Revisionist History: Once upon a time in Mexico

Posted by Darren Urban on June 10, 2011 – 3:56 pm

The latest in a series of offseason posts looking back:

Now, there is a game in England every year, as much a part of the NFL landscape as Bill Belichick’s dry press conferences or James Harrison’s fines. Once, though, it was a big deal that the Cardinals and the 49ers were going to play the first NFL regular-season game out of the country, in Mexico City.

Back in 2005, we had the NFL’s then-COO, Roger Goodell, talking about wanting to see how a game outside the U.S would work. In a lot of ways, the Cards were a natural fit. A game against the 49ers at Sun Devil Stadium usually would only draw 35,000 or so and it would be half-empty; with the Cards set to move into University of Phoenix Stadium the next year, it made sense they would be the team to surrender a home game for the cause. That didn’t necessarily work for the Cardinals’ players, but in the big picture that usually doesn’t matter.

There were other reasons why the Cards were a match. On the practice squad was offensive lineman Rolando Cantu, the first Mexican citizen (non-kicker) ever to play in the NFL (Rolando is now a co-worker, his desk just a few cubicles down from me) wasn’t playing in the game but he was already a virtual rock star in Mexico because of his spot with the Cards. (Cantu officially played in the NFL the final game of the 2005 season in Indianapolis, cementing his legacy.)

The Cards tried to approach the journey to Mexico as just another road trip. Don’t forget, it was mixed in with the Cards’ poor 0-3 start, including an groin strain the week before in Seattle for first-year quarterback Kurt Warner. Josh McCown was back at QB, facing future Card Tim Rattay as the 49ers QB, since rookie Alex Smith had yet to win the job. Ideally, the Cards wouldn’t have given up a home game, especially since most of the 100,000-plus fans (final attendance was officially 103,467) who had a rooting interest would be rooting for the 49ers.

That changed quickly, when veteran safety Robert Griffith came charging out during introductions waving a huge Mexican flag. Suddenly, many fans who hadn’t cared about who won and who lost now took a liking to the Cards. The game started horribly, with the Cards fumbling on each of their first two possessions, both of which were returned for touchdowns. It was a 14-0 hole and San Francisco hadn’t even been on offense. But the Cards rallied, and rallied big.

McCown ended up with arguably his best day as a Cardinal (32-for-46, 385 yards, two touchdowns, no interceptions) and kicker Neil Rackers had his best day of his best season, making all six of his field-goal attempts (Rackers set an NFL record with 40 field goals, in 42 attempts, that season.) The game, by all accounts, was a success (OK, maybe the 49ers wouldn’t agree) and paved the way for the future games outside the U.S.

My lingering memory, aside from Griffith’s run? My paper at the time was still backward in its technology and I may have been the only one without a wireless capability on my laptop. I was worried about getting a landline at the stadium (The NFL did a great job of hooking me up despite those nasty long-distance rates) and it paid off – stadium workers breaking down after the game kept shutting off the wireless connections, leaving only backwards-me uninterrupted access to the internet on deadline.

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Posted in Blog | 21 Comments »

21 Responses to “Revisionist History: Once upon a time in Mexico”

  1. By 40yearfan on Jun 10, 2011 | Reply

    Great article Darren. Your Revisionist history series has been fun, informative and I’m sure, an eye opener to some Cardinals fans.

    Keep up the good work.

  2. By Peter in Canada on Jun 10, 2011 | Reply

    I too love the revisionist history series. I just hope the strike is settled before you run out of stories.

  3. By Scott H on Jun 10, 2011 | Reply

    I think we are truly running out of things to talk about…and Darren, pleasee don’t take this as a criticism of your hard work because it is not. It can’t be easy for you to try to keep this blog going these days. But walking down memory lane just ain’t as exciting as the anticipation of and preparation for a new season. And with nothing going on because everything is shut down…it’s just sad. The NFL Network is going to run out of ideas for Top Ten lists any day now…

  4. By Pheenic Skii on Jun 10, 2011 | Reply

    That picture of Robert Griffith waving the flag is awesome. Great to know that the Cardinals played a small part in NFL history.

  5. By R Robles on Jun 11, 2011 | Reply

    That was a really good game we should do that again soon

  6. By David Corcoran on Jun 11, 2011 | Reply

    Have to agree with 40yearfan, these articles are really interesting Darren.

  7. By Billy on Jun 13, 2011 | Reply

    I’m sure this will be posted soon, but I just wanted this to be posted, because I think we should all be proud of Breaston for what he wrote. At least he’s showing that some of the Cardinals players are thinking of the fans. We’ve got a really special talent in him, both on the football field and off.

  8. By UKCardsfan on Jun 13, 2011 | Reply

    Love these articles Darren

    Do you think the Cardinals will ever come to the UK again ??

  9. By Darren Urban on Jun 13, 2011 | Reply

    UKCards —

    RE: Going to England

    Have they ever been there?

  10. By bluepitt on Jun 13, 2011 | Reply

    You have to check the latest crap spewed by Yahoo, pro player writers.

    Let me know what you think about my E-Mail sent to Jason Cole’s…
    Here it is:

    In reply to your recent blog titled:

    “Expect injury totals to rise following lockout”

    Really man? Really! you have a player playing at 330 during the season and now he is 400lbs? You are trying to feed us the sob crap, That it is any ones fault but his? Oh it is the owners fault? Get real!

