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Arizona's Roberts shines after bad start to career

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TEMPE, Ariz. (AP)

(Eds: With AP Photos.)By BOB BAUMAP Sports Writer

Andre Roberts' first training camp with the Arizona Cardinals was bad, even by his own assessment.

He says he was a ''bonehead rookie.''

''Larry (Fitzgerald) always tells me it didn't seem like I was going to play in this league after my first training camp,'' Roberts said. ''But obviously I didn't see it that way.''

Three seasons later, Roberts is the No. 2 receiver for the Cardinals, despite the arrival of first-round draft pick Michael Floyd and the steady presence of Early Doucet.

''It's definitely a tremendous improvement, just on becoming a pro and learning how this game works,'' Roberts said.

He has emerged as a speedy, talented player with a knack for making big catches, such as the 6-yarder from Kevin Kolb for the winning touchdown against Seattle in last Sunday's season opener.

Roberts caught five passes for 54 yards against the Seahawks, including a crucial third-down reception that kept the winning drive alive, the pass thrown by John Skelton on the play the starting quarterback was hurt. Roberts also had a 15-yard run against Seattle.

Coach Ken Whisenhunt stuck with Roberts through his early struggles.

''He's what you want to see in a guy you draft,'' Whisenhunt said. ''He's developed very well. He works hard. He's making some plays for us. He does a lot of things that you don't necessarily see statistically that have an impact on us. We're very pleased with how he's grown.''

Fitzgerald praises Roberts these days.

''I think it's all about confidence with Andre,'' Fitzgerald said. ''We talk about it all the time. The guy puts in the work. He's one of the last ones off the field every day, one of the first ones on the field, you see him in there watching tape by himself, he's in there early lifting weights.

''He's doing everything he possibly can to become a better professional and I think we're all starting to see that display onto the field.''

Roberts said he believes players get better when they put in the work.

''I feel like if I want to get better every single year, which I do,'' he said, `then that's what I'm going to do, in the offseason, in the season, just working hard every day trying to get better.''

Roberts started all 16 games last season, but had only 13 catches for 133 yards in the first seven games. Then he broke out. In the final nine games, Roberts had 38 catches for 453 yards.

''It all helps everybody,'' Fitzgerald said. ''When guys are playing at a high level, they create opportunities for themselves and when they start making plays themselves, defenses take notice and it leads to opportunities for other guys as well.''

Not coincidentally, Arizona was 1-6 to start the season, then won seven of its last nine.

In 2010, the Cardinals drafted Roberts in the third round out of The Citadel, the highest draft pick from that school since Atlanta chose linebacker John Small in the first round in 1970.

The Cardinals are confident that Roberts is only beginning to show the kind of player he can be.

''I think he has a tremendous amount of upside because of his versatility,'' Whisenhunt said. ''He can do a number of different things for us, play a number of different roles, whether it's an outside receiver, a slot receiver, does a nice job on the reverses running the football, he's a strong blocker.

''I think you've seen tremendous progress out of him. I wish that it was reflected more in his statistics but I don't think that's a big deal with him. He just wants to play and is doing a very good job of that.''

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Follow Bob Baum on Twitter: http://twitter.com/Thebaumerphx

Tagged: Cardinals, Larry Fitzgerald, Early Doucet, Andre Roberts

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