You can see the emphasis Steve Wilks is putting on special teams early on in his tenure, devoting a good chunk of both Phase Two and Phase Three on-field work every day to let special teams coordinator Jeff Rodgers do his thing. Along those lines, the Cardinals have had some pretty good special teamers over the years, and that was noted when veteran NFL reporter Rick Gosselin — who has long had a detailed system on how to rank special teams units and is an expert on that part of the game — created his all-time special teams lineup.
Three Cardinals made the list, all for their coverage work. Four-time Cardinals special teams Pro Bowler Ron Wolfley, now the Cards’ color analyst, made Gosselin’s first team, along with a quote from Patriots coach Bill Belichick — who was Wolfley’s coach when both were in Cleveland.
“Wolfley had less speed than those other guys,” Belichick said. “But he was very tough with a top motor. He was physical to run through blockers. He wasn’t always the first downfield, but he was around the ball and smart to recognize wall returns and the blocking schemes. He played next to the center on the punt team and was both strong and smart in protection.”
The other two Cardinals landed on the second-team, and are more recent vintage. The just-departed Justin Bethel never quite worked out as a cornerback, but he was excellent on special teams, making three Pro Bowls in six seasons with the Cardinals. And Sean Morey was one of the first players Ken Whisenhunt brought over from Pittsburgh. Morey made a Pro Bowl as a Cardinal as well, memorably blocking a punt in overtime in 2008 that Monty Beisel recovered for a game-winning overtime touchdown against Dallas.
Tags: Bill Belichick, Justin Bethel, Ron Wolfley, Sean Morey
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Justin Bethel signed with the Atlanta Falcons Saturday, and his departure from the Cardinals at this point was all but a formality. Both sides were ready to move on. Bethel’s time as a cornerback did not go well in Arizona, and he had multiple chances to earn the job. His struggles, however, should not cloud the fact he was a Pro Bowl special teams player for a number of years, and turned out to be a very good sixth-round draft pick.
“Two numbers and 6 years later. I’ve made so many memories and brothers for a life time. I can’t thank the Arizona Cardinals organization and fans for welcoming me with open arms,” Bethel wrote on Instagram.
The other thing I’ll remember about Bethel is that he was always a standup guy when it came to his cornerback play. He stood and answered the questions, even when the subject wasn’t good. It will be interesting to see how the Falcons deploy him. He most certainly will be a special teamer first, but as a slot corner — which never was really a spot he was going to play in Arizona with Tyrann Mathieu — he had some good stretches.
Tags: Falcons, Justin Bethel
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It was hard to disagree with Larry Fitzgerald Thursday night when he said it felt like every time he turned around, trainers were running on to the field. I don’t know if football on a short week had anything to do with some of the injuries – when a large man rolls up on your leg during a play, that’s not day-of-the-week-related – but nonetheless, when you are talking about looking forward, that’s where you start.
A loss is a loss and it took a late touchdown to get a six-point deficit, but mostly, the Cards felt they put themselves in a position where they could have beaten the Seahawks. They didn’t, they are in a bad place in terms of chasing a playoff spot with seven games to go, and part of the reason it’s a bad place is because the injuries are headed to insurmountable.
If D.J. Humphries is done with an ACL injury, it’s a killer. A big reason the Cards’ offensive line had so many problems earlier in the year was because their left tackle was hurt. He had truly taken a step forward, and now his 2017 season sounds like it could be over after just five games. As good as Tyvon Branch has been this season, that is a little different, because Budda Baker is there and he’ll get a chance to have some defensive snaps.
Meanwhile, John Wetzel will go back into the lineup. I don’t expect Jared Veldheer to flip sides, but we’ll see. And the Cardinals will have to make it work.
— Adrian Peterson got his carries. He just couldn’t get any yards. But the Cardinals stuck with it.
— It wasn’t a good game for Peterson with the fumble on the first play and the safety. But the Cardinals’ punt return team can’t put the offense on its own 2 against the Seattle defense, with Kerwynn Williams fielding a ball inside his own 5 and then Justin Bethel getting a second holding call.
