Sendlein returns to anchor Cardinals offensive line

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Cardinals center Lyle Sendlein was back in full pads at practice on Monday for the first time since suffering a calf injury on Day 3 of training camp (July 28). 

Ted Larsen is playing left guard for Jonathan Cooper, who is still out with a toe injury, but the Cardinals have four of their five projected offensive-line starters in place now to forge that all important continuity.

"I hope it’s important," Sendlein quipped. "Ted’s been playing well."

In Sendlein’s absence, Larsen filled in at center and cemented his importance to the team as a solid backup at all three interior positions. But Sendlein’s job is in no danger. The Scottsdale Chaparral product has been a rock at his position since signing as a rookie free agent out of Texas in 2007.

He had made 81 consecutive starts from the 2008 season opener until a Week 12 knee injury landed him on IR in 2012. And he had an even better track record going at training camp before this season.

"I’ve never missed a camp practice in eight years," he said. "I pride myself on being a lunch-pail guy and being out there every day. It was a mental battle as well as a physical battle."

Sendlein has been taking snaps with QB Carson Palmer in 7-on-7 drills to keep their timing and technique in tune, but the remaining two-and-a-half weeks should help iron out any kinks and help him re-familiarize himself with his linemates at a position where timing and cohesion are paramount.

The Cardinals saw enough from defensive tackle Isaac Sopoaga in his Wednesday workout to sign him to a one-year deal.

Put me in coach

Sopoaga (6-2, 330) will turn 33 in September. He is primarily known as a run-stuffer. He has started 89 games and played in 139 with 229 tackles (158 solos) and 8.5 career sacks.

He spent his first eight years with San Francisco before splitting last season between Philadelphia and New England.

He said was working out in his hometown of San Jose, California when he got the call from the Cardinals. He worked out for the team and was in a uniform practicing shortly afterward, but he said that wasn’t a challenge.

"No way. I’ve been doing this for 11 years; 12 years of playing rugby," he said. "It’s truly a blessing."

The NFL and the NFLPA agreed this week to expand practice squads from eight players to 10 for the 2014 and 2015 seasons, affording coaches and general managers a chance to keep more young talent around to develop and familiarize themselves with team systems and personnel. That becomes important if roster moves are required during the season.

The new agreement allows players to spend up to three seasons on the practice squad if eligible. A player must also be on a practice squad six games (previously three) to have a practice squad year count against one of those three seasons.

Two of the 10 players are allowed up to two accrued seasons in the NFL. Before, a player with at least nine games on the 46-man game-day rosters was not practice-squad eligible. That means that almost every player who has come into the league since 2012 will be eligible for the practice squad this season. 

"I was shocked to see who was eligible," Arians joked. "I told Mike Floyd ‘You’re lucky; you’re practice squad eligible now. You might want to get out of the training room.’ "

While Arians doesn’t foresee a situation where teams will keep four quarterbacks, since there aren’t enough reps for even three, he does think some teams could leave a third on the practice squad to free up a valuable game-day roster spot for another position.

"It changes a lot when you start looking through that waiver wire. Who’s going to be available? Who’s on your ball club now that is practice-squad eligible, and I think it’s a great rule," Arians said. "You might keep a guy that you would have cut and build some depth with a two-year veteran on the practice squad."

Other teams are still allowed to claim players off any team’s practice squad as long as they place those players on their active rosters.

Linebacker Kevin Minter (pectoral), offensive lineman Max Starks (ankle) and left guard Jonathan Cooper (toe) all missed practice Wednesday. Everyone else who was injured returned.

— Darnell Dockett was officially placed on season-ending IR and will have surgery as soon as possible on his torn ACL. Arians said he would like to have Dockett on the sidelines all season. 

"His spirit and leadership is just something we need and don’t want to lose," Arians said. "The injuries, they happen. It’s terrible for him; it’s a great opportunity for somebody else."

— Frostee Rucker will replace Dockett in the starting lineup.

— Linebacker John Abraham practiced on Wednesday. He said it is too early to know if he will play Sunday against the Bengals, but he didn’t seem daunted by the idea.

"I don’t really need a lot of preseason stuff," he said. "If I don’t know how to play football by now I shouldn’t have started."

— Larsen will start at left guard on Sunday against the Bengals.

— Jay Feely will kick the first half against the Bengals; Chandler Catanzaro will kick the second half.

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