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After Heap tragedy, “Hugs from Holly” day

Posted by Darren Urban on May 2, 2017 – 4:45 pm

In the aftermath of the tragedy with former Cardinals tight end Todd Heap and his daughter Holly, there is an inspirational message planned for tomorrow, May 3, deemed #hugsfromhollyday.

From the website hugsfromholly.com: “Holly was known to give the best hugs, and her love for everyone and everything in life was contagious.  Let’s spread this joy as we scatter sunshine in Holly’s honor on her birthday.” There are suggestions on how to be involved in Hugs From Holly, and there is also a donation button in order to give to the Baltimore Community Foundation, where Heap played the majority of his NFL career. People should wear pink, and generally do random acts of kindness.

It’s a way for something positive to come out of a terrible situation. Take part if you get a chance.


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Tragedy for former Cardinal Heap

Posted by Darren Urban on April 15, 2017 – 8:05 am

It is difficult to wrap one’s head around the tragedy that happened Friday, when former Cardinal tight end and Arizona State star Todd Heap accidentally hit his 3-year-old daughter in a driveway, killing her. It’s a terrible situation for any family to endure.

A statement from the Cardinals released Saturday morning:

“Our hearts go out to Todd, Ashley and the Heap family. It is a grief that is beyond words and one which no family should ever experience. Hopefully the prayers, love and support of their incredible group of friends and family provide them comfort that along with their strong faith will lead them through this unspeakably difficult time.”

Heap was a first-round pick of the Baltimore Ravens in 2001, playing there through 2010. He was with the Cardinals in 2011 and 2012.


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Moving on from Heap

Posted by Darren Urban on December 4, 2012 – 1:15 pm

It sounded so good, the idea of bringing former Arizona State star Todd Heap back home to play for the Cardinals. It kind of came out of nowhere during those crazy first days of training camp during the lockout-induced sign-fest every team was involved with in 2011. At the time, it seemed like a nice extra piece, although by then the Cards had already signed veteran Jeff King to be their blocker/lead tight end and drafted Rob Housler to develop into the key receiving tight end. Heap, it looked like, would buy time for Housler to develop.

And when Heap played, it made sense. He just didn’t play enough because of injuries, and Tuesday Heap was cut.

Heap played in just 10 of 16 games last season because of a bad hamstring. He played in the first two games this season before hurting his knee. How Heap saw his comeback and how the team saw his comeback certainly didn’t seem to mesh. He missed eight games officially with the knee injury, but the last two games he could have played and yet was left inactive. That was the writing on the wall.

Letting him go at this point won’t make a huge impact. He hasn’t been playing anyway and Housler has been an effective pass catcher, although it can be argued Heap’s blocking — and he was never known as a great blocker — is superior to Housler, who is still a work-in-progress at that part of the game. Heap (below in New York this weekend, next to media relations guru Chris Melvin) was also on the last year of his contract and he wasn’t going to be coming back, so this just ends his time a month earlier that it would have ended anyway. (For those thinking the Cards save money, they don’t. Heap is a veteran and since he was on the roster to begin the season, his salary, what’s left of the $1.15 million he was getting this season, was guaranteed.)

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Campbell, Roberts inactive, as is Heap

Posted by Darren Urban on December 2, 2012 – 9:37 am

Defensive end Calais Campbell (calf) and wide receiver Andre Roberts (ankle) both are inactive today. So too is tight end Todd Heap, who has recovered from his knee injury but apparently isn’t in the Cards’ plans unless there is an injury to another tight end. With Roberts out — and he is, not Larry Fitzgerald, leading the team in yards receiving and receiving touchdowns — that means rookie Michael Floyd will get his first start. David Carter will start in Campbell’s place.

The rest of the inactive list isn’t a surprise:

— QB Kevin Kolb (ribs)

— G Senio Kelemete

— T Pat McQuistan

— RB Alfonso Smith


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Friday before the Jets

Posted by Darren Urban on November 30, 2012 – 3:40 pm

Dan Williams likes to joke with defensive line coach Ron Aiken from time to time, letting Aiken know “I am always ready to rush the passer if they need me.” The big nose tackle isn’t going to get that chance often, not playing in obvious passing situations. The folks at profootballfocus.com noted the big nose tackle has been playing well and that it’s unfortunate he doesn’t get to play more because of the current state of the game.

