Former Cardinal finds way into Te’o mystery

Posted by Darren Urban on January 17, 2013 – 7:49 am

So, unless you’ve been under a rock, you know by now about the crazy story about Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o and the story of his dead girlfriend, which turned out to be a hoax. (And if you haven’t read Deadspin’s excellent report, here you go.) There wasn’t much yesterday that was going to knock Lance Armstrong and Chip Kelly off the national stage, but the Te’o story did it.

Unbelievably, at least from this corner of the sports world, the Cardinals have a tie to the story. Last night, ESPN tracked down former Cardinals fullback Regan Maui’a and Maui’a said he had actually met the girl. The girl that Te’o, Deadspin and Notre Dame all acknowledge didn’t exist. Um, OK.

From ESPN’s story, Maui’a said he thought she existed because he met her in person doing charity work in American Samoa in June, 2011, with, among other people, Steelers safety Troy Polomalu. (ESPN is calling Maui’a “Cardinals fullback” and while Maui’a has been back quite a few times, he isn’t on the roster right now.)

“This was before her and Manti,” Maui’a said. “I don’t think Manti was even in the picture, but she and I became good friends. We would talk off and on, just checking up on each other kind of thing. I am close to her family. When she was going through the loss of her father, I was — I offered a comforting shoulder and just someone to bounce her emotions off. That was just from meeting her in Samoa.”

Wow. You can peel the layers of this onion for a long time.

This isn’t going away anytime soon. Everyone is going to be digging for more and more answers. I am surprised Notre Dame came out talking about it and backing Te’o so forcefully. We’ll see how it unravels.

As for as Te’o’s draft stock — he will be drafted in April — my guess is, no matter what his involvement, it won’t matter much. Will some teams red flag him? Sure. But as always, if he can play, someone will want him, and if he can play well, someone will want him early in the draft. That’s how this works.

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Heap remains inactive

Posted by Darren Urban on October 21, 2012 – 8:38 am

Tight end Todd Heap remains inactive with his bad knee today against the Vikings, on an inactive list that is filled up with injured players.

Only guard Senio Kelemete is a healthy scratch. Sitting out are QB Kevin Kolb (ribs), S Kerry Rhodes (back), CB Greg Toler (hamstring), FB Anthony Sherman (knee), and LB Reggie Walker (concussion). Rashad Johnson is starting in place of Rhodes, while Regan Maui’a is starting in place of Sherman.

The Vikings have all their key players available who were on the injury report, including RB Adrian Peterson, DE Jared Allen and WR Jerome Simpson.

— Also this morning, ESPN’s Chris Mortensen reported that the Cardinals are expected to work out free agent QB Vince Young this week. If true — and I haven’t heard anything about it — it’s an interesting turn. Young, given his background and recent play, wouldn’t have been a guy I’d think the Cards would consider as an option.

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Bills aftermath

Posted by Darren Urban on October 14, 2012 – 7:28 pm

With everything that happened – and in terms of writing about a game, that’s one in which everything before the five-minute-left mark of regulation is virtually immaterial – I can’t get past the dropped screen pass to LaRod Stephens-Howling in overtime, the play before John Skelton’s interception. Ken Whisenhunt was sure it was set up for significant yardage, and from my spot down on the sideline at that point in the game, that’s how it looked to me too. Even if it only picks up eight or nine yards, the Cards are in a totally different spot.

Maybe Skelton still throws a pick on the drive, maybe not. It’s just hard to feel, the way the game was playing out (and the way the Bills were calling plays) that the Bills weren’t going to drive for a score. Hindsight and all that, I suppose. But Sunday was a gut-wrencher.

It’s really classic NFL reaction, I guess. Jay Feely’s kick goes through at the end of regulation, or if the Cards find a way to win in OT, and it’s all good, relatively speaking. Instead, you fight the feeling that the sky is falling. I do think this – that game in Minnesota next week might be the tipping point for either one of the two upstart teams, whoever loses.

— I guess we’re going to be back talking about who is the starting quarterback again. I’m assuming we won’t know much more tomorrow about the status of Kevin Kolb’s ribs, unless it’s some devastating injury that ends his season (which I don’t think it will be.) So then we’ll see if Skelton is back under center. Skelton looked rusty when he came in, completing just 2-of-10 throws. He’ll get more practice time this week. It’s the story that just never quite goes away though.

— Larry Fitzgerald had a very good game, when they could get him the ball. There was no cheesy stat-padding today. Every one of his six catches seemed to hold importance (and that one-handed sideline grab that didn’t count because it was out of bounds still is highlight-worthy — check out the photo below.) The grab he made to keep the Cards alive on fourth down before Feely’s 61-yarder was amazing.

