On Haggans and Holliday

Posted by Darren Urban on April 11, 2012 – 10:40 am

The list of the Cardinals’ own free agents is shrinking, which is what normally happens this close to the draft. Of the team’s original group of 16 unrestricted free agents (tackle Levi Brown was of course not on the original list, having been released and not technically a UFA), seven remain. Three were never going to return: linebacker Joey Porter, running back Chester Taylor and offensive lineman Pork Chop Womack. There is a still a chance safety Hamza Abdullah could come back even after the Cards signed James Sanders, and tackle Brandon Keith — given that the Cards haven’t added a tackle in free agency — is certainly still on the radar.

Then there are a pair of veteran defenders who helped on the field last season and were even more valuable in the locker room: linebacker Clark Haggans and defensive end Vonnie Holliday.

It’s tough not to think of Haggans these days because he was the one who all but lived at the facility year-round, working out every day. I have no doubt he is somewhere keeping in prime shape. It’s just not in the Cards’ weight room. He has moved past the point where you want him starting every game — this is the season O’Brien Schofield needs to take hold of that spot, across from Sam Acho, depending on who the Cards might draft — but Haggans still was and can be productive in a role on the field. Same goes for Holliday, who looked really good in the season finale when he got his most significant playing time of the season.

Again, the value to both comes as much off the field as on. I’ve mentioned this before but Holliday (and fellow vet DL Nick Eason) has the perfect temperament and attitude for what the Cards need him to be, a fill-in guy who can teach other players and be OK with that. Haggans played more last season but he too has been a good influence on the younger players. How could a guy who is constantly making sure he is prepared as possible not be?

Both players, however, fall into limbo at this point in their careers. A draft pick at either position could change a need to bring them back. Holliday hinted at retirement last year, although he said his thoughts right after the final game were that he’d want to return. I’m not sure anything gets done with either before the draft, but it’s not like you have to be worried about their commitment if you do bring them back.

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Sanders says he’s a Card

Posted by Darren Urban on April 4, 2012 – 9:35 am

UPDATE: Veteran safety James Sanders tweeted out this afternoon, when asked if there was a good chance he’d be a Cardinal, “its a done deal. See you in the desert!” Nothing official yet, but it sounds like the Cards have more depth. Maybe the new way all secondary acquisitions will be announced is via Twitter — a la William Gay.

(from earlier today):

The Cardinals haven’t shut down in free agency, and the proof is in the report that veteran safety James Sanders came in for a visit. Sanders, who was with the Falcons last season after spending six seasons with the Patriots, would be a piece for depth I would think (and in all likelihood, a short-term solution. At this late date in the free agency game, most deals are going to be for one year, because teams have filled holes, the draft is near, and players want another shot at free agency next year.) Obviously, the Cards have Adrian Wilson and Kerry Rhodes as starters at safety, and Rashad Johnson will be back this season after restricted free agency, but Hamza Abdullah remains unsigned.

Interest in Sanders also may be a nod toward the Richard Marshall-for-William Gay swap; Marshall, of course, was able to swing between cornerback and safety. Maybe Gay is better suited to stick at cornerback.

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Friday before the Browns

Posted by Darren Urban on December 16, 2011 – 5:05 pm

With safety Adrian Wilson playing so well, I thought it was appropriate to do a story on him this week, and he’s clearly becoming a story everywhere. Friday, he popped up on Jim Rome’s radio show, and he was A-Dub-honest. When it came to his self-assessment of his play during the first month of the season, “I was terrible. I was horrible. I didn’t like seeing myself like that on tape.”

More revealing was his comment about that play when it came to being a leader on the defense. “It hurt me emotionally the way that I was playing,” Wilson said. “I knew I wasn’t that type of player, and I knew what I was doing in games early on in the year, that wasn’t me. It hurt me inside, and I wanted to show my teammates I was still that guy, that guy they could depend on, still that playmaker. That fueled me as the season went on.”

He admitted coming back from the right biceps injury was mentally difficult, a strain that made it harder when he was already learning the defense. Wilson said he wasn’t doing a lot of interviews this season because he wanted the young players, guys like linebacker Daryl Washington and linebacker Sam Acho, to get the spotlight.