Williams shrugs his shoulders. “I don’t know if I am a generation too late,” Williams said. “That’s what they brought me in here to do, to stop the run. When teams go to the extra receivers, they bring the extra DB in.”

That’s when Williams comes out. He sees himself as capable if needed in those spots. He sees nose tackles like New England’s Vince Wilfork and Green Bay’s B.J. Raji in such situations and believes he is as talented. He’s a long way from the weight-issue storyline that dominated his career – “Just for the record, I only missed weight one time and I think it was blown out of proportion,” he said – and, as noted, his play has been solid.

“If they try to throw the ball when we are in base, I am going to try to take advantage of that,” Williams said.

The Cardinals haven’t stopped the run as effectively as they have liked this season, but some of that has to do with the pass-defense-first packages they have used. This week, against the struggling Jets, the run would seem to be New York’s weapon of choice. Williams will be needed.

As for some other New York-is-next topics:

— Defensive coordinator Ray Horton was plain in his desire to get after Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez. “We sacked (Aaron Rodgers) on the first play, and I think he had one of his worst statistical games,” Horton said. “We hit Matt Ryan on the first third down and he didn’t have a very good game. It’s something we do anyway … when you hit the quarterback early, it gets in their mind a little bit.”

— It’s no surprise the Jets are struggling, but offensive line coach Dave DeGuglielmo was not happy during a rare press conference this week, including making the point he was being forced to use Vlad Ducasse every third series at left guard instead of the preferred Matt Slauson. (Ducasse, you may remember, has been a bust of a second-round pick best known for the man blocking O’Brien Schofield in the Senior Bowl practice in which Schofield blew out his knee.)

Horton noticed. “I saw their offensive line coach complaining a little bit about who makes the decision on who plays,” Horton said. “We hope there is a little confusion, disarray, uncertainty there we can take advantage of.”

— Rookie quarterback Ryan Lindley was matter-of-fact talking about his four-interception starting debut last week. He wasn’t about to declare it a disaster.

“This is a results-driven game,” Lindley said. “We lost the game, I gave up 14 points myself. So it wasn’t a good game. But there were things I can look at, move forward from, and gain confidence from to take into this week.”

Lindley can make up a lot of ground if he can respond well, on the road, against the aggressive Jets. Whether he can actually pull that off, with a new starting center in Rich Ohrnberger on top of it, remains a big question mark.

— The last time the Cardinals took on a Rex Ryan defense, coach Ken Whisenhunt unveiled the no-huddle offense. That was in Baltimore in 2007, when the Cards got way behind and starting QB Matt Leinart looked very bad. Kurt Warner came in and lit up the Ravens, who were still able to pull off a win at the end.

This is an entirely different situation, starting with the reality that Kurt Warner isn’t walking through that door. As for the chance the Cards could use the no-huddle, Whisenhunt didn’t exactly sound optimistic.

“Is it something you could do? Yes,” Whisenhunt said. “Is it something you can do with a rookie quarterback? Depends on the rookie. He’s done it, worked on it in practice. It could be part of the gameplan.”

— Tight end Todd Heap wasn’t active last week, Whiz said, because he didn’t get enough reps in practice and “you have to get ready to play and that’s part of it.” Heap did practice full all last week, however, just like this week. If I had to guess, I’d think Heap plays this week, but you never know. He was officially moved down the depth chart this week. Jeff King was already ahead of him, but Rob Housler now is too.

— Some TV shows this weekend. On this week’s “Season In Focus” Saturday morning at 7 a.m. on ABC-15, cornerback Michael Adams is featured on the “Wired” segment, and there is a “Zoom” episode on running back LaRod Stephens-Howling – including The Hyphen listening to his emotional draft-day phone interview for the first time. On “Flight Plan” Saturday night at midnight on Ch. 12 NBC, Whisenhunt breaks down some video of Lindley’s first start and he and Ron Wolfley preview the Jets game.