Plus he surpassed the 10,000-yard mark for his career. Not that he cared. “It’s been a long time since we’ve been at home and not won so it still hasn’t registered to me, really,” Fitz said. “I’m just disappointed we didn’t come out and protect home field. That’s bothering me right now.”

— Speaking of Feely’s kick, it was blocked. Not enough to knock it all the way down, but enough to cause problems. Alex Carrington, a Bills defensive lineman got it, and I suppose given all the times the Cards have used a blocked kick to save a game, it’s a painful reminder the Cardinals do not have the market cornered on such crucial saves.

— Props to Feely, though, on the 61-yarder. It destroyed his career-high of 55 yards. I didn’t think he had it in him. I guess that was foolish.

— The Cards had 182 yards rushing. Yes, 24 of it came on a fake punt and 66 of it was Kolb’s on scrambles. Yes, it came against a defense that struggles against the run. But still, 182 yards is 182 yards, easily the best of the season. William Powell looked OK, didn’t he? To get 70 yards on 13 carries was impressive. I’m guessing the Cards will be willing to ride this for now.

— If you watched the game on TV, you saw Whiz light into fullback Reagan Maui’a for his post-play spike after a key eight-yard reception. It cost the Cards five of those yards on a delay of game and virtually stopped that drive, which looked good up until that point. Tight end Jeff King false-started after that and everything got backward quickly. “You can’t do that,” Whiz said. “It’s just stupidity.” It’s also never a good thing for a player who is always on the verge of being released anyway, as starter Anthony Sherman tries to return to health.

— Safety Kerry Rhodes left with a back injury and Rhodes was walking like it in the locker room. Bad backs can be tricky. It also looked like a Bills player hit Rhodes low in the leg (kind of cheap-looking, although I’d like to see another replay) before he was carried off, so let’s hope there isn’t anything besides the back to complicate things.

— Safety Rashad Johnson, who ran the 24 yards as the up back on the fake punt, actually walked on at the University of Alabama as a running back before he was switched to safety. “I played running back for two years there,” Johnson said. “Anytime I can get the opportunity to do that – anything to get the offense an extra possession, maybe get points, I’ll lobby for it again.”

Bottom line today: These are the games the Cardinals play. It finally bit them back.

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Dockett in, Heap and Hyphen out

Posted by Darren Urban on October 4, 2012 – 3:59 pm

Defensive tackle Darnell Dockett is indeed active for tonight’s game, but running back LaRod Stephens-Howling (hip) and tight end Todd Heap (knee) remain out. That means William Powell and Rob Housler, respectively, will still play big roles. But having Dockett back should give the defense — coming off an uneven performance against the Dolphins — a boost.

John Skelton (ankle) will also remain inactive for the Rams. Ryan Lindley is still Kevin Kolb’s backup.

The other inactives for the Cards:

— WR LaRon Byrd

— FB Reagan Maui’a

— G Senio Kelemete

— TE Jim Dray (knee)

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No shock: Dockett, Heap, Hyphen out for Dolphins

Posted by Darren Urban on September 30, 2012 – 11:34 am

The doubtful players all are sitting today for the Cardinals, which includes defensive lineman Darnell Dockett (hamstring). It also includes running back LaRod Stephens-Howling (hip), tight end Todd Heap (knee) and tight end Jim Dray (knee).

That mean safety Adrian Wilson is playing, as is fullback Anthony Sherman — although new signee Reagan Maui’a is active as well as a reserve because Dray is out.

Quarterback John Skelton (ankle) also is still out. Ryan Lindley remains Kevin Kolb’s backup.

Guard Senio Kelemete and wide receiver LaRon Byrd are the Cards’ only “healthy” scratches. Reggie Bush is playing for the Dolphins.

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Dockett doubtful, Maui’a returns

Posted by Darren Urban on September 28, 2012 – 12:04 pm

Four players did not practice at all this week, and all four are doubtful to play Sunday against the Dolphins, including defensive tackle Darnell Dockett. (The other three are running back LaRod Stephens-Howling, tight end Todd Heap and tight end/fullback Jim Dray). Not having Dockett would be a blow to the defense, obviously. Coach Ken Whisenhunt called Dockett, Heap and Hyphen game-day decisions, but realistically, it’s going to be tough. “I’m not a doctor, I don’t think he could play. He hasn’t taken a snap,” defensive coordinator Ray Horton said.

Horton reiterated his unit is still leaving plays on the table. That allows the group to stay humble at this point.

— Eagles defensive end Jason Babin was fined $15,750 for his horse-collar tackle against Stephens-Howling in the game last weekend. There was no flag thrown on the play.

