Monthly Archives: October 2017

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TEMPE, Ariz. — The Arizona Cardinals don’t just have one option to replace injured outside linebacker Markus Golden.

They have two.

Both Haason Reddick and Kareem Martin had packages built for them this week to take snaps at outside linebacker. And both find themselves thrust into major roles after playing mostly supportive roles through the first four games.

Yet, both say they’re ready.

“It’s part of the job,” Reddick said. “Learning on the fly is part of the job. This is the task that I was handed this week and it’s my job to be able to know everything and what I have to do come Sunday.”
Haason Reddick will see some time at outside linebacker with Markus Golden out. AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, File
Martin, who moved from defensive end to outside linebacker before the 2015 season, entered this season with as much praise from coach Bruce Arians as anyone after a productive training camp. He feels, in his fourth season, “100 percent confident” that he can slide into Golden’s old role.

Over the last couple of the seasons, everything clicked for Martin. He’s now “more comfortable with everything.” And the timing couldn’t have been better.

“This is a tough defense, especially being an outside linebacker,” Martin said. “That transition from defensive end to the outside backer position took a little while, but now I feel like I’ve grasped the role and know the ins and outs to make me be successful.”

Like Martin, Reddick has changed positions recently.

The move to outside linebacker this weekend will be his third since January.

What you need to know in the NFL

• Statistics
• Scoreboard
• 2017 schedule, results
• Standings
Reddick left Temple University as hand-in-the-dirt defensive end. He transitioned to inside linebacker at the Senior Bowl, the position where the Cardinals drafted him. And now, another move.

But Reddick, who had 10.5 sacks as a senior last season, said moving to outside linebacker won’t be much different than playing defensive end.

“Just basically rushing the passer,” he said. “Rushing the passer will always be the same. It’s some differences, but nothing’s too different. I did some dropping (in coverage) in college. I’ll be doing the same at outside linebacker and still rushing the passer.”

Defensive coordinator James Bettcher hopes the move back near the line of scrimmage will help Reddick play faster.

Reddick had to adjust his sight lines when he moved to inside linebacker, where he was about four and a half yards off the line of scrimmage. Instead of being focused on one player, as he was as a defensive end, Reddick spent OTAs, minicamp, training camp and the first four weeks of the season training his eyes to see broader picture of the entire offensive line.
The plan this week is to give Reddick a limited number of packages this week and increase them as he grows into them, Bettcher said, just like Arizona did with Golden as a rookie two years ago.

Reddick may not look like the prototypical edge rusher — unlike Martin, whose 6-foot-6 and 275-pound frame fits the mold — at 6-foot-1 and 235 pounds, but he has other tangibles that could make him a productive pass rusher in the NFL, Arians said.

“Speed,” Arians said. “And he has unbelievable power for his size.”

But size doesn’t matter, Bettcher said. Which means Reddick could compete to be Golden’s full-time replacement.

Bettcher coached Robert Mathis, the former great Indianapolis Colts’ pass rusher, in 2012. Mathis, Bettcher remembered, was 212 pounds during that season.

“But no one could block him,” Bettcher said. “He could power and bull anyone. That doesn’t matter. When you got speed and you have power, you can rush off the edge. Learning how to use the speed and how to use the power will be the next thing for him.”

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TEMPE, Ariz. — The Arizona Cardinals don’t just have one option to replace injured outside linebacker Markus Golden.

They have two.

Both Haason Reddick and Kareem Martin had packages built for them this week to take snaps at outside linebacker. And both find themselves thrust into major roles after playing mostly supportive roles through the first four games.

Yet, both say they’re ready.

“It’s part of the job,” Reddick said. “Learning on the fly is part of the job. This is the task that I was handed this week and it’s my job to be able to know everything and what I have to do come Sunday.”
Haason Reddick will see some time at outside linebacker with Markus Golden out. AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, File
Martin, who moved from defensive end to outside linebacker before the 2015 season, entered this season with as much praise from coach Bruce Arians as anyone after a productive training camp. He feels, in his fourth season, “100 percent confident” that he can slide into Golden’s old role.

Over the last couple of the seasons, everything clicked for Martin. He’s now “more comfortable with everything.” And the timing couldn’t have been better.

“This is a tough defense, especially being an outside linebacker,” Martin said. “That transition from defensive end to the outside backer position took a little while, but now I feel like I’ve grasped the role and know the ins and outs to make me be successful.”

Like Martin, Reddick has changed positions recently.