— Horton was asked if cornerback Patrick Peterson had reached the level of Jets corners Darrelle Revis (who is out for the season) and Antonio Cromartie.

“Patrick is past one of them already,” Horton said, referring to Cromartie. “He is approaching Revis with everything he does on and off the field.”

— Rams defensive end Chris Long was fined $15,750 for hitting Lindley in the head during last weekend’s game. Rams linebacker Jo-Lonn Dunbar was not fined for his hit on Cardinals receiver LaRon Byrd.

— Punter Dave Zastudil has 27 punts inside the 20 this season. Only Kansas City’s Dustin Colquitt (31) has more.

— One more sack by Daryl Washington and he ties the team record of 10 by a linebacker, set first by Ken Harvey. Maybe he finds Sanchez twice on Sunday.

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With Kolb an unknown, Lindley to start vs Jets

Posted by Darren Urban on November 26, 2012 – 11:34 am

Kevin Kolb made progress in practice last week but still was having soreness. His availability for this weekend’s game in New York against the Jets is very much in doubt with an entire week of practice to go. With that in mind, coach Ken Whisenhunt said today Ryan Lindley will get a second straight start in the New York game.

Now, we’ll have to see, if Kolb keeps progressing, if that could change. Whiz never came out and said Kolb would start if healthy. He just said he didn’t know where Kolb would be health-wise.

“For this week, yes, we stay with Ryan,” Whisenhunt said. “You can’t have the interceptions. But in the first half, I thought he did a really nice job.”

As for Kolb, “He still had soreness, and you have to weigh that against taking a hit in the pocket,” Whisenhunt said. “That’s going to happen in this league even when you get throws off. It has to be a safety concern there as well.”

— Whiz said he expects defensive end Calais Campbell to play against the Jets. And in response to a question about tight end Todd Heap being a “healthy scratch” on Sunday, Whiz said “I think Todd is just about to the point where he can play now (after a knee injury). It’s been disappointing we haven’t been able to get him back but we’ll see how he does in practice this week.”


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Rams aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on November 25, 2012 – 8:25 pm

The Cardinals know the criticism is coming, know it has been coming, know what’s being said. Coach Ken Whisenhunt was acknowledging speculation on his job security was “part of the business.” Linebacker Quentin Groves, meanwhile, was saying the Cards have to pull together because that’s their only option.

“We’re all we got,” Groves said. “We have to stick together as a family, as a team and then just say we’re all we got. The fans turn on you, the media turns on you, and at the same time those 62 guys in the locker room (it’s 61, counting practice squad, to be accurate) have to band together with the coaches as well as say we’re all we got, and go out and play.”

There isn’t much more to say on that. Obviously I’ve been through these losing streaks the last couple of years (and yes, so too have you) and I know what’s coming from you and in the comments below. No need to rehash them weekly. Sunday was a bad loss, especially after building early leads. Two road games are coming, in New York and in Seattle. Nothing simple about breaking the streak in either place.

Anyway, on to some game specifics:

— Ryan Lindley looked so … solid on that first drive. He was accurate. He was smart. And then it went off the rails. The interceptions, save for the last one (which I didn’t get a good look at), all looked like throws a rookie quarterback would make. The last pick-6, trying to throw something deep off a back foot, that looked particularly like a rookie. Doesn’t make it OK, but it wasn’t surprising.

The question is what now? Whiz acknowledged he thought about  taking Lindley out but didn’t. It’s tough for a team, though, knowing Lindley was in there two weeks in a row with a lead and the job could not be finished. The Rams didn’t come after Lindley right away. You have to wonder, with a Jets team reeling and with nothing to lose, what Rex Ryan might unleash on an inexperienced QB.

— Somehow, the Cards lost two games to the Rams this season when quarterback Sam Bradford completed a total of 15 passes in two games. Never thought that’d be possible.

— Having Beanie Wells made a difference early, but it felt like the Rams finally said defensively they wanted to make Lindley beat them, and he couldn’t, and that was that.

— Daryl Washington got his ninth sack and Patrick Peterson his fourth interception, and both were nice plays and helpful at the time. But defensively, the Cards let the Rams flip field position too many times. The big plays, like the first time against the Rams, bit the Cards. So too did Steven Jackson’s 139 yards rushing.

