Cutting Sheik, Highsmith among Cards’ moves

Posted by Darren Urban on August 3, 2010 – 2:36 pm

Hurting your calf on the first step of the conditioning test of training camp is never a good thing. So it’s probably not a shock the Cardinals waived-injured defensive lineman Dean Muhtadi Tuesday, the man known as the “Iron Sheik” to his teammates and the happiest man in the NFL to me. The Cardinals also cut inside linebacker Ali Highsmith, who had been running second team, and brought back yet again linebacker Pago Togafau, who has been with the Cards a few times. Finally, the team released wide receiver Deryn Bowser to sign safety Aaron Rouse, a veteran who played with the Packers and Giants last season.

The Highsmith move is a bit surprising, given the Cards’ questions at the position. But he struggled last season and apparently isn’t working out. Interesting on the signing of Rouse — who struggled a lot for the Giants, which is why they chased Antrel Rolle — but there are injuries in the secondary. Safety Hamza Abdullah was sitting out with a bad hamstring, and cornerback Rashad Barksdale has some sort of leg injury too.

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On Day 2, DRC looked darn good

Posted by Darren Urban on August 1, 2010 – 6:54 pm

The first hitting of training camp was today, even if it was inside — the Cards were driven to Walkup Skydome because of the wet fields. But that didn’t seem to stop the defense, which slowly but surely ratcheted up the physical play.

— Cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie was particularly sparkly, making play after play after play. He said it all started because he was battling with Larry Fitzgerald.

“It goes back to Fitz,” DRC said. “Anytime he is on that side, I am licking my lips. I am ready. If he is out there, I have to be that much better … when I am out there, I want to work. I want to make a statement it’s not going to be easy. Usually they can catch me sleeping, but this year I want to be focused on every play.”

He certainly looked that way today. He also looked like a Pro Bowler, while some of the other corners — Tru McBride and Greg Toler, for example — had their moments of weakness. Coach Ken Whisenhunt even said DRC is about 85 percent coming off his knee surgery, and fighting his way through practice is part of the rehab. If this is rehab, I am anxious to see what DRC looks like totally healthy.

— The first tussle of training camp went down between safety Rashad Johnson and tight end Stephen Spach. Spach, who got under the skin of safety Adrian Wilson last year, continues to fight to make the roster. Johnson said it was no big deal. “That’s football. It’s been a long time without pads on. The first day we had them on, it was expected someone was going to get a little excited to have them on.”

— Safety Hamza Abdullah has a sore hamstring, so he joined DL Dean Muhtadi (calf), LB Gerald Hayes (back) and LB O’Brien Schofield (knee) on the sideline. Abdullah’s injury isn’t considered serious, Whisenhunt said.

— Darnell Dockett was messing things up in the backfield. On one play, he pushed back guard Reggie Wells enough that Wells knocked down quarterback Matt Leinart. Whisenhunt said “yes” when asked if the team is considering signing Dockett to an contract extension at some point during this season. A reporter joked with the way Dockett was dominating inside, the offensive linemen might like it that Dockett get his deal sooner rather than later (ostensibly to cool Dockett down). Whisenhunt realizing a new contract won’t affect Dockett’s motor, said “With Darnell it doesn’t matter, so they’ll have to suffer with that.”

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First day in the books

Posted by Darren Urban on July 31, 2010 – 5:40 pm

The first practice came and went in relative sunshine! Stunning, I know. But the rain stayed away and the Cards’ first practice — in shells, looking much like a minicamp or OTA workout — was good. But as Ken Whisenhunt said a couple of times, “It’s only the first day.”

The first day did cost the Cards defensive tackle Dean Muhtadi, who hurt his right calf on basically his first step of the conditioning test. For a guy working so hard to stay in shape all offseason, a killer result. Whisenhunt said Muhtadi will be out for a while, although he added, “it’s a long camp.” Whether it is long enough for Muhtadi to make enough of his impression, we will see.

Many of the depth chart choices this early were not unexpected. Trumaine McBride was running across from DRC as first-team cornerbacks, not Greg Toler. Defensive coordinator Bill Davis stressed to me that job opposite DRC is “wide open.” The inside linebackers, with Gerald Hayes hurting, are Monty Beisel and Paris Lenon. Daryl Washington knows what it is to be a rookie; he is third-string behind Lenon and Ali Highsmith.

On offense, Matt Leinart looked pretty good although Derek Anderson got a good chunk of reps too. The offensive line is the same that ended OTAs, with Levi Brown (LT), Alan Faneca (LG), Lyle Sendlein (C), Reggie Wells (RG) and Brandon Keith (RT). Deuce Lutui is second-team RG, next to tackle Herman Johnson. Ben Claxton is second-team center, with Jeremy Bridges at left tackle and Rex Hadnot at left guard.

I’ll have more tonight on the homepage, with notes about Gabe Watson, Alan Branch and their weights, DRC’s injury feelings and a story about the spotlight on the quarterback position.

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Deuce’s outlook and a limping Sheik

Posted by Darren Urban on July 31, 2010 – 1:05 pm

Deuce Lutui came out to talk at lunch. The guard was in a good mood — why wouldn’t he be — although he acknowledged he weighed 360 at his physical. He said he didn’t notice that he actually beat out some other linemen in the conditioning test.

“I wasn’t really looking to the right or left of me,” Lutui said. “All I knew was, in the last stretch, get your ass over the line. It was good to finish strong and knowing I had teammates to welcome me in at the finish line and give me recognition of doing the right things.  … I wasn’t at the weight I wanted to show up but my cholesterol is down, heart rate was nice, so I was cleared.”