— The Cardinals needed a fullback with the injuries to Anthony Sherman (hamstring) and Dray (knee), so they brought in Korey Hall this week. That lasted two days.

The team announced Friday Hall has been placed on the reserved-retired list, with local favorite Regan Maui’a once again getting the call to replace him. I just saw Hall in the locker room yesterday heading to meetings, so obviously something changed to make him apparently choose to retire and/or leave after just signing.

This makes eight different times Maui’a has signed with the Cards all told, starting in 2009. Maui’a was with the Cardinals for a while in training camp last month. Maui’a played in 15 games in 2010 and three games last season for the Cards, having spent training camp with the team for all or part of 2009, 2010 and 2011.

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Levi to IR and moves to get to 75 on roster

Posted by Darren Urban on August 24, 2012 – 3:56 pm

The Cardinals have trimmed their roster to the requisite 75 by cutting 12 players today, in addition to waiving injured fullback Jared Crank (neck) and running back Thomas Clayton (knee) and putting on injured reserve tackle Levi Brown, which officially ends Brown’s season. The Cards had until Monday to make the moves. The cut to 53 players must come a week from today, the day after the Cards close out the preseason with a game against Denver.

The 12 released were:

— DE Landon Cohen

— WR Gino Crump

— S Eddie Elder

— WR Tre Gray

— CB Marshay Green

— WR Jaymar Johnson

— FB Reagan Maui’a

— LB Marcus McGraw

— LB Zack Nash

— CB James Nixon

— K/P Ricky Schmitt

— LB Paul Vassallo

On a side note, defensive tackle Ricky Lumpkin was fined by the NFL $21,000 for hitting a defenseless player in the head/neck area, in this case, Raiders quarterback Matt Leinart. It’s a hefty sum for a guy who has yet to collect anything more than a practice squad paycheck in the league. (Kicker and NFLPA player rep Jay Feely informs us the fine is not collected unless Lumpkin makes a roster.)

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Williams to play, King coming back, and other notes

Posted by Darren Urban on August 13, 2012 – 12:37 pm

After two games missed, running back Ryan Williams should get his first preseason action against the Raiders Friday night, coach Ken Whisenhunt said during the lunchtime update today. Tight end Jeff King officially came off the PUP list with his quad injury, and Whisenhunt said he will be treated conservatively like Beanie Wells has been. King said the more realistic return to game action for him would be in Tennessee a week from Thursday.

— The game is a possibility for Wells as well, but Whiz said he wants to see Wells in a padded practice and how he reacts. Beanie sounded like he felt the same. “I don’t know if it’s this week,” Wells said, but “I went through warmups last week and it felt great to be out there just preparing for a game.”

Wells added, “I definitely need preseason. Maybe one game, maybe two games, but I definitely need it.”

— Whisenhunt reiterated the starters will play a lot Friday. “As of now there’s no reason to save anybody.” Whiz said he told young players there is no guarantee they will play. “I’m not going to be crazy, but I’m not concerned with the number of snaps this week.

— It was important to bring in a new fullback in Reagan Maui’a to be able to run some of the offense. The injured Jared Crank (neck) is still stiff and sore, Whisenhunt said. Wide receiver LaRon Byrd is day-to-day with a sore shoulder, but the hope is that Byrd will be back this week and play Friday.

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Cards bring back FB Maui’a

Posted by Darren Urban on August 11, 2012 – 1:42 pm

He’s the fullback that just keeps coming back. The Cardinals have once again signed Reagan Maui’a, after a neck injury suffered by fullback Jared Crank in the Hall of Fame game sidelined him indefinitely.

And that makes seven times he has signed with the Cards all told, starting in 2009. To make room on the roster, the Cards released guard Chris Stewart.

Maui’a played in 15 games in 2010 and three games last season for the Cards, having spent training camp with the team for all or part of 2009, 2010 and 2011.

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Cards cut FB Maui’a, promote WR Johnson

Posted by Darren Urban on November 29, 2011 – 11:22 am

With fullback Anthony Sherman back to health, the Cardinals released fullback Reagan Maui’a today. That was expected once Sherman had recovered from his ankle injury. To fill Maui’a’s spot on the roster, the Cardinals have promoted wide receiver Jaymar Johnson from the practice squad — interesting in the fact the Cardinals already had six receivers on the active roster and one — Stephen Williams — is a healthy scratch every week. Johnson has speed and has spent time with the Vikings. We’ll see if he gets a chance to play on Sundays.

Filling Johnson’s spot on the practice squad will be tight end Steve Skelton, who was brought back for a third time this season.

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