— Interesting that the game in which Todd Heap is essentially a healthy scratch, Rob Housler ends up with his best game so far (8 catches for 82 yards). Whether it was the defensive scheme or not, Lindley seemed to have a comfort level with Housler.

— Clearly, LaRod Stephens-Howling was having issues with his sore ribs. So William Powell got more time and chipped in six catches for 63 yards in that third-down back role.

— The question of the week will be Kevin Kolb’s health and Lindley’s status. As of now I’d assume Lindley is staying in there if Kolb isn’t healthy, but to be honest, Whisenhunt didn’t say that. The Jets will have extra time to prepare, but they’ve been pretty bad. Next week will be interesting. I don’t have much more to say about this week.


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Campbell still hurting, Heap will sit too

Posted by Darren Urban on November 25, 2012 – 12:56 pm

Injuries will keep defensive end Calais Campbell (calf) and wide receiver Early Doucet (ribs) as inactive today against the Rams, but it would seem that it is a coach’s decision that will keep tight end Todd Heap inactive once again. Heap practiced full all week and was probable for the game, but after missing every game since Week 2 with knee issues, coach Ken Whisenhunt warned that Heap being active on game day would depend on the rest of the 46-man game day roster. With Rob Housler playing a bigger role, Heap just isn’t as crucial at this point.

With Doucet down, rookie Michael Floyd will have to perform, and it means LaRon Byrd is active too.

Besides Heap, Doucet and Campbell, the rest of the inactives:

— QB Kevin Kolb (ribs)

— RB Alfonso Smith (with Beanie back and LaRod Stephens-Howling playing despite sore ribs, Smith must sit)

— G Senio Kelemete

— T Pat McQuistan


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Friday before the Rams

Posted by Darren Urban on November 23, 2012 – 4:34 pm

So I engaged in a Twitter discussion today with a fan with whom I have traded many tweets with in the past. He was frustrated with something coach Ken Whisenhunt said today about the challenge flags after the debacle of Jim Schwartz in Detroit yesterday (I’ll have Whiz’s thoughts in a moment). The fan’s problem was that Whiz was even talking about it, instead of, apparently, his job performance.

It seemed to be a good time to bring this up, because it’s not the first time someone is upset with a) what a coach or a player is talking about and b) the media not hounding coaches or players into some sort of bloodletting in front of the cameras.

Almost every quote you hear or read from these guys is prompted by a question. Whiz wasn’t talking about, in this case, the challenge flags, out of the blue. It was asked. He answered. It’s timely. Players always are answering questions. We’re all trying to generate interesting things to talk about. It’s not always about the status of job security.

That leads to the second point. I’m not sure what fans are expecting. Coaches and players tend to have a personality with their media interaction. Spend enough time around them, you know what they are going to get. Everyone seems to be waiting for Whisenhunt to change course now and that’s not going to happen. And guess what – it doesn’t matter. Whisenhunt isn’t saying anything different or handling anything different than when the Cards were winning, and no one had a problem with it then. Andy Reid stands up and says mea culpa every week in Philly and everyone still wants him fired because he’s not winning. The message doesn’t matter as much as results. Whisenhunt isn’t oblivious to the outside world. He knows what is going on. Yet this notion that if he talks about anything but, say, his future or the quarterbacks or the offensive line issue is just pointless, well, I don’t get it. Those things are important, but there are other things to talk about too.

Lemme get off the soap box now to hit some other points heading into the Rams’ game:

— Wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald would like to have a big game. He’s not saying it, but you know he’s feeling it. Winning, though, is still his priority, he insisted. “We won in New England when I had one catch for four yards,” Fitzgerald said. “It’s possible to be done. If that’s what it takes that’s what it takes.”

When it was pointed out he’d prefer to win with a lot more catches and some touchdowns, Fitz laughed. “I prefer a lot of things,” Fitzgerald said. “But hey, it’s the way it is.”

— It’s so hard to predict what Fitz might do this week, but I’d be surprised if newbie Ryan Lindley doesn’t try to get him the ball. A Pro Bowl wide receiver can be a nice security blanket for a rookie QB.

