GLENDALE, Ariz. — A day after the signing of veteran free agent Eric Winston created a host of questions about competition on the offensive line, Cardinals coach Bruce Arians offered some clarity.
Winston’s signing seemed to open up the possibility that right tackle Bobby Massie could shift to left tackle, replacing Levi Brown, who missed all of last season with a torn triceps and reportedly did not impress coaches in the spring. That won’t be the case, Arians said.
“It allows us to leave Nate (Potter) at the left side with Levi and have a nice battle over (at right tackle),” Arians said. “Everywhere along that line right now, we’ve got really good competition.”
That means Potter and Brown will battle for the starting job on the left side while Winston and Massie will compete on the right side. Arians said none of the tackles will be shifted to a guard position, at least for now.
Massie moved to the left side during organized team activities in the spring, but Arians said that was simply to get him a little experience on the other side in case an injury during a game forced him there.
“I feel very comfortable right now,” Arians said. “We’re going to come out with a really good right tackle and a really good backup. They’re going to go after each other, just like the other spots on the line.”
Winston is no stranger to competition, having had to fight for a starting job plenty of times before, and he has started 80 straight games dating back to 2007.
“I’ve been lucky enough to be a starter for a long time, played in a lot of consecutive games, but every year I’ve come to camp trying to win a spot,” Winston said. “This year won’t be any different.”
Massie, after taking great strides the second half of last season, now finds himself having to prove himself against a veteran with meaningful starting experience. Naturally, he’s not backing down from the challenge.
“I’m not worried about it,” Massie said. “We have an issue with depth at tackle, and we needed a guy to come in. He’s a good player, he’s a veteran. That’s what it’s all about — competing for your job. They’re not just going to give it to me. I’m going to have to work for it. I’m happy to do it.”
Massie said he feels that he’s come a long way physically and mentally from where he was at the start of training camp last year. When was it that things turned around for him last season?
“After I got tired of getting my (butt) kicked,” Massie joked. “Right after sack No. 12. I wasn’t used to getting beat like that. It was a big shock to me. There were a lot of people around me that helped me get back into my game.”
Defensive end/outside linebacker John Abraham, whom the Cardinals signed to a two-year deal Thursday, participated in his first team activity Friday morning, an on-field walkthrough that was likely at least a little familiar.
“It feels good to be finally signed with a team that has a lot of potential and has the defense, pretty much, I played in last year,” Abraham said.
Abraham, a 14-year veteran and the NFL’s active leader with 122 sacks, comes to the Cardinals after seven years with the Falcons. The 35-year-old has 32 1/2 sacks over the past three seasons and seven seasons of at least 10.
The Cardinals added Abraham particularly because of his track record as an elite pass rusher. It was an area of need, and they now believe they have addressed it.
“What it’s really done is bolstered our nickel package,” Arians said. “When we want to get after the quarterback, we’ve got four to five capable rushers, now one with an elite resume. We don’t have to wonder what we have. We know what we have. The guy has had 9 1/2-10 1/2 sacks for the last four or five years.”
Arians said Abraham can be an every-down player, and Abraham admitted that he would like that as much as any player, but both seem to have in mind a specific role within the defense.
“I came here knowing they’re going to want me to pass rush,” Abraham said. “That’s where my most production is. I’m not really worrying about exactly where they’re going to put me or what they want me to do. I just know I’m going to do it.”
Arians believes Abraham’s addition could open things up a bit for fellow defensive linemen Darnell Dockett and Calais Campbell.
“That was one of the things that intrigued us about getting him,” Arians said. “With the rushers we have, we feel like we can come up with a dynamic group, and when we want to blitz, they’re athletic enough to come out into coverage.”
Abraham could prove a steal for the Cardinals and a savvy move by new general manager Steve Keim. He was picked up at a relatively low cost and would be an immediate difference maker if he plays like he has the past couple seasons. On top of that, he should be a strong veteran addition to the locker room.
“I think it’s a smart move for them bringing in a vet guy like me, getting me for cheap,” Abraham joked. “There’s some veteran guys here that can help the younger guys. We’ve been in the league a long time, and we want to win.”
‘HEAD OUT OF THE GAME’
On Thursday, Cardinals rookie wide receiver Ryan Swope had to end to his career before it’d even begun due to ongoing issues related to concussions suffered in college and during OTAs.
Arians on Friday addressed Swope’s situation for the first time since the spring.
“I feel bad for him because he’s a great young man, and I knew how much it meant to him,” Arians said. “You could tell it was eating him up as he was here, not being able to participate.”
Because of situations like Swope’s, Arians said, it’s up to coaches and officials to keep making the game safer from head injuries.
“For us, it’s our job to get the head out of the game. The head was not in the game when I played. … The head became a missile in the late ’80s, and we have to get it out.”
— Defensive end Frostee Rucker is the only active player not yet participating due to a “slight calf strain,” but Arians said Rucker will be able to participate when the team starts practicing in pads on Sunday.
— The Cardinals plan to hold three outdoor practices to face the elements a bit. The exact dates have not been announced, but the practices will be held at the team’s facility in Tempe.