Besides, for the team, the most important thing is Wilson’s play on the field, which has been 180 degrees from “terrible.”

“Shoot, he didn’t talk to me the first two years I was here,” safety Hamza Abdullah said with a grin (and folks, that was a joke). “Between the white lines, he doesn’t care. You could be his Auntie, his next door neighbor, the guy who needs help crossing the street, if you are between the lines and wearing a different colored helmet, he is going to hit you hard, not care, push you down after the play. You want a guy like that on your team. He keeps it clean, but he’ll make you feel it at the end of the day.”

Clearly the Cardinals’ defense has played better because there are a bunch of players who understand the scheme better. But it’s not a coincidence Wilson has found a groove at the same time.

“I feel I am the emotional leader for this team,” Wilson said. “I may not say a lot during the week or do a lot of interviews but come game day being that emotional guy, being a guy who is out front, I think that’s important for the team defensively.”

On to Browns’ weekend:

— The streaking Cards’ defense runs into an offense that was struggling anyway and now must turn to backup quarterback Seneca Wallace. Good news, right? Well, perhaps the better news is the message – whomever is giving it, whether it is coach Ken Whisenhunt or defensive coordinator Ray Horton or  players leaders – that the only thing that matters is the next game and not whatever success the unit is having. No one is paying attention to the growing compliments.

“One thing I know, a pat on the back is six inches from a slap in the face,” defensive tackle Darnell Dockett said. “I treat that the same. We just want to do it for each other.”

— If the Cardinals win, Whisenhunt notches his 43rd win, most in franchise history for a head coach (and yes, postseason is included).

— If the Cards win, that’s a four-game winning streak, something they haven’t done since 1999.

— Is it feast or famine for this team? The Cards do have five offensive touchdowns of more than 50 yards this season (and an NFL-leading nine, thanks to Patrick Peterson’s four punt-return scores). Big plays have become the norm.

— Beanie Wells needs 57 yards rushing to reach 1,000 for the season. You know he’d like to do it against the Browns, the team that plays about a half-hour from his Akron home – and one for he once dreamt about playing.

— Starting cornerback/nickel safety Richard Marshall has turned into a valuable piece for Horton. He’s also a guy who signed only a one-year contract as a free agent before the season (which made sense, given the high hopes with Peterson, the injured Greg Toler and A.J. Jefferson by the time they got to 2012). He would seem to be a guy the Cards want to keep around. Marshall sounded like a veteran when asked about his future in Arizona.

“I like it here,” Marshall said. “My family likes it here, it’s a great place to play. Not too far from home. We will see what happens at the end of the year. The only thing I am thinking about is these last three games.”

— Wilson was fined $7,500 for roughing the passer after he grabbed 49ers quarterback Alex Smith’s facemask as he went flying by during a play last week. Niners linebacker Larry Grant was fined $15,000 for hitting Cards QB John Skelton below the knees, although reports from San Francisco are that Grant is appealing the fine because he said he hit Skelton in the thigh area.

— There has been only one team Larry Fitzgerald has not played against in his career – the Cleveland Browns. He missed the 2007 meeting because of a groin injury.

— Speaking of Fitz, he was asked about how to deal with the offensive slow starts: “I just keep hoping our defense can keep playing well in the first half so our engine can get going in the second,” he deadpanned. “Naw, we have to play better. The first half, it’s unacceptable for us to start that slow.”

John Skelton, Sunday’s probable starter at quarterback with Kevin Kolb’s concussion issues, has a 22.4 passer rating in the first quarter this season (and 100.8 in the fourth quarter).

Fitz may have been talking tongue-in-cheek, but the way the defense is playing, his idea just might work.

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Niners aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on November 20, 2011 – 11:41 pm

The locker room was emptying quickly, but Darnell Dockett was still smudged with eye black and in his football pants, talking to wave after wave of media questions. No one – at least publicly – has more bile for the 49ers. But after the way the Niners controlled Sunday’s game, even Dockett relented.

