TEMPE, Ariz. – As he walked into his Wednesday afternoon’s media session at the team’s practice complex, Cardinals coach Bruce Arians looked around at the large media contingent and remarked: “Hoo, we’ve got a crowd here! There must be a game.”
Nearly eight months after he was hired as an NFL head coach for the first time in his life, Arians, 60, is finally experiencing a real prep week ahead of a real game.
“We’re very excited,” he said of Sunday’s season opener in St. Louis. “It’s a good measuring stick in our division. The Rams won the most games in our division last year (against other division opponents). To be able to go in there and scratch out a win would be huge for our season.”
With nearly wholesale changes on the coaching staff and almost half the roster made up of new faces, there are many unknowns about this season’s Cardinals season. But the real rush of the season opener comes from all that time spent waiting and practicing without any payoff or real read on the team.
“I have added anticipation because we haven’t been battle-tested yet,” center Lyle Sendlein said. “We don’t put any added pressure on ourselves because it’s the season opener. It’s nothing like that. But there’s a lot more time to think about the first one then there is between the first and second ones.”
LONG EXPECTED MOVE
Jonathan Cooper’s season-ending leg injury certainly contributed to the decision, but there has been talk for most of training camp that Arians might give tackles Nate Potter or Bobby Massie some time at guard to improve the versatility of the line and make the roster numbers make more sense.
Arians made it official on Wednesday, announcing that Potter would start training at guard.
“I love it,” said Potter, who played some guard at Boise State. “That’s how you stick around, with the more you can do.”
Potter said he found out a couple days ago.
“It’s been awhile so it’s going to be an adjustment,” he said. “A lot of the technique is different, and everything happens faster at guard. You’ve got to get comfortable with that and scheme-wise, I’ve got get comfortable with certain protections.”
Paul Fanaika will start at right guard and Daryn Colledge will start at left guard, but without Cooper, the Cardinals only had raw rookie Earl Watford as a backup after releasing veteran Chilo Rachal. Potter could give them another option.
KING OF PAIN
Tight end Jeff King said Monday that the recent swelling in his knee that forced another surgery was caused by “some loose bodies” that doctors found “floating around in there.”
King said there was no structural damage. He was at the Cards’ facility for treatment on Monday in the first stage in his rehabilitation. He is eligible to come off of injured reserve after six weeks, but the Cards might hold their one IR exemption for another player, so it’s conceivable that King won’t be back on the field for the Cardinals this season.
ANOTHER MENTOR FOR MATHIEU
Patrick Peterson isn’t the only mentor for Cardinals defensive back Tyrann Mathieu. Former Cardinals cornerback Aeneas Williams is lending a hand as well.
In an interview with Brad Cesmat of Pros2Preps.com on Wednesday, Williams discussed his relationship with Mathieu. Both are from New Orleans and both were third-round draft picks of the Cardinals.
“Aeneas, he’s a great friend,” Mathieu told Pros2Preps.com. “He’s a great mentor. He’s always been a helping hand and he’s always been somebody that I can call.”
Arians announced the team captains on Wednesday. On offense, they are receiver Larry Fitzgerald and quarterback Carson Palmer. On defense, they are cornerback Patrick Peterson and defensive tackle Darnell Dockett, who was captain two years ago but lost that honor last season to linebacker Paris Lenon (Adrian Wilson was the other defensive captain).
The special teams captains are Lorenzo Alexander and kicker Jay Feely.
Arians said tight end Rob Housler (high-ankle sprain) is still day-to-day, but he also noted that he doesn’t want Housler’s injury to linger. It sounds as if Housler will sit out Week 1.
The team’s top two running backs, Rashard Mendenhall and Ryan Williams, both dealing with knee issues, said they are ready to play Sunday against the Rams.
On the team’s official injury report, Housler did not practice while CB Javier Arenas (hip), TE DC Jefferson (knee), Mendenhall and DT Dan Williams (ankle) were limited.
For the Rams, TE Cory Harkey (knee), S Darian Stewart (thigh), CB Quinton Porter (thigh) and LB Jonathan Stewart (hip) did not practice.