Cards notebook: Injuries raise fairness issue

Heap's lingering injury, recent QB concussions make punishment seem light; Kolb still a ways from return.

TEMPE, Ariz. -- Much of the NFL media's attention Monday was focused on concussions after San Francisco quarterback Alex Smith, Chicago QB Jay Cutler and Philadelphia QB Michael Vick were all knocked out of action with such injuries.

The NFL insists it is doing all it can to decrease the chances of such injuries occurring, but when they occur on an illegal hit -- as was likely the case when Houston linebacker Tim Dobbins cheap-shotted Cutler by delivering a helmet-to-helmet hit after Cutler had thrown a pass -- and that player is allowed to stay in the game, clearly the NFL is not sending a strong enough message.

Let's take that a step further and consider a punishment for all illegal hits that has been bandied about the NHL and NFL. If a player injures another player with what is ruled to be an illegal hit, why not suspend that player for as long as the injured player is out?

Cardinals tight end Todd Heap has been out since Week 2 with what has been reported as a PCL sprain. Heap's injury came on an illegal hit out of bounds against New England. What was Patriots safety Steve Gregory's punishment for that infraction? A 15-yard penalty and a $7,875 fine. Heap's punishment? Seven missed games and counting.

"There are different forms of illegal hits," said Heap, who was loathe to step into any discussion of player punishment. "There are some hits where you can say they were playing football and there are some where it's evident they could have done something else.

"It's frustrating. When you get hit and you're out of bounds, yes, it's really frustrating, but I can't worry about negative things right now. I've just been focusing on what I can do to get back on the field."

When that will be is unknown. Heap said Monday that he is still trying to get over physical and mental hurdles.

"It's been a fine line where I'm asking, 'Am I going to go out there and re-injure it? Am I going to go out there and get hurt?'" he said. "I'm just trying to get over that hump in practice where I do just feel close."

He is not there yet, which makes you wonder two things: Is this injury that has sidelined him for eight weeks more serious than has been reported, and did the punishment for the offender even come close to one befitting the crime?


Cardinals quarterback Kevin Kolb said he did a little more throwing Monday as he attempts to return from a rib injury suffered in Week 6 against Buffalo, but when asked if there was tangible progress, he shook his head and said, "Same old, same old."

"Whenever I try twisting or doing reactionary stuff, I feel it," he said. "It's just not right, so I've just got to keep working through it."

The Cardinals are still hoping Kolb returns at some point this season, but it's safe to say it won't happen this week against the heavily-favored Falcons in Atlanta. That game will mark QB John Skelton's fourth straight start. He is 0-3 since relieving an injured Kolb late in the loss to the Bill on Oct. 14.


Coach Ken Whisenhunt said four days worth of rest during the bye week really helped the Cardinals -- and it was evident in Monday's workout.

"They looked a lot like that first week after we break (training) camp," he said. "They had a lot of energy and moved around well. We got a few guys back practicing. We'll see how the week goes, but from that standpoint, it was good."

Rest may have been the most valuable advantage, but there is always talk during bye weeks of having an extra week to prepare for an opponent with film and introspection.

"There's really two components to it," Whisenhunt said. "Number one is looking at what you do and what we've had success with. When you go back from nine games and look at some of the things that you think you were good at or maybe you didn't think you were good at, it's nice to be able to look at them over the course of those games.

"Then you want to look at other things that maybe you have to adjust based on how your players have handled certain things. We worked on some things last week. ... This is how we can tweak it. This is how we can get better and try to fit those things in as to how they relate to the opponent you're playing."

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