    Here is some more crap you are trying to feed us ( And I don’t care who told you this! It is still BS!!) “even players under contract can’t afford to chance getting what might be considered a non-football injury.”
    If you don’t think that Said player wont have his Legal team all over this if he gets hurt training for football on his own under a lockout, you are as stupid as Michael Silver!


    “You just know what’s going to happen to guys like that,” Gaines said. “They have to lose weight fast, so they’re going to do something drastic and dangerous, maybe even something illegal.”

    And that is the owners fault as well? These guys are ADULTS and obviously need the Owners more than the owners need them!

    One of the funniest

    “You think about some rookie running back who goes in there and doesn’t know who to block in practice because he hasn’t seen a playbook and then somebody comes free and just lights up the quarterback,” Fischer said.”

    If you think for one minute that the players are going to “In Practice” Light up a QB you are stupider than Michael Silver!


    “few players had any sense of urgency about training because there was little understanding of when the labor impasse would end. Even now, many players aren’t training that urgently because they don’t know how soon an agreement could be reached.”

    Sounds to me like Lazy Players, not the Owners faults! They know the lockout will end and it is their responsibility to be ready for that as professionals! No excuses! It sounds to me that the Owners are the reason for the success of the NFL and are needed more than the players let on!

    If it wasn’t for all the training and coaching the owners provide, The players would be a heaping pile of over weight cry babies! Proving the point the NFL is driven by the “Owners” Not these flash in the pan players demanding all sorts of crap, then taking millions in roster bonuses prior to being Jailed (Vick) or Quitting (ALBERT).


    “Even for the guys who have been working out with us, we’re doing the best we can to get them ready, but you can’t hit and you can’t even replicate that speed and tempo. We’ve had guys working in cleats a lot just to get used to running again, but that’s really the best you can do.”

    Really Michael,,,, Or Jason sorry, The players would not be hitting yet any how? What the Hell are they and you talking about?


    ““It’s not just the conditioning. It’s the guys who won’t even know what they’re doing. It’s the rookies who haven’t been to a minicamp who won’t know where they’re supposed to be and don’t know the tempo of how practice works. It’s the free agents who end up with a new team not knowing the plays right away but the coaches expect them to go full-tilt.

    Do you really think coaches in the NFL will just throw these players out their with out guidance? WOW GET A CLUE!


    ” I can’t even imagine some of the things we’re going to see when players come back, what kind of surgeries they had that nobody knew about or the kind of rehab they may or may not have done.”

    Once more proving that these “Players” need the supervision of the “Owners” more than ever!

    I’m going to stop here, and leave you with this thought!

    If the Players cant even prep for a season with out breaking laws, trying to stay in some sort of shape or at the very least doing the right things to prepare for the season, then they are just proving the “Owners” need the larger cut of profits for baby sitting these over paid crybabies! Who cant even seem to not break laws in order to stay in shape, if they can stay in shape at all to make at the least 2X what a blue collar worker makes in 2 years, Playing a freaking game!

    Have I played in the NFL? No but I did Play in the AFL, and several semi pro leagues around the US, And when one of these Big shot NFL players would come in and play after his Stint in the NFL, none of the Players in our Lowly Leagues were impressed by them, and there have been several!

    We found them lacking in tons of areas, and most will tell you that the Semi Pro league’s are no joke and the players hit for real because they play for the “GAME” not a check! Most don’t even get paid, they just get a road trip out to town to play on some high school field in some small city in front of a couple hundred die hard fans! NOW THAT’S FOOTBALL!

    The truth is simple, if you think these players were that great prior to the constant supervision, training and coaching PROVIDED BY THE OWNERSHIP you would be gravely mistaken!

  11. By jocards on Jun 13, 2011 | Reply

    Hey, the Cardinals just don’t lose outside of the United States!

  12. By UKCardsfan on Jun 14, 2011 | Reply


    The Cardinals came to the UK in the early 80s and played at the old Wembley (against the Vikings) in pre-season.

    Would love to see them again – I missed seeing Roy Green in the flesh but Fitz would be a nice substitute!

    So what are the chances ?

  13. By Darren Urban on Jun 14, 2011 | Reply

    UKCards —

    RE: Cards in England

    Well, I probably wouldn’t be a very good handicapper.

  14. By Scott H on Jun 14, 2011 | Reply

    I personally do not like this whole thing with games being played in other countries. I know the NFL sees it as marketing as they try to globalize the game, but I see this as the NFL just looking for a way to make more money. But who loses out here? Simple – the fans who have one of the ONLY 8 home games they are going to have all year taken away from them and given to people in London or wherever. That’s wrong. Sorry if this sounds nasty but if people in other countries want NFL football so bad, then they can get on a plane and come here to see it. Or they can get a satellite dish and watch all the games they want on TV. Football games are a total event to fans in most cities and they are like gold because there are so few of them. The NFL should NOT be taking them away from the fans who have made this league what it is and given to people in other countries. Again, that is just wrong.

  15. By bluepitt on Jun 15, 2011 | Reply

    @Scott H,
    I second that!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  16. By Scott H on Jun 16, 2011 | Reply

    bluepitt –

    You are truly a man of chararcter, my friend!

  17. By juan on Dec 26, 2011 | Reply

    I became a cardinals fan after that game. Watching fitz and boldin that game was freaking awesome. I think Im just one the few persons that remain as mexican cardinals fans in mexico after that game.

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