— Also, for those complaining about the Peterson run on the safety with the loaded box, I’ll respectfully disagree. If Stanton had thrown on first down and there was a holding call in the end zone or he was sacked, the village folk would’ve come after Arians with the torches and pitchforks. I’m OK with a run. Just has to be executed much better.
— I understand Antoine Bethea might’ve played the Baldwin 54-yard catch differently, especially when it was second-and-a-mile. I get that. But don’t talk to me about Russell Wilson being lucky. When he’s done it dozens – he’s probably up to the hundreds at this point – of times, it’s not luck anymore. The guy is both amazing and frustrating. Knowing he’ll be a roadblock to the Cards for years makes him feel like Jordan with the Bulls and the Cards are those Cavaliers from back in the day.
— Drew Stanton made some bad throws. But I felt like his pass catchers let him down more than he had errant throws. (*Waits for everyone to say how Blaine Gabbert needs to start*)
— Fitz was solid. Another 100-yard game, and it might’ve been the quietest 100-yard game of Fitz’s career.
— The Seahawks had 12 penalties, and they were already leading the league with more than 10 a game. Six of them gave the Cardinals first downs.
— Chandler Jones gets another sack, his 10th. Of course, I’m sure he wishes he had gotten his 11th on that second-and-21.
— Defensive lineman Olsen Pierre had an excellent game. And cornerback Tramon Williams continues to show he has something left.
— OK, that’s enough for tonight. The mini-bye awaits, and the Deshaun Watson-less Texans, in Houston, are next. Time to regroup. Again.
Tags: Adrian Peterson, Blaine Gabbert, Budda Baker, Chandler Jones, D.J. Humphries, Drew Stanton, John Wetzel, Justin Bethel, Larry Fitzgerald, Olsen Pierre, Seahawks, Tramon Williams, Tyvon Branch
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Adrian Peterson is wearing No. 23.
Did he ask for his longtime No. 28, currently being worn by cornerback Justin Bethel? “Of course he did,” Bethel said.
“We had a conversation,” Peterson said with a smile. “Didn’t last long at all. We discussed it a little bit, and at the end of the day, I’ll be wearing 23.”
Bethel said “it’s not my first time being in this situation,” he said. Bethel was No. 31 his first two years in the league, before he worked a deal with cornerback Antonio Cromartie when Cro wanted 31. Bethel switched to 28 then.
“I don’t mind keeping the number,” Bethel said.
When he was asked if the number was available for a price, Bethel didn’t want to get into specifics. Peterson simply said, “we just didn’t agree.”
Bethel didn’t close the door on Peterson getting 28 — “Anything is possible in this world,” he said — but Peterson sounded like a man who is at peace with new digits.
“I like (Bethel),” Peterson said. “He’s a guy I’ve watched and I appreciate. He’s one of those guys who came from the bottom who has made a name for himself, a hard worker. He represents that number well. If it was another guy, we probably would’ve been tussling in there but he can have it.”
Tags: Adrian Peterson, Justin Bethel
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As a former offensive lineman, it frustrates General Manager Steve Keim to no end when the offensive line struggles. You could hear that Tuesday during his appearance on the “Doug and Wolf” show on Arizona Sports 98.7. Keim at one point was asked specifically about the struggles of right tackle Jared Veldheer, and Veldheer’s move there.
“I don’t think it has anything to do with right tackle,” Keim said. “The fact of the matter is he has to get better. He’s got to improve all the little things … his footwork, his technique, his hand placement and get back to basics. Again, 64,000 people saw it last night. Jared is a prideful guy, and I expect nothing less than for him to be in here this week and make some improvements.”
Keim called the O-line play “unacceptable.” He said reinforcements should be coming, with left tackle D.J. Humphries having a good chance to return after his knee injury and the possibility guard Mike Iupati (triceps) could return as well. The latter may be important, since guard Alex Boone strained a pectoral muscle late in the game and will have to undergo an MRI today. Keim sounded optimistic Boone’s injury wouldn’t be serious, but we will see on that.
— Keim lauded both Larry Fitzgerald and Carson Palmer. Palmer got much of the praise, given the circumstances in which he played behind the struggling offensive line.