Football, after all the talk about him in the offseason, is Lutui’s big goal now. “That’s my mission. Deuce Lutui is here to get with the fellas and knock some heads around. It’s something I have been missing. I feel I have had a Brett Favre offseason and I want to come out and showcase my athleticism.”

As for all the talk about him and his weight this offseason, Lutui said he tried not to pay too close of attention. “I knew within my mind what I was about to do. I am here and that’s all that counts. I am happy to be here with the boys and the coaches and try to get with their good graces. … There are some rumors going around (that I weighed) 396, and I have said before I am the Lindsay Lohan of the offensive line, get bad media coverage. But that’s how it goes.”

He was almost late getting to a meeting, and ended the interview by saying, “I’ve got to run, fellas.” And then Deuce did just that — he ran.

— Postscript, the Cards have an injury in camp already. Defensive lineman Dean Muhtadi, Iron Sheik on the team and the happiest man on the roster, was not so happy after the run test. He was limping with some sort of right leg injury. Coach Ken Whisenhunt talks after practice this afternoon. But it’s a bummer for a guy who is impossible not to root for.

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Warner’s life and the Iron Sheik

Posted by Darren Urban on July 20, 2010 – 9:20 am

So the St. Louis Post-Dispatch put out a nugget at the bottom of this column that former Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner is listening to offers to either turn his life story into a movie or create a reality show about his big family (or both). That could be interesting (HT, by the way, to The Big Lead on the item). He’s stayed quite busy, hasn’t he? I’ve heard a rumor Warner might be in consideration for “Dancing With The Stars” too. And there is certainly few more prolific on Twitter than Warner since he retired.

As for current Cardinals, our friend the Iron Sheik — defensive lineman Dean Muhtadi — is back in the news. I’m biased toward my story about the happiest man in the NFL, but I suppose it doesn’t hurt to have the Washington Post profile your workouts with some pretty high-brow NFL guys, like teammate Darnell Dockett (shown below with Dean in a Post photo). As people have said before, he’s a guy for which whom you want to root.

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Dock and the Sheik

Posted by Darren Urban on June 4, 2010 – 10:27 am

It’s hard not to root for a guy like Dean Muhtadi, as I noted in my column yesterday. But he’s not just the underdog. He’s doing the Cardinals some good in becoming the workout partner of Darnell Dockett. It was a pairing suggested by strength coach John Lott.

“Dock pulled 475 pounds (the other day) in the clean,” Lott said. “I’ll put that number against anyone in the National Football League. It’s not just because of Sheik, but Sheik lifts Dock to another level.”

Dockett took Muhtadi on, telling Muhtadi — when there were workouts only and no on-field work — that he needed to switch to the 7:30 a.m. group from 10 a.m., because that’s when the Pro Bowler would be there. “He’s going to keep up with your pace,” Dockett said of the man everyone calls “Iron Sheik.” “We push each other. We have no down time.”

The day Dockett was lifting 475 pounds on the clean, Lott said, Muhtadi was at 455 pounds. That fits Muhtadi fine. “I loved it here from day one when I found out John Lott was the strength coach,” he said. “This is my place because I am the ultimate meathead.”

Said Lott, “Sheik may be humble, which I like, but he’s got some talent himself. I just hope that motor he has — and he can run for a big man — will help him with us. Maybe he can find a way to scratch and claw on this team.”

Until then, he’ll push Dockett in the weight room, which Lott says Dockett embraces. “Dockett is a beast on the field for a reason, and one of them, his secret weapon, is that he is a beast in here for me.”

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Playing 60

Posted by Darren Urban on May 6, 2010 – 2:38 pm

I spent the morning out at University of Phoenix Stadium, where the NFL’s “Play 60” campaign — the one where the league tries to encourage kids to get at least 60 minutes of exercise a day — was culminating locally with a special event out on one of the lawns around the stadium. Twelve local schools participated in the “Play 60” challenge and the top 50 students from each school got to attend Thursday’s fun, which included appearances by a handful of Cards: Stevie Baggs (pretending to take on a “ballcarrier” below), Ben Graham, Ryan Kees, Reagan Maui’a, Dean Muhtadi and Ed Gant (below both expressing surprise after a “made” field goal). Cardinals cheerleaders conducted a clinic, local “Biggest Loser” contestants Sione and Filipe Fa and ex-Cards Robert Tate and MarTay Jenkins took part, and of course, Big Red was there too.

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Cards bring back Byrd

Posted by Darren Urban on January 21, 2010 – 2:02 pm

The Cardinals signed five more players to “future” contracts (which just means they don’t officially kick in until the end of the season), including tight end Dominique Byrd — who actually was on the roster this season, inactive for the first 10 games before being released Nov. 24. The Cards are also bringing back fullback Reagan Maui’a, the “Juggernaut” (there’s a little language at the end of the video, FYI) who was with the team in the preseason, along with cornerback Trumaine McBride, safety Herana-Daze Jones and defensive lineman Dean Muhtadi.

McBride isn’t big (5-foot-9) but the former Bear did start nine games in 2007. Jones (whose first name is pronounced “Hernandez”) has played in 30 games since 2006 with the Bengals, Broncos, Patriots and Saints. Muhtadi was an undrafted rookie at Green Bay’s camp this past season.

It’s intriguing that the Cards still want to look at Byrd. He definitely has receiving skills although his blocking isn’t where the Cards would like it. The team will need another tight end going into the offseason, but the future is up in the air for Anthony Becht. Becht is not only a free agent, but it’s possible he’s looking at retiring after a decade in the NFL. Byrd already had shown enough to the Cards for them to keep him half a season.

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