GLENDALE, Ariz. — You don’t need more reasons to be concerned about the Arizona Cardinals now that the defense has lost Karlos Dansby, Daryl Washington and Darnell Dockett. But the health of left guard Jonathan Cooper and inside linebacker Kevin Minter warrants some worry.
Neither player practiced on Friday. Coach Bruce Arians said both would be game-time decisions on Sunday, but it’s pretty clear neither will play against the Cincinnati Bengals in the next-to-last preseason game.
Minter is still nursing a pectoral muscle injury that, given the time he’s missed, likely is a tear. Cooper is still nursing a turf toe injury and the affected ligament doesn’t seem to be responding to treatment and rest.
Arians said Kenny Demens and Ted Larsen will start in their place. When asked how confident he was that Minter and Cooper would be able to contribute in the season-opener, Arians qualified his response.
"(Minter’s) got to contribute next week. Same thing (with Cooper)," he said. "They’ve got to get some game action before we’ll stick them out there in the opener. It’s a critical week for both those guys for the opener."
Larsen will stay at left guard if Cooper isn’t ready for the season opener. While he has had a good camp and proven his worth as a backup at all three interior positions, Larsen is undersized (listed at 6-2, 305). That could be a problem, particularly against the NFC West’s big, physical defensive tackles.
If Minter can’t go, it would be a surprise if Demens remains in the starting spot. The Cardinals may just be waiting for recently signed veteran Desmond Bishop to get up to speed.
Safety Tyrann Mathieu was much more active in Thursday’s practice than he was on Wednesday when he returned to the field for the first time since he was removed from the PUP (physically unable to perform) list. He participated in 11-on-11 drills (mostly on the scout team) and delivered hits to receiver Ted Ginn and running back Andre Ellington.
"I wasn’t really trying to hit them but I put a little weight on," he said sheepishly. "Actually, I thought (Arians) was going to throw me out of practice. He usually doesn’t let people hit Andre. Luckily, I was able to stay."
Mathieu admitted that it helped his confidence to lay a couple hits. He also said the big brace he is wearing (and will wear all season) is not restrictive, but it is taking time to adjust to having such a large object on his leg.
Mathieu said the normal recovery time for his torn LCL and ACL is 11 to 12 months, so it surprised him that he is back on the field 8.5 months later.
"I thought he moved around better (Thursday) than he did the day before, mostly on the scout team where he could stay out of the fray but play football and run," Arians said. "He broke on a couple deep balls really, really well."
Tackle Max Starks (ankle) was limited on Friday. Arians is hopeful he’ll be available for the Sunday’s game.
— Arians said linebacker John Abraham, who reported to camp one week ago, has a chance to play on Sunday.