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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