TEMPE, Ariz. — Strong safety Deone Bucannon, the team’s first-round pick, returned to practice on Wednesday as the Cardinals opened minicamp. Bucannon had missed time with turf toe.
"He got a good practice in today and the foot was fine," coach Bruce Arians said. "He needs it psychologically and just to get out there and play."
Bucannon signed a four-year, $7.709 million deal deal with the Cardinals on June 5 with $6,237,946 in guaranteed money, according to overthecap.com.
It remains to be seen how quickly he can pick up the defense, but the Cardinals expect their first-round picks to play right away, so Bucannon will be in the rotation, if not a starter at the beginning of the season.
Here’s coach Bruce Arians responding to the fancy stats guys and national critics, who see flaws in cornerback Patrick Peterson’s game.
"I don’t know if those people know a damn thing about our defense and what we are asking him to do," Arians said. "I have to laugh when I see all these comparisons. Guys are in defenses doing different things and (some others) have no idea what coaches are asking of them and whether they are doing the right thing or the wrong thing. All of a sudden, I see a grade. I don’t know what that plus-3 or 4 (expletive) means.
"It’s the same thing as (ESPN’s) QBR (quarterback rating). … I know our coaches’ grades are the only ones that matter."
Some of the offseason criticism has been fueled by Peterson and Seattle cornerback Richard Sherman trading brags and taunts on Twitter. Analytics are one way of determining who is better, but they do not offer a complete or definitive measurement because there are too many variables — particularly in the NFL where so many players are on the field affecting outcomes, and as Arians noted, nobody but the team knows what players’ assignments are.
There are also analysts who wonder how much more effective Peterson (and therefore his numbers) would look in a secondary as good as Seattle’s. Peterson might get to show them with the addition of Pro Bowl cornerback Antonio Cromartie in free agency, Bucannon in the first round of the draft, and the maturation of safety Tyrann Mathieu.
Arians said rookie tight end Troy Niklas, the team’s 2014 second-round pick, will be sidelined until training camp with a broken hand. Niklas had returned to practice following his hernia surgery that kept him out of the first few OTAs, but Arians said he got a finger caught and twisted in a jersey last week and broke his hand.
Veteran linebacker John Abraham, who has sat out almost all of OTAs with Arians’ blessing, reported to minicamp on Tuesday, but wasn’t able to go because he "threw up a few times," Arians said, and was sent home. Arians hoped to have him back before minicamp ends.
Wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald worked out on the side with strength and conditioning coach Buddy Morris to baby a balky hamstring.
Arians insists it is impossible to make a determination on who will start at right tackle and right guard while the team is still practicing without pads. Those battles will be determined in training camp.
The team did have veteran right tackle Tyson Clabo in for a workout (he has not signed), but Arians said that is not necessarily a reflection on the play of Bobby Massie, Bradley Sowell and Nate Potter.
"We’re just looking at available bodies that are still potentially out there," Arians said. "We’ve got some young guys that are having a real tough time counting to three (snap counts). A veteran guy will count to three. Now whether he can compete for the job, we’ll bring him in to see.
"(General manager) Steve (Keim) is always looking; trying to find the next available option to make our overall depth better."
Arians has been prone to hyperbole on occasion — mostly to instill confidence in his players — so take this with a grain of salt. But here’s what he had to say when asked how good a cornerback Justin Bethel can be.
"He could be our best," said Arians, who has Pro Bowlers Patrick Peterson and Antonio Cromartie. "He’s got all the skill level to be as good as there is, including Patrick."
So what’s lacking?
"Experience and confidence," Arians added. "Getting to learn concepts. Coming from a small school so many times it’s just (good enough) being an athlete. Now he’s understanding route concepts and route combinations. … He’s got fantastic hands. The sky is the limit on how good a corner he can be."