— Whiz said he isn’t planning on scaling back the offense because Lindley is playing. He just wants his offense to do what they already can do better.

— Whisenhunt noted that the last time the Cards played the Rams, Darnell Dockett was limited. Actually he was very limited, making almost no impact because of the hamstring injury bothering him at the time. Dockett is good now. He created a lot of havoc last week in Atlanta – “You see his explosiveness,” Whisenhunt said – and will be a new factor with which the Rams must deal.

— It’s a tradeoff, because Rams running back Steven Jackson is looking better than he has in a couple of years. That may be because he is healthier than he has been in a couple of years (he has 182 yards over the past two games, averaging more than five yards a carry.)

“He’s the unsung NFL MVP,” Cardinals linebacker Quentin Groves said. I don’t know if I’d go that far, but it shows the Cards’ respect for Jackson.

— Jackson will be even more important with the news Rams receiver Danny Amendola is doubtful with a foot injury. Amendola didn’t practice all week, yet he was the one guy – along with Jackson – Cardinals players kept mentioning. Amendola was also the receiver that was shredding the Cards in the first meeting before he got hurt early. His absence would be a boon to the Cards.

— About Whisenhunt and the challenge flags. Lions coach Jim Schwartz screwed up on Thanksgiving. He threw his flag when an 81-yard TD run by Texans RB Justin Forsett that should have been called down wasn’t, which is a no-no – Forsett ran for a TD, and all scoring plays, like turnover, are automatically reviewed. Throwing your flag before the review is officially called for not only is a 15-yard penalty, it wipes out the review itself. The Cards watched the Falcons do the same exact thing less than a week ago.

“They warn you every game,” Whisenhunt said. “They make a point before every game of telling you on turnovers and scoring plays, you can’t throw the flag.”

Is the rule just? That’s debatable. It’ll be looked at in the offseason, I’m sure. But Whisenhunt was blunt in answering whether it is fair. “That’s the rule,” he said.

— I think we’ll see Calais Campbell play this weekend. How much I’m not sure. Will it be Dockett limited from the first Rams’ game? Maybe. Maybe he’ll play more. David Carter did a nice job last week as a fill-in, so that works.

— Tight end Todd Heap has practiced full all week with his knee issue. He is probable for the first time. Yet Whiz said whether Heap plays depends on the 46-man game day roster. If Heap isn’t active Sunday, it’ll be a coach’s decision. Will Heap’s long stint on the shelf cost him a chance to play going forward, barring an injury to a tight end? I don’t know if you take reps from Rob Housler for Heap. Then again, if you think Heap can make that much of an impact, I don’t know if you can afford to sit him either.

— With LaRod Stephens-Howling limited with a rib problem – technically he is questionable — it will be interesting to see if that will impact Beanie Wells’ workload in his return. Whiz has seemed to be warning off a heavy game for Beanie since he is just coming back.

— One final thought, as the Cards head into the final six games of the season, from linebacker Daryl Washington.

“If we can lose six games in a row, we can win six games (in a row) too,” he said. “That’s tough in the NFL but I believe we can do it. It would take a lot of effort, a lot of hard work. In the meantime, we have to focus on one at a time.”


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Carter starts for injured Campbell, Heap sits

Posted by Darren Urban on November 18, 2012 – 9:30 am

No surprise, but defensive end Calais Campbell won’t play today with his bad calf. David Carter will get the start instead, and he’ll get a big chance to show his advances at the new position. It’ll also be another missed game for tight end Todd Heap, who is still dealing with a knee injury.

The other inactives:

— QB Kevin Kolb (ribs)

— WR LaRon Byrd

— LB Jamaal Westerman (meaning undrafted rookie Zack Nash is the only backup outside linebacker behind Sam Acho and Quentin Groves)

— G Senio Kelemete

— T Pat McQuistan

For the Falcons, wide receiver Julio Jones is playing despite missing all week of practice with an ankle sprain. I can’t imagine he’ll be anything but limited today. Starting linebacker Sean Weatherspoon, who also has an ankle sprain, is sitting.


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