“It’s hard for me to sit here and not admit they are a good team,” Dockett said. “There is a reason they are 9-1.  I usually don’t give credit to no one, especially in the division.”

When you cover a singular team, you always evaluate through the prism of that team. Sometimes, what the other team is doing gets lost a little bit, and as Dockett said, there is a reason the Niners have won so many games and are going to win the NFC West.

Of course, my prism – the prism of this blog – is about the Cardinals. So, in the wake of the 23-7 loss:

— There isn’t a good reason to go on too long about the play of quarterback John Skelton. Obviously, he didn’t play well. He said that plainly on Twitter just a little while ago – “I cost my team a win with my poor play today. We’ll bounce back and so will the #birdgang” – and the part that hurt Sunday wasn’t that he had an off game, because that happens. But it can’t be that off. It can’t be two first downs in the first half, or 23 total yards on the first six possessions of the game.

I don’t know right now if Kevin Kolb is going to be ready this week. Coach Ken Whisenhunt emphasized he didn’t want to evaluate Skelton just on what happen at Candlestick. But if there was any doubt that Kolb will be going back into the lineup, those should have been put to rest Sunday.

— Defensively, while the Cards’ numbers aren’t going to be great, the unit showed. Defensive end Calais Campbell said he thought the defense could have played better, and he’s right. For instance, with the score 9-0, the Cards can’t allow a seven-plus-minute drive to start the third quarter. But the 49ers had the ball for more than 44 minutes (simply mind-boggling) because the Cards’ offense couldn’t hold on to the ball.

“They were on the field forever,” Whisenhunt said. “That they were able to stay out there against a power team like they are and they try to wear you down … The effort they gave, it’s pretty important.”

— I thought Dan Williams was having a pretty good game Sunday. He was in on a handful of plays, including some he had to chase down. Terrible that he broke his arm. David Carter, you’re up.

— Beanie Wells was running hard on the few chances he did get. He had 33 yards on eight carries. Whiz was asked about running more to protect Skelton. He acknowledged he could have, but also said there were plays to be made that weren’t. I’ve said this before, but – while some plays might have been called better – I still don’t think playcalling is one of the major issues.

— Here was one piece of good news: running back Chester Taylor made a 34-yard run in the fourth quarter, the longest run against the stingy 49ers defense all season.

— On the play where Patrick Peterson fumbled the punt, what I couldn’t figure out is how Hamza Abdullah didn’t block the punt. Abdullah broke clean in on Andy Lee yet missed it. Abdullah admitted he can’t believe he missed it either – he said he actually got in too fast, basically passing the ball.

— Peterson had some issues at cornerback. He got a pass interference and he gave up a few early catches. But he didn’t lose confidence. “I felt like I was in good position,” he said. “I felt like I didn’t take a step back but there is room for improvement.”

I guess the story this week will be the quarterback. If Kolb can’t go, Skelton will start against the Rams. And we’ll see if the position – no matter who is in there – can find a way to have a consistent performance.

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Hamza’s excellent adventure

Posted by Darren Urban on August 14, 2011 – 2:29 pm

It took a moment for Hamza Abdullah to think of his biggest highlight of visiting the White House last Wednesday night, before flying cross country back to Oakland to play against the Raiders the next night.

But it came to him.

“This is the highlight,” the safety remembered. “Basically, his personal assistant came to me and said, his exact words, ‘The President cannot wait to meet you. And you’re actually sitting at his table.’ That was the quote of the night.

“He was like, ‘You didn’t know that, huh?’ And I said no, because I opened up my card and it said ‘Table 10.’ So it’s ‘OK, table 10.’ I figured my brother and I were sitting together, but Husain was like, ‘No, I’m at table 9.’ ”

Abdullah said there were just eight people at the table — “Very intimate” — and he and President Obama talked like they were old friends. “We’re just like two guys in the basement, talking about whatever they want to talk about,” Abdullah said. “He asked me about fasting when I am practicing, we talked about my brother. At one point, they were passing out the dessert and he said no, and the next two people said no, and the President said ‘Give it to the football player, you know he wants it.’ ”

Abdullah (That’s him in the picture below, on the far right, seated) did want the dessert, a sorbet wrapped in a tangerine. There were three courses, all told, “and I cleaned my plate on all of them.”

