GLENDALE, Ariz. — Opponents likely will have to pick their poison when punting to the Cardinals this season.
Coach Bruce Arians said Saturday he expects to double up on punt returns with defensive backs Patrick Peterson and Tyrann Mathieu, an idea he mentioned when the Cards took Mathieu in the third round of this year’s draft.
“We have the potential to have three back there if we really want, with Javier (Arenas) too,” Arians said. “The ability we have with Patrick and Tyrann as special punt returners … it’s hard to kick away from two of them.”
Peterson emerged as one of the NFL’s best punt returners in his rookie season, leading the league in 2011 with 699 punt return yards and four touchdowns, twice as many as the next returner. He didn’t register a punt-return touchdown last season, as opponents avoided kicking to him, but he still finished fourth in the league with 426 punt-return yards.
Mathieu returned punts in 2011, his second season at LSU. On 27 returns, Mathieu tallied 421 yards (15.6 per return, fourth-best in Division I) and two touchdowns.
“He’s a special talent,” Peterson said. “He’s a guy that can help us on the defensive end and hopefully in the return game as well.”
Peterson may not be overly excited to share duties with Mathieu but knows how much of an advantage it can be.
“Having three great returners here, maybe even four with Antoine (Cason), I’m all open for sharing punt-return duties,” Peterson said. “It can have a huge benefit for us because all of us can get the ball in the end zone, and we don’t have to worry about those guys kicking the ball out of the end zone when I’m back deep.
“Those guys are just as dangerous as I am when you put the ball in their hands.”
The Cardinals give up a blocker by putting both players in the backfield on punt returns, but the trade-off is perhaps the league’s most dangerous punt-return game.
Offensive guard Daryn Colledge missed the first practice of training camp Friday due to a personal matter, and it turns out it was a pretty good excuse.
Colledge was absent due to the birth of his second daughter, Reagan Grace, who was born Friday morning at about 7:30 a.m. Colledge had to rush back to his Phoenix home from the team hotel in Glendale.
“My wife called me yesterday morning and said it was go time,” Colledge said. “I almost didn’t make it. It was a nice 45-minute commute. Luckily I wasn’t in Flagstaff, because if I was in Flag, I probably would have missed it.”
Colledge said the baby was born at home as planned, and he got to spend a good deal of time with his wife, Megan, and the 8-pound, 6-ounce newborn before returning to practice Friday night
“My wife’s a champ, she did great,” Colledge said. “Then she kicked me out of the house. Told me to get back to work and win some football games.”
Colledge also has a 2-year old daughter, Camryn.
“It’s gonna be rough around the house — I got a lot of pink, I got a lot of women running around,” Colledge joked. “So I’m going to be at the football center as much as I can be.”
Arians said Friday that all 22 starting jobs are up for grabs before conceding maybe quarterback (Carson Palmer), one cornerback spot (Peterson) and a wide receiver spot (Larry Fitzgerald) are not.
Beyond Fitzgerald, it’s safe to assume Andre Roberts and Michael Floyd will be the second and third receivers in some order, but after that, the competition is open.
“It’s a good competition,” Arians said. “We’ve got four or five guys I like, and every day it’s just keep shuffling the deck. It’s going to be fun watching them compete. There’s a lot of quickness and speed in that group.”
That group includes 29-year old rookie Robert Gill, Jaron Brown, Charles Hawkins and Kerry Taylor, who spent much of last season on the Cardinals’ practice squad before being activated for the last game of the year.
Gill, who went viral in the offseason for a video in which he ran 25 mph on a treadmill, stood out on the first day of camp Friday. He got perhaps the loudest applause from the crowd after catching a deep touchdown pass from quarterback Drew Stanton.
“He had a big play yesterday, but he dropped a couple balls,” Arians said. “It’s just finding a couple guys who are consistent.” QUICK HITS
— Two days after being cut by the Cardinals, linebacker O’Brien Schofield was claimed by the division-rival Seahawks, according to his agent on Twitter.
— The Cardinals added another receiver to the mix Saturday, working out former Eastern Washington receiver Nick Edwards and signing him to a one-year deal.
— Arians compared Ryan Lindley, presumably the team’s third quarterback, to NFL journeyman Kelly Holcomb, whom Arians coached in Cleveland from 2001-2003. “Kelly got thrown into the fire as rookie, looked like crap,” Arians recalled. “Ryan had no chance when he went out there as a rookie, but he’s improving every day. I love his command of the game.”
— The Cardinals will work out in pads for the first time Sunday, and Arians said he and his staff will be careful making sure players don’t get too intense on the first day of contact. “That’s always the day you want to say ‘whoa,'” Arians said. “It can get loud (with hitting) real fast, especially with a big crowd. But you have to do it. It’s the part that you cross your fingers. We have really good guys who know how to practice. They’re going to go real hard and take care of each other.”