C Sendlein adds to Cardinals’ injury troubles

More bad news for the Arizona Cardinals.

Lyle Sendlein, the team’s ironman center, is out for the season

with a torn left MCL, the latest in a series of injuries to

significant players, problems that have figured greatly in the

team’s losing streak – now at seven games and counting.

”That’s the way it’s kind of gone this year,” coach Ken

Whisenhunt said.

The problems are especially acute on offense, where quarterback,

running back and left tackle have been the hardest-hit

positions.

Kevin Kolb, the quarterback when the team got off to a 4-0

start, has missed five games with a rib injury. He’s practicing on

a limited basis, but rookie Ryan Lindley will get his second start

in a row when the team plays at the New York Jets on Sunday.

John Skelton beat out Kolb in the preseason but went down with a

sprained ankle late in the season opener against Seattle. Kolb came

on to direct the winning touchdown drive, and although he was far

from perfect – and under constant siege from a fierce pass rush –

the Cardinals started the season 4-0.

He was hurt on a busted play, when running back William Powell

missed an audible and there was no one to give the ball to. Kolb

took off running and went down hard on his chest, damaging

cartilage on the upper part of his rib cage.

Whisenhunt won’t say so, but he probably would go back to Kolb

if he was sure the quarterback was healthy. Kolb said he isn’t sure

when he will be ready, and Whisenhunt isn’t going to force the

issue.

”He isn’t going to get in the game until we are sure that he

can take a hit,” the coach said. ”With what happened with him,

you just have to make sure that he’s cleared to do that.”

Skelton replaced Kolb but was largely ineffective. When he

missed several open receivers two games ago at Atlanta,

particularly a wide open Larry Fitzgerald in the end zone, Skelton

was benched in favor of Lindley. Lindley had some good moments in

his first NFL start, but the awful moments were truly terrible. He

was intercepted four times, three of them on bad throws, with two

returned for touchdowns in a 31-17 home loss to St. Louis on

Sunday.

Early in that game, Sendlein – called by Whisenhunt ”one of the

toughest guys I’ve ever been around” – limped off the field only

to return to play the rest of the game on the damaged knee. He has

started 80 games in a row since he got the job as an undrafted

rookie in the team’s 2008 Super Bowl season.

Now the job falls to Rich Ohrnberger, who saw little action in

his first two NFL seasons, with New England, but has started twice

this year at right guard for Arizona when Adam Snyder was hurt.

”As a backup guy you’ve got to be ready no matter what the

circumstances,” he said. ”It’s just another one of those

situations where you get put in there and have got to keep the

thing running.”

It’s not like the offense had been running like a new Cadillac

with Sendlein. A beat-up Nash Rambler is more like it.

The Cardinals rank 31st in the league, ahead of only

Jacksonville. In their seven-game skid, they have eight

touchdowns.

The injury problems started before the season began when the

offensive line, already considered the team’s weakest unit, lost

left tackle Levi Brown with a season-ending triceps injury. The

team moved well-traveled but seldom-used D’Anthony Batiste from

right tackle to left, and inserted fourth-round draft pick Bobby

Massie at right tackle. The results were disastrous. Kolb was

sacked eight times by Miami and, the next week, nine by St. Louis.

Eventually, seventh-round pick Nate Potter replaced Batiste, and

things have stabilized.

Arizona entered the season thinking that its running game would

be strong behind the 1-2 punch of Beanie Wells and Ryan Williams.

But Wells opened the season far from full health after offseason

knee surgery, then he was knocked out in Week 3 against

Philadelphia with a severe turf toe injury. The Cardinals placed

him on the league’s new injured/designated for return list, meaning

he had to miss seven games, plus the bye week, before returning

against the Rams on Sunday.

Meanwhile, in early October, the Cardinals lost Williams for the

season to a shoulder injury.

The defense, which has more depth than the offense, has had its

losses, too.

Outside linebacker O’Brien Schofield is out for the season with

an injured left ankle and several others have missed games along

the way. Defensive end Calais Campbell sat out the last two games

with a calf injury but expects to be back this week.

Having to make so many changes has been a coaching

challenge.

”It’s more about continuity than anything else,” Whisenhunt

said. ”Guys that work together for a number of reps now are not,

so you are going to have mistakes. You are going to have

miscommunication. Plus, when you’re playing young guys, they don’t

have the experience. They don’t see things, so their reaction times

aren’t as good. If you look at where Bobby (Massie) was when we

played St. Louis the first time and where he was the second time,

it is noticeably different, but you don’t get that unless you get

some experience.”

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