“Ball placement, accuracy, decision-making, I just think in every way I thought (Palmer) played exceptional,” Keim said. “Under the circumstances, down a couple of playmakers injury-wise, not having David Johnson, not having John Brown, J.J. (Nelson) had some hamstring issues, and to do what he did under pressure and to create with his feet and his arm at the same time … some of the balls he fit into tight windows, he gave our receivers a chance, again I thought it was exceptional. There is no doubt in my mind he played as well as he could possibly play, under the circumstances.”
— The poor offensive line play didn’t help the special teams/field position, Keim said, with the punts out of the Cards’ own end zone. As for Phil Dawson’s missed field goal, “when you don’t produce there is always concern,” Keim said. “The thing that gives me confidence is Phil’s body of work. At the same time, it doesn’t minimize fact we need to be concerned with those types of kicks.”
— Keim said the defense played “lights out” for the most part. He was disappointed with the two chunk plays when Dak Prescott escaped the pocket, and also because defensive backs Justin Bethel and Tyrann Matheiu “did not turn and find the football.”
Tags: Alex Boone, Carson Palmer, Jared Veldheer, Justin Bethel, Larry Fitzgerald, Phil Dawson, Steve Keim, Tyrann Mathieu
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Never fun for the General Manager to do his weekly radio appearance after a bad loss like Sunday’s in Detroit, but there was Steve Keim on the “Doug and Wolf” show Monday morning, reiterating a lot of what we already knew: Carson Palmer played poorly, as did the team. He was actually OK with the defense, putting most of the end-game Lions scores on short fields and stamina after the offense had its bad game.
He had no update on the injuries to running back David Johnson (wrist) or left tackle D.J. Humphries (knee). Both are getting MRIs today. He said Humphries walked out of the stadium Sunday night so “who knows?” He said he couldn’t base anything coming off the information they had last night, and it would be “hard to forecast” if either had any shot at playing Sunday in Indianapolis. Various reports don’t have great news in that regard for either player. Hopefully Bruce Arians will have more when he talks at 12:15 today.
UPDATE: The news on Johnson was not good.
— Keim said the Cards came in with goals this season, four of which being better in the red zone, eliminate turnovers, improve special teams, and execute better by playing smarter. Keim thought the special teams was OK — although he knows Phil Dawson can’t miss a field goal — the Cards failed in those other areas.
“You can’t win like that,” Keim said. “Every time we had a chance to accelerate momentum, we shot ourselves in the foot.”
— Keim said when watching the film, he is “trying to be real” and wanting to be honest not only with himself but when talking to Arians and team president Michael Bidwill. Honestly, he said, a lot of things were disappointing. (Which may be an understatement in itself.)
— Palmer has to play better. “I don’t think it’s any secret Carson was off,” he said. Keim said Palmer usually bounces back after a game like that. Keim thought Palmer looked antsy in the pocket (I’d concur) and, like I mentioned yesterday, Keim brought up those few out routes that should have been completed on the sideline. Those are mechanical issues that can be fixed, Keim added, but need to be completed. Palmer also made some poor decisions.
— The running game wasn’t much better. Backup left tackle John Wetzel “had his struggles.” While the offensive line has to be better, Keim noted that Palmer also held the ball too long at times and reiterated that the passing game/pressure on Palmer, is subject to the entire offense executing. “They all have to work in unison together.”
— Keim liked what Haason Reddick flashed but also talked about the pressure and missed sacks, because Reddick had one. Chandler Jones could’ve had four, Keim said.
— Keim didn’t want CB Justin Bethel getting beat deep on the last touchdown. But he also brought up, on the defensive side, similar discussion about working in unison. Bethel allowed on third-down conversion when Stafford escaped the pocket and moved left. Keim said linebacker Markus Golden was supposed to loop outside on the play and have contain on Stafford’s left. Had he done that, Keim said, Golden would’ve had a sack or at least forced Stafford to throw it early. Instead, Golden stayed inside and Stafford could wait for the receiver to get away from Bethel.
Tags: Carson Palmer, D.J. Humphries, David Johnson, Haason Reddick, John Wetzel, Justin Bethel, Markus Golden, Steve Keim
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The Lions tried. They really did. They botched a bunch of special teams plays early, committed bad penalties, made mistakes. Yet the Cardinals would not take the game. When the Cards were finally ready to take the game – that third-quarter sequence in which they went on a 94-yard touchdown drive to take a 17-9 lead, and then forced a punt – the football gods spit on them.
