TEMPE, Ariz. – Perhaps the greatest ruse the Cardinals pulled this offseason was convincing the fan base and media that running back Beanie Wells could be ready for the early portion of the regular season.
“I wasn’t anywhere close to ready when I reported to camp,” said Wells, who had offseason knee surgery. “I wasn’t even close when we broke camp.
“I was so far off, and it was evident out there. I had no explosion, I could not burst off and I could not change direction. I didn’t get a chance to do much rehab before camp because I had to wait a certain amount of time after the surgery before I could even start.”
Wells has never divulged what sort of surgery he had. There have been rumors that it was a microfracture procedure, but neither the club nor Wells has confirmed that. Regardless, when Wells went down with a turf toe injury (torn foot ligaments) in Week 3 against the Philadelphia Eagles, the club placed him on the injured-reserve/eligible-to-return to list and listed that foot injury as the impetus.
But Wells said Wednesday that the time off was far more beneficial to his knee than it was to his toe.
“It wasn’t for my toe at all,” he said. “My toe was good long before the knee felt good.”
Wells said it took about three or four weeks into his IR stint before the knee finally started feeling right. On Wednesday, the Cardinals officially activated Wells from IR. He is expected to play Sunday against the St. Louis Rams at University of Phoenix Stadium after missing the previous seven games.
“It’s been a long time. It felt like it, anyway,” Wells said. “I’ve been practicing for two weeks now, did a lot of reps on scout team last week, so I think I’m ready. Nothing you do can simulate the physicality of a football game, but I feel like I could run all day right now.”
Clearly, the Cardinals could benefit from Wells’ presence. Ryan Williams is already out for the season with a shoulder injury, and the run game is ranked 30th in the NFL in yards per game (82.3) and tied for last in yards per carry (3.6).
But the final six games are also vital to Wells, who is entering the final year of his contract with the club. That final year is a team option that the team has not exercised – an option the team has given no indication it plans to exercise.
“There haven’t been any discussions,” Wells said. “That’s all going to be left for the offseason.”
Wells’ career has been a tale of ups and downs. He injured his ankle on the first day of his rookie training camp in 2009 and never really got into the flow of the offense, struggling in particular to pick up the nuances of pass protection and route running. But he still managed 793 yards that season, creating hope for the future.
But in 2010, he had arthroscopic knee surgery to repair a torn meniscus and remove loose cartilage following the final preseason game. And the surgery was compounded by an allergic reaction to a medical injection in that knee in November.
“It got better late in the season, but it never felt 100 percent,” said Wells, who was limited to 397 yards.
Wells played through another painful injury in his right knee in 2011 yet still rushed for 1,047 yards in 15 games, earning praise form coach Ken Whisenhunt for his toughness – a quality some critics wondered if he possessed.
But he underwent knee surgery this past offseason and hasn’t played since that Eagles game.
When asked if the final six games of the season are an evaluation tool for the Cardinals to determine Wells’ future with the club, coach Ken Whisenhunt smiled.
“Every player is always being evaluated,” he said.
Wells understands this.
“Who knows what will happen?” he said “This is a performance-based business, and I haven’t been out there. I don’t know if I’ve done enough or they’ve seen enough to want to do anything. I just worry about the present.
“But I do know one thing: I’ll be playing football somewhere next year. I’m going to ride it until the wheels fall off, and my wheels ain’t nowhere near falling off yet.”