it. The NFL season is over.
It’s a weird feeling here at the Cardinals’ Tempe facility, because the Cards have been done for a while — yet with the Pro Bowl and Super Bowl in town (not to mention the many appearance opportunities for various players, Bruce Arians and Michael Bidwill) it ramped up quickly around here. And then, quiet. The Scouting combine starts two weeks from Wednesday, and free agency will start a couple weeks after that. Roster moves will begin to happen. The 2015 season will be on us quickly.
— Bruce Arians told me Friday he expects to make an announcement on the new defensive coordinator this week. But that’s all it will be, an announcement, because Arians is out of town this week so he wouldn’t be at any press conference. Arians also said all the changes to the coaching staff aren’t quite done, so maybe he’ll just wait to talk about it once that all is settled. As I’ve mentioned, all signs point to the promotion of outside linebackers coach James Bettcher to DC.
— The decision to not run Marshawn Lynch was not smart. (I do get trying to beat a goal-line defense, but again, you have the best battering ram in the league.) That said, how does a defense that is that good allow two long touchdown drives in the fourth quarter? Can’t happen, and is as big of an issue in my mind as the offensive failure at the end.
— The Cardinals’ facility is now 3-for-3 in Super Bowl winners. The Cowboys (for Super Bowl XXX), the Giants (Super Bowl XLII) and now the Patriots all practiced at the Cards’ Tempe home the week of their games in Arizona.
— Speaking of the facility, more makeovers are underway. The new weight room and cafeteria are closer to being finished, and now that the Patriots don’t need it anymore, the locker room is being torn down for renovations.
Tags: Bruce Arians, coaching staff, James Bettcher, Marshawn Lynch, Patriots, Seahawks, Super Bowl
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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.
Tags: Bruce Arians, Daryl Washington, Jonathan Dwyer, Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Bidwill, Steve Keim, Super Bowl
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Kurt Warner was going to be here for the Super Bowl anyway, with his duties for the NFL Network. He was at U.S. Airways Center Tuesday for Media Day, answering questions from whomever might ask (including former Olympic gymnast/Inside Edition correspondent Shawn Johnson, who, like Warner, is a Dancing with the Stars alum. That’s the picture below.)
But the big day for Warner comes Saturday, when the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee whittles down the final group of 15 — within which Warner qualified — to the Class of 2015. It is Warner’s first year on the ballot.
“I’ve tried to just live life and not get too bogged down with this whole process,” the former Cardinals quarterback said. “I’m enjoying it. I’m honored to be in the final 15. As I’ve told people, whenever it gets to a cut, you start to realize how much more gravity it has to it. Right now, ‘Hey, I’m one of the 15. That’s crazy.’ Come Saturday, I’m sure we’re all going to feel the gravity of what the decision to get into the Hall of Fame means, what that looks like big picture to us.
“Right now, I’m so honored to be in the 15 with the great, talented players. So many players I’ve played against, people that I know that are great people, that I’m just honored to be in the class. We’ll let it play out.”
At this point, Warner’s spot in the Hall of Fame seems to be more a question of when, not if. It’s hard to make it to the final 15 the very first year you are on the ballot if you aren’t already considered a guy who is worthy. Maybe it will happen on his first chance, maybe not. It would certainly be a nice coincidence given that the Super Bowl and Hall announcement is in Arizona.
“My only hope is that, when it comes to Saturday and they call you or knock on your door, whatever, I just don’t want it to be any kind of a disappointment for anybody,” Warner said. “We all are honored to be in this class and be in the top 15, and I’m worried that if you don’t get that knock on your door, you walk out (disappointed). Hey, I’m one of the 265 best players to ever play this game, so to speak, and I’m pretty cool with that. I’m good with that. I want this to be a joyous time, and if I get in, what an amazing honor. It’ll be a great ride.”
Tags: Hall of Fame, Kurt Warner, Super Bowl, Super Bowl XLIX
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It was the mantra Bruce Arians made sure his team lived by all season.
“Don’t let anybody dress in your locker room come February,” was the version Arians vocalized at midseason, a nod to making sure the Cardinals fought hard to reach the Super Bowl and be able to practice and play in their home facility and at University of Phoenix Stadium. That dream died on Wild Card weekend. So the next thought was the idea this weekend that NFC West rival Seattle, after beating the Packers in the NFC Championship, would then take up residence in the Cardinals’ locker room. That got a reaction.
A Seahawk is gonna be sitting in my locker 😡
— Tony Jefferson (@tonyjefferson1) January 18, 2015
Except that will not be the case.
At University of Phoenix Stadium, there are multiple locker rooms, so neither the Seahawks or the Patriots will use the Cardinals’ locker room. The Cardinals’ practice facility in Tempe is in play during the week, but the Patriots are going to use the facility — it was going to be the AFC team regardless, although I’m assuming that would have changed if the Cardinals had made it this far.
Tags: Patriots, Seahawks, Super Bowl, Tony Jefferson
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The “deadline,” such that it is, comes on the fifth day of the NFL’s league year — which begins March 10 at 2 p.m. Arizona time. That’s when, if Larry Fitzgerald is still on the Cardinals’ roster and still has his current contract in place, he is owed $8 million. That’s the real date at which everyone is focused to see what happens with the wide receiver and whether he stays with the Cardinals and if so, what kind of contract he has.
GM Steve Keim has long acknowledged he has had ongoing discussions with Fitzgerald’s agent about redoing the contract and fixing that bloated $23.6 million salary cap number Fitz carries with him. There have been a couple of reports out there that the conversations toward a new deal have been positive. That’s good, although as we all know, something like this isn’t done until it’s done, and just because someone hasn’t hung up on someone else doesn’t guarantee anything.
Still, you start to think about that March deadline, and one other potentially artificial one: Super Bowl week.
Fitzgerald is usually a regular on radio row at Super Bowl week. Whether it’s for the company EAS or someone else for which he might be a spokesman, that’s the week where the sponsors want to capitalize on having the big name doing their work. When Fitz does a bunch of TV and radio interviews heading into the NFL’s biggest game, he’s answering a lot of questions.
And while Fitz always handles himself and his answers like a pro — he’s really, really good at that part of his job — it’s not always his favorite thing to talk about the more controversial of subjects (like, in years past, the chaotic quarterback situation with the Cardinals.) So what happens when he sits down for interview after interview and the first (and probably not the only) question he is asked is about whether he’ll be a Cardinal? His contract situation, which I know he’d rather not talk about, could end up taking up the entire segment.
(Except for the one EAS question at the very end, right?)
I’m not saying anything is going to get done with the Cardinals and Fitzgerald by Super Bowl week — to me, the only thing that would be done that quickly would be a way to keep him in Arizona, because a trade can’t happen until March 10 and they aren’t releasing him at that point — just because he’ll be doing some interviews. But it’s something to think about.
Tags: contract, Larry Fitzgerald, Super Bowl
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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.
Tags: Bruce Arians, owners meetings, Super Bowl
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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.
Tags: Antoine Cason, Buddy Morris, Javier Arenas, Mike Helm, Mike Jenkins, Roger Kingdom, Super Bowl
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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.
Tags: Pro Bowl, Super Bowl, University of Phoenix stadium
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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.
Tags: John Abraham, Patrick Peterson, Peyton Manning, Richard Sherman, Seahawks, Steve Keim, Super Bowl, Todd Bowles
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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.
Tags: Frostee Rucker, Karlos Dansby, Larry Fitzgerald, Patrick Peterson, Patriots, Super Bowl
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