Not only did David Johnson fumble – the second time in the game, a bugaboo he had when he got into the league but one he had seemed to have overcome – but he got hurt on the play. I mean, the guy had just gotten whacked on his previous touch, an impressive seam catch on the TD drive that got a first down at the Detroit 3. Johnson didn’t get up right away on that, but apparently he had the wind knocked out of him.
It wasn’t the wind but his wrist the second time. Fingers are crossed everywhere, from the Cards’ organization to fantasy football players across the globe. Bruce Arians didn’t indicate one way or another on Johnson’s health – or D.J. Humphries’ knee, for that matter – but in the context of Sunday, it was a crushing turn of events.
That wasn’t the reason the Cardinals lost, although it would’ve been interesting to see them try and follow up that long TD drive. The defense couldn’t hold up by the end. There was some pressure, but not enough on Matthew Stafford on key plays, and missed sacks a couple times that were costly.
— Carson Palmer took all the blame afterward. He knows he wasn’t good for too much of the game. It wasn’t so much the interceptions that were bothersome (I mean, you can’t have interceptions, but …) as much as a couple of out routes, about 12 or 15 yards down the field. Both plays I’m thinking of should’ve been easy completions. They were short. Bruce Arians lamented Palmer’s accuracy and said Palmer’s arm was fine. They’re going to need him to fix that, quickly.
— Palmer is going to be the quarterback. So anyone asking/complaining that there isn’t a switch is just yelling to nowhere.
— If Humphries is down for some games – Ian Rapoport was tweeting it’s a sprained knee that could be a few weeks – I wouldn’t be shocked if the Cards flip Jared Veldheer back to the left side and let John Wetzel play the right side. But we’ll see how that plays out.
— Arians noted it, and so did many players, but in the NFL, if you are handed red-zone possessions and don’t get touchdowns, that’s usually going to turn out poorly.
— One plus for the Cardinals was the speed of rookie linebacker Haason Reddick. He had eight tackles, and showed his range sideline-to-sideline. I also thought John Brown played pretty well too, and Andre Ellington flashed in his brief appearance. New safety Antoine Bethea looked good too, especially in the first half.
— You don’t want to see Justin Bethel, after a solid game, be on the wrong side of those two late TD passes. But that last catch by Kenny Golladay was amazing, the way he laid out.
— Long flight back to Arizona coming. It’ll be longer because of how the game went.
Tags: Andre Ellington, Antoine Bethea, Bruce Arians, Carson Palmer, D.J. Humphries, David Johnson, Haason Reddick, Jared Veldheer, John Brown, Justin Bethel, Kenny Golladay, Lions
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The past is the past, and each team is different, and I get that. Matthew Stafford isn’t the same guy who was benched the last time the Cardinals visited Detroit in 2015, and that’s not just because he got a new mega-contract. The Cardinals aren’t the same team that floundered disappointingly in 2016.
But the past still can be fun to revisit. The last time the Cards opened up in Detroit was a memorable one for me. That was the day Anquan Boldin burst on the scene with his 10 catches for 217 yards and two touchdowns, back in 2003. How about you, Tyrann Mathieu? Do you have a memorable opening game at any point in your life?
“I always think about my rookie season and nobody thought I was going to be able to play, and I go ahead and make that big-time play against St. Louis,” Mathieu said. “That was one of those special moments for me.”
See, that moment, to me, does have some bearing. That Mathieu that burst on the scene in 2013? That Mathieu who dominated in 2015? That’s the guy we’ve been seeing in camp and the preseason. He’s a big reason why there is optimism about this defense. Sometimes, you look backward to see what is coming. With the Badger, that seems fitting as the Cardinals finally get started in the regular season.
— To me, the keys Sunday are fairly simple. Offensively, can you allow Carson Palmer to have time to throw the ball down the field once in a while, protecting against an at-best average pass rush? I know John Brown keeps saying he’s not totally healthy, but I think Smoke is healthy enough to make at least some sort of impact.
