NFL

Skelton's dreadful game doesn't change QB status

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TEMPE, Ariz. (AP)

Quarterback John Skelton's dreadful performance against San Francisco must make Arizona fans anxious for the return of Kevin Kolb. The trouble is, no one knows when that might happen. Kolb's right foot injury is showing slow progress, at best.

Coach Ken Whisenhunt said Skelton will remain the starting quarterback if Kolb is forced to miss a fourth straight game when the Cardinals play at St. Louis on Sunday.

''John didn't play his best yesterday,'' Whisenhunt said, ''but he's got to bounce back. If he has to play this week, he's got to be ready to go.''

Skelton had directed Arizona to two wins in a row before falling flat in the 23-7 loss to the NFC West-leading 49ers. He completed 6 of 19 passes for 99 yards and was intercepted three times before being replaced by Rich Bartel, who engineered the team's only touchdown drive.

Bartel threw his first NFL touchdown pass, a 23-yarder to Larry Fitzgerald, with 2 1/2 minutes to play. The ball he used was in his locker on Monday.

Arizona committed five turnovers in the game.

Skelton had some bad moments in his first two games, but bounced back to help the Cardinals beat St. Louis and Philadelphia. He was at a loss on Monday to explain why he wasn't able to do that this time.

''I don't know. That's a frustrating thing when you get a question like that,'' he said. ''You just don't know how to answer it. I guess normally you know how to turn it off and on and move on, but a game like that against a good defense, it's hard to make a mistake and not let it affect you.''

Kolb pushed his injured foot in practice last week but was ''not very'' close to being able to play, Whisenhunt said.

Kolb agreed.

''I pushed it hard all week and it just wasn't there,'' he said. ''I think I would be hurting my team if I went out there and tried to play on it. I'd be limping around out there and definitely wouldn't be up to par.''

Kolb's injury is a turf toe along with a bruise on the side of the foot he uses to plant when he throws.

''It is frustrating,'' he said. ''It's frustrating for everybody. The only injuries I've ever been through are pretty self-explanatory, a broken bone and a concussion. I've never been through anything like this before. But I'm going to keep pushing and do my best to get out there this week.''

The offense also has been hurt by the nagging sore knee that has hampered Beanie Wells, although the extent of that seemed to be a subject of dispute between Whisenhunt and the running back.

Whisenhunt said Wells' time in the game was limited.

''He can't go more than a certain number of reps at a time during the course of a game, so you have to make sure that you watch that, then he comes out,'' Whisenhunt said. ''There have been a few times where we've had plays called that we wanted him in there that you've had to put another back in there.

''But once again, you understand that's going on because of where Beanie is health-wise. To have him available is what's important going forward.''

Wells, who carried eight times for 33 yards against the 49ers, said that was news to him. He said he's been limited in practice but ready to go full-tilt on Sundays.

''I don't think he was limiting my carries because to me that's something to worry about in practice to get to the game,'' Wells said. ''We take it easy during the week to get me to the game, and once the game is here I'm full go, ready to play 100 percent of the plays.''

Unlike the offense, the Arizona defense had another good performance, but the Cardinals lost starting nose tackle Dan Williams with a broken left arm. Rookie David Carter and nine-year NFL veteran Nick Eason, normally a defensive end, will fill in at the spot.

Starting right offensive tackle Brandon Keith sustained a concussion and will be evaluated throughout the week.

Tagged: Cardinals, Kevin Kolb, Beanie Wells, John Skelton

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