Abdullah landed in Washington D.C. at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday and immediately decided he needed to buy a watch to go with his suit. After the side trip, he walked to the White House and the gates weren’t open quite yet, so he people-watched, looking at the delegates arrive in their fancy cars and seeing the tourists take everything in. “I was thinking, ‘This is a big deal, man,’ ” Abdullah said.

(Abdullah had heard about the Packers’ Desmond Bishop missing out on his White House chance because he forgot his ID. “That’s pretty cruel,” Abdullah said. “I told my wife, pack my birth certificate, my passport … I have my grade-school ID, just to make sure.”)

It wasn’t until after the game against the Raiders when he felt the experience had sunk in. Game day actually went smoothly, with Abdullah landing at 11:30 a.m. and getting to the hotel for a two-hour nap before needing to leave. He played a lot against Oakland too.

“Once-in-a-lifetime,” Abdullah said. “It was just so humbling. And I continue to say that because it’s something money can’t buy you. You’re not famous, it’s just something where, you are chosen. You feel blessed. The man has a million different things on his plate, but he’s relating to you.”

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Making people miss (and other stuff)

Posted by Darren Urban on August 9, 2011 – 9:51 am

Coach Ken Whisenhunt wants his running backs to be more productive than last year. Obviously, it’s not just on the backs to make the running game improve, but when asked specifically about the backs, Whiz quickly had a couple of points to make — which could be one reason Ryan Williams intrigued them so much in the draft and why they might have been willing to trade Tim Hightower.

In the end, both points Whiz made are basically the same — beating the opponent in one-on-one situations, whether it is on a rushing attempt or on a reception.

“On runs, it was not being able to make a single defender miss,” Whisenhunt said. “In the NFL, that’s what you have to do. Make guys miss, because you can’t block everybody. There were a couple times we were in the open field and we had an opportunity to make a big play and we got brought down and that was unacceptable.”

As for catching the ball in the flat, “you have an opportunity one-on-one in space against a linebacker and you are expected to win. The good ones do that. we did it sometimes, but not nearly as much (as we needed).”

That’s something LaRod Stephens-Howling can do. It looks like Williams has that ability. Beanie Wells has not done it as well, nor did Hightower. Was that simply an aberration last year? The Cards do need to get better at it.

— The Cards have one more practice this afternoon before heading down to the Valley and flying to Oakland tomorrow.

— Regardless of your political persuasion (and I now realize some people can’t get past that), you have to admit safety Hamza Abdullah’s invite to the White House is very cool. The best part is Whisenhunt’s excitement. “If Hamza didn’t want to go, I’ll go in his place,” Whisenhunt said with a grin. Fortunately for Abdullah, he can and is going.

— I tweeted this morning the contrast between healthy Adrian Wilson (grumpy and serious while in camp mode) and injured-trying-to-rehab A-Dub (suddenly all smiles). Wilson responded with his own tweet: “Positivity breads positive results.” He’s certainly staying positive and it’s hard not to have that be contagious when you are around him. (Yes, Wilson was going for “breeds” I think).

— If you are looking for a chance to meet the team and give a little to charity, the annual Kickoff Luncheon will be held at University of Phoenix Stadium Aug. 30. Click here to get all the info.

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Waiting on CBA, and other notes

Posted by Darren Urban on August 3, 2011 – 12:44 pm

Everyone has been waiting for Thursday, because practice  begins for all the players who just signed contracts.


The Thursday deadline was based on the idea the new collective bargaining agreement would be ratified. It has not been yet.

“Everybody wants to get out there and everyone is chomping at the bit,” said kicker Jay Feely, the Cardinals’ union representative. “No one wants to sit on the sidelines. But they can’t get out there until it is done. We’ve been shooting for tomorrow all along and as of (Tuesday) I was still being told it would be tomorrow hopefully. But we don’t have anything definitive yet.”

There were issues left that couldn’t be bargained until the union recertified, like drug policies, benefits and player conduct policies. That is what is still being dealt with. One thing is for certain — no one wants to wait.