— Defensively, it’s that defensive line. If I had to guess, I’d guess Robert Nkemdiche wouldn’t play, but we are still two days away. In the end, with seven defensive linemen, at least one is probably inactive every week anyway, and I just don’t think they’ll risk Nkemdiche coming back too fast when there is confidence in the other guys. That said, they have to hold up. This defense has the pass rushers. They definitely have the playmakers in the secondary. But to get there, you have to lock down the run, something this defense has done well the last couple of years.
— Offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin, on newcomer Alex Boone – who was a right guard those years in San Francisco when playing with old/new teammate Mike Iupati, and then went to the left side after Iupati came to Arizona: “We all know that’s Mike’s position,” Goodwin said with a chuckle. “Kind of funny, I was talking to Mike, he said, ‘Alex called and he wants to come here but he’s not playing left.’ ”
Reminded me of Evan Boehm insisting he wasn’t going to be displaced on the right side either.
— Goodwin said Boone fits the Cardinals’ style, but “you know I don’t like anybody,” he added. “That’s just my nature. I won’t like anybody until I’m standing on the podium holding a Super Bowl trophy. Then I’ll start liking guys.”
— The Lions have a pair of former Cardinals tight ends. Darren Fells is there as a starter, a guy who will try and get going again after having a disappointing 2016 in Arizona, which is one reason the team let him leave in free agency. The Lions also signed Hakeem Valles to the practice squad this week. Any little edge, right?
— Speaking of tight ends, Goodwin chuckled again when asked if the tight ends would be more involved in the passing game. (In my opinion, I wouldn’t hold your breath.) Goodwin knows Jermaine Gresham got a big contract, and Troy Niklas has looked solid and stayed healthy. But as he as mentioned before, from a long ago warning from Arians in a meeting, “We pay Larry (Fitzgerald) a whole lot of money.”
— Stafford’s numbers since being benched in Week 5 against the Cardinals in 2015: 50 touchdown passes, only 15 interceptions, 67 percent completions and a 99.1 quarterback rating. Also, in what is coincidence, but take it for what it is worth, that 2015 Detroit game was a late kickoff – 4 p.m. locally, 1 p.m. in Arizona. It wasn’t early, like Sunday’s will be.
— Defensive coordinator James Bettcher, like the other coaches, is convinced Justin Bethel has earned that starting job. The reason, among others, is that health allowed him to practice.
“When you are finally healthy, and you get a whole offseason to work your craft, it does wonders how you progress as a player,” Bettcher said.
— Fitzgerald needs 82 yards receiving to become only the fifth player to have 1,000 receiving yards and eight touchdowns over a career in season openers. The fabulous four so far? Don Maynard, Andre Reed, Randy Moss and Jerry Rice.
— Finally, back to Mathieu. One of the things the Cardinals lost last year when the Honey Badger was not Badgeriffic went beyond dynamic play in the secondary. It lost an emotional jet engine, which Mathieu simply couldn’t be when he isn’t playing like he knows he can. That component is back.
“I try to feel out games,” Mathieu said. “Some games I won’t say a word. Other games I’m pretty well vocal. I won’t know until I actually get to game day.”
It’s meaningful. Said Patrick Peterson, “He finds ways to pass his energy to his teammates.”
See you Sunday. The regular season is here.
Tags: Alex Boone, Andre Reed, Anquan Boldin, Carson Palmer, Don Maynard, Evan Boehm, Harold Goodwin, Jermaine Gresham, Jerry Rice, John Brown, Justin Bethel, Larry Fitzgerald, Lions, Mike Iupati, Rams, Randy Moss, Robert Nkemdiche, Troy Niklas, Tyrann Mathieu
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Even Steve Keim is feeling the local pride, mentioning the 11-game winning streak of baseball’s Arizona Diamondbacks and the four home runs hit Labor Day night by J.D. Martinez while doing his appearance on the “Doug and Wolf” show Tuesday morning on Arizona Sports 98.7.
But there was Cardinals stuff for the GM to talk about too. Keim was asked about three of the most talked-about cuts: RB Chris Johnson, OL Cole Toner and OLB Cap Capi. Not surprisingly, Keim didn’t want to get into specifics. But the bottom line? No one outside can know everything with how the decisions are made.
