Arizona's Grimm coaches reshuffled offensive line
FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP)
His Pro Football Hall of Fame induction behind him, Russ Grimm is back on the job working to hone what he calls a ''reshuffled'' offensive line.
His is one of the major reconstruction projects of the Arizona Cardinals training camp. Only one player is new to the team, 12-year NFL veteran Alan Faneca at left guard. But Levi Brown has moved from right tackle to left tackle and Reggie Wells has shifted from left guard to right guard. The only player in the same position is center Lyle Sendlein.
Grimm's biggest challenge is at right tackle, where the Cardinals have decided to go with third-year pro Brandon Keith, a seventh-round draft pick who was inactive for all but four games in his first two years in the NFL.
''He's going good but it's still early,'' Grimm said after practice on Thursday. ''We've got to see what he can do in a game. We feel confident that he's ready to take over the position, otherwise we wouldn't have put him in there, but he's still got to prove it on game day.''
Keith, who stands 6-foot-5 and weighs 335 pounds, played at Northern Iowa, Kurt Warner's alma mater, and was the 225th selection in the 2008 draft. As a rookie, he didn't play in any games in Arizona's stunning run to the Super Bowl. Last year, he was inactive for the first 11 games but played some as a backup tackle and guard when starting left tackle Mike Gandy was injured. Mostly, though, when played at all, it was on special teams.
He admits he was surprised when told he would be the No. 1 right tackle.
''Your always confident in yourself and your abilities,'' Keith said, ''but at the same time when an organization puts that trust in you, it just gives you that assurance that you've been doing something right.''
He got a quick lesson in how tough the job can be on his second play in the preseason opener against Houston, when Mario Williams shoved him almost to the quarterback, then made the sack.
''I'm still learning. There's still a lot of growing to do,'' Keith said. ''Things you think you know you really didn't know. It's a learning curve, basically.''
With a left-handed quarterback, Keith will be the primary protector on Matt Leinart's blind side.
''Somebody's got to do it. On every play, somebody's got a tougher job than somebody else,'' Grimm said. ''That's just the nature of the business. I think he's up to it. He's worked hard the last two years.''
The Cardinals chose not to re-sign Gandy, then brought in Faneca after the nine-time Pro Bowler was released by the New York Jets. It was a reunion for Grimm and Faneca. Grimm, a starter at guard for 11 seasons with the Washington Redskins, knows what it's like to remain effective after so many years in the NFL.
''Is he a five-, six-year player? No,'' Grimm said of Faneca, ''but he's still better than a lot of guards in this league. He's got a great feel for the game. When a player loses athletically toward the tail end of his career, he can pick up for it mentally. So I mean he sees things a lot faster.''
Deuce Lutui, the starter at right guard the last 22 games, came in to camp a bit overweight after holding out in a contract dispute in the summer. For now, he's playing backup at both guard spots.
Leinart, the starter following Warner's retirement after last season, treated his linemen to a trip to Hawaii over the summer. He knows his success depends, in large part, on how the team protects him.
''I'm confident,'' Leinart said. ''It takes time for a new group to mesh. ... We have a lot of guys who have played a lot of games up there and I think in camp and this preseason it has started jelling together. I have full confidence in BK (Keith). I think he's a tremendous athlete and he works very hard. I haven't' doubted him one bit.
''Those guys are going to be really good. I have full faith we have that bond together. I'm not worried about that.''