— Rookie CB Patrick Peterson is changing his jersey number to 21, with safety Hamza Abdullah switching from 21 to 23. A couple other holdovers are also switching, with WR Max Komar going from 18 to 10 and Stephen Williams from 14 to 18.

— Coach Ken Whisenhunt said he doesn’t questions the toughness of RB Beanie Wells. But when it came to dealing with the knee injury last season and the aftereffects, “quite frankly, he didn’t handle it as well as he could have.”

— I know a lot of people keep asking about the backup nose tackle behind Dan Williams. Having looked at new defensive lineman Nick Eason, he definitely could fill in at the spot if needed. He’s a wide-body. And again, rookie David Carter is taking snaps there.

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Peterson gets the weighty message

Posted by Darren Urban on June 30, 2011 – 11:03 am

Back when he showed up at the Cards’ complex for his introductory press conference, first-round draft pick Patrick Peterson spent a good 30 minutes beforehand talking with strength and conditioning coach John Lott. Lott, who knew his time with the top rookie was going to  be severely limited this offseason, used the time to get out all the advice he’d normally deliver over a period of weeks.

Maybe that impacted Peterson, maybe not. Talking on “Chuck and Vince Live” this morning on The Fan 1060 AM, however, Peterson has trimmed some weight off his 220-pound frame and said he’d like to start off his NFL career between around 210 or 212 pounds.

“I’m kind of sick of hearing ‘You are 220, you can’t hang with the best, you might have to move to safety,’ so I kind of did it on my own,” Peterson said. “It was my decision. I want to go to camp kind of light because I know it’s a different climate in Arizona and I don’t want to be killing myself up there in the heat.”

Lott famously tells most players when he first gets them in Arizona they should drop a few pounds. Everyone has done it, from Larry Fitzgerald to Kurt Warner to Beanie Wells (pretty much every incoming rookie gets the speech). Peterson figured to be no different.

Peterson also said he worked out with Fitzgerald some  before Fitzgerald went back to Minnesota recently. And he said he is “keeping my fingers crossed” he can wear No. 21. “I gotta have 21 on my back,” he said. (That number currently is held by free-agent-to-be safety Hamza Abdullah).

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Who is expiring?

Posted by Darren Urban on March 3, 2011 – 2:53 pm

Regardless of the status of the CBA, the Cardinals have a chunk of players whose contracts will expire whenever the league year ends. What that means for free agency is uncertain because the CBA will address those rules. But as an FYI, here is a list of the current Cardinals who will have their contract run out this offseason. If a player has an asterisk, he has at least four accrued seasons in the NFL:

  • FB Nehemiah Broughton
  • RB Tim Hightower
  • FB Reagan Maui’a
  • RB Jason Wright*
  • WR Max Komar
  • WR Steve Breaston*
  • WR Early Doucet
  • TE Ben Patrick
  • TE Stephen Spach
  • T D’Anthony Batiste
  • C Ben Claxton
  • G Alan Faneca*
  • T Brandon Keith
  • G Deuce Lutui*
  • C Lyle Sendlein*
  • DL Alan Branch*
  • DL Keilen Dykes
  • DE Kenny Iwebema
  • DL Bryan Robinson*
  • DT Gabe Watson*
  • LB Curtis Gatewood
  • LB Cyril Obiozor
  • LB Reggie Walker
  • S Hamza Abdullah
  • CB Michael Adams
  • CB Trumaine McBride
  • S Matt Ware*
  • P Ben Graham*

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Anderson remains inactive

Posted by Darren Urban on December 19, 2010 – 9:30 am

Quarterback Derek Anderson (concussion) remains sidelined today, meaning the Cards will have just two QBs: Starter John Skelton and Richard Bartel. The rest of the inactive list looks familiar, including veteran linebacker Gerald Hayes on the bench:

  • WR Max Komar
  • CB A.J. Jefferson
  • S Hamza Abdullah
  • CB Marshay Green
  • C Ben Claxton
  • DT Gabe Watson

For the Panthers, cornerback Chris Gamble, who has fallen out of favor with coach John Fox, is inactive.

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