“When you are building a roster there are so many things behind the scenes that go into it,” Keim said. “It could be your role on game day, there are so many factors many people don’t see. There is the mental side of the game, the ability to pick up assignments, how many mental errors to you have, can you line up in the right gap, you work ethic, the intangibles, the things you bring to the table in the locker room.
“There are so many factors that go into it that the fans and the media may not see, and we are privy to that information that’s so important in building the final 53.”
— Keim said his toughest work of the weekend wasn’t any particular cut, but putting together the 10-man practice squad. The 53-man roster “fell into place,” while the practice squad is more difficult, wanting to make sure it’s stocked with players that can develop into 53-man roster players, or guys who might be able to be plug and play if there is an injury.
— New punter Andy Lee was “a guy we had an eye on all along,” Keim said. Coming off the 2016 season, it was no secret the Cards had to upgrade the special teams work, Keim added. Having him available now “was a great gift for us.” The relationship with K Phil Dawson (and even his friendship with college teammate Larry Fitzgerald) is just a bonus.
— Keim said backup center Daniel Munyer “might be the most pleasant surprise” of training camp. Munyer was under-the-radar as potential 53-man pick, but he might be someone who can continue to develop into starter material. As for his roster spot now, “he’s earned it,” Keim said.
— Reiterating what Bruce Arians has said, there is (surprising?) confidence in the cornerback room beyond Patrick Peterson. Justin Bethel seems to have shown big improvement in his bugaboo of awareness and finding the ball in the air — “He’s taken ownership of that,” Keim said — and both Tramon Williams and Brandon Williams showed in camp they are capable.
— Keim’s biggest concern right now? “Living up to expectations,” he said. The roster is solid, the locker room is solid, and Keim credited team president Michael Bidwill for providing all the resources needed. “Now it’s time to play football and win,” Keim said.
Tags: Andy Lee, Cap Capi, Chris Johnson, Cole Toner, Daniel Munyer, Justin Bethel, Phil Dawson, Roster, Steve Keim
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It comes as no surprise by now, but the battle for the No. 2 cornerback spot never really ended up much of a battle. Justin Bethel was the leading candidate coming into camp and no one ever really came close. Coach Bruce Arians officially said Bethel was the starter opposite Patrick Peterson.
“He’s earned that job,” Arians said.
“I’m as pleased with the corner position as I am with just about any position on the team right now,” Arians added.
Brandon Williams and Tramon Williams will be the No. 3 and No. 4 corners. It’s likely that those are the only four cornerbacks the Cardinals keep on the 53-man roster, given an abundance of safeties.
— The penultimate Cardinals training camp practice featured a visit from the governor. The final one Thursday featured a U.S. senator. Huge Cardinals fan John McCain stopped by during the workout, chatting with team president Michael Bidwill, General Manager Steve Keim and scout Adrian Wilson for a bit before coming down to the field and getting a couple of minutes to talk to Larry Fitzgerald, Carson Palmer and then David Johnson.
“It was cool,” Johnson said. “We just got to talking about Iowa, bringing up the old memories. The Iowa state fair where everything’s fried, fried twinkies and stuff.”
Tackle D.J. Humphries joked that McCain wanted to talk to the wrong D.J.
“I don’t think I’m cool enough,” Humphries said. “That’s all it is. There’s a hierarchy when it comes to cool guys, and I don’t think I’ve met that level of expectancy to be ‘Cool Guy’ yet. Maybe next year I’ll give it a shot. I’ll try harder next year.”
— The receivers rallied in camp after Arians said they needed to pick up their game. One player in particular was J.J. Nelson, Arians said, adding that Nelson will be a captain Saturday night.
— Arians said the Cardinals, who return to their Tempe facility next week, will be practicing earlier in the morning to prep for the early morning kickoffs as the regular season begins. Both the first two games, at Detroit and at Indianapolis, will kick off at 10 a.m. Arizona time.
Tags: Brandon Williams, Carson Palmer, D.J. Humphries, David Johnson, John McCain, Justin Bethel, Larry Fitzgerald, Patrick Peterson, training camp, Tramon Williams
Posted in Blog | 22 Comments »