The move to outside linebacker this weekend will be his third since January.

What you need to know in the NFL

• Statistics
• Scoreboard
• 2017 schedule, results
• Standings
Reddick left Temple University as hand-in-the-dirt defensive end. He transitioned to inside linebacker at the Senior Bowl, the position where the Cardinals drafted him. And now, another move.

But Reddick, who had 10.5 sacks as a senior last season, said moving to outside linebacker won’t be much different than playing defensive end.

“Just basically rushing the passer,” he said. “Rushing the passer will always be the same. It’s some differences, but nothing’s too different. I did some dropping (in coverage) in college. I’ll be doing the same at outside linebacker and still rushing the passer.”

Defensive coordinator James Bettcher hopes the move back near the line of scrimmage will help Reddick play faster.

Reddick had to adjust his sight lines when he moved to inside linebacker, where he was about four and a half yards off the line of scrimmage. Instead of being focused on one player, as he was as a defensive end, Reddick spent OTAs, minicamp, training camp and the first four weeks of the season training his eyes to see broader picture of the entire offensive line.

The plan this week is to give Reddick a limited number of packages this week and increase them as he grows into them, Bettcher said, just like Arizona did with Golden as a rookie two years ago.

Reddick may not look like the prototypical edge rusher — unlike Martin, whose 6-foot-6 and 275-pound frame fits the mold — at 6-foot-1 and 235 pounds, but he has other tangibles that could make him a productive pass rusher in the NFL, Arians said.

“Speed,” Arians said. “And he has unbelievable power for his size.”

But size doesn’t matter, Bettcher said. Which means Reddick could compete to be Golden’s full-time replacement.

Bettcher coached Robert Mathis, the former great Indianapolis Colts’ pass rusher, in 2012. Mathis, Bettcher remembered, was 212 pounds during that season.

“But no one could block him,” Bettcher said. “He could power and bull anyone. That doesn’t matter. When you got speed and you have power, you can rush off the edge. Learning how to use the speed and how to use the power will be the next thing for him.”

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TEMPE, Ariz. — It didn’t take Brian Hoyer long to figure out the key to his success during his short, two-game stint with the Arizona Cardinals late in the 2012 season.

“It definitely got you to the point where I remember just saying, ‘OK, where’s Larry?’” Hoyer said, referring to Cardinals’ star receiver Larry Fitzgerald. “Like, throw to No. 11. I remember him telling me that in the huddle. He was like, ‘Don’t worry, just throw it to me.’”

That was Hoyer’s fallback plan after he took over for Ryan Lindley in Week 16 against the Chicago Bears that season. In the season’s final two games, Hoyer hit Fitzgerald with six of his 30 completions for 63 of his 330 yards, but he threw both of his interceptions when targeting Fitzgerald. And Fitzgerald wasn’t even Hoyer’s most successful target. That was Michael Floyd, who caught nine Hoyer passes for 175 yards and a touchdown, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

Hoyer made his first NFL start in that Week 17 game against the San Francisco 49ers. It had taken him four seasons to get to there.

On Sunday, his career will come full circle when he visits the Cardinals as the 49ers’ starting quarterback.

“I think Arizona will always have a soft spot in my heart because it gave me my first chance to play, really,” Hoyer said. “I’ll always have fond memories. I was barely there. I think about it, I was there for basically three weeks at the end of the season. I came back out, basically up until the draft and I was there for a few workouts, and then I was gone.”
Brian Hoyer was with the Cardinals for the last three weeks of the 2012 season and made his first career start against the 49ers in Week 17. Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images
Hoyer was on the roster when coach Bruce Arians was hired in January 2013, but Hoyer asked former vice president of player of personnel Jason Licht for his release after Arizona traded for Carson Palmer. With Palmer the starter and Drew Stanton the presumptive backup, Hoyer knew his playing time in Arizona would be limited.

“I like Brian,” Arians said. “He’s very smart, fairly accurate and [the Cardinals] didn’t have him very long but was impressed with the type of quarterback he is because he’s a very cerebral quarterback that can beat you with his arm and his legs.”

Four days after Hoyer was released by Arizona on May 13, 2013, he signed with the Cleveland Browns, for whom he started 16 games in two seasons, including 13 of 14 games in 2014. That set off a run of Hoyer joining four teams in five years. But he was given an opportunity to start for those teams.

“Really, getting released by the Cardinals was the best thing that happened to me because I was able to go to Cleveland and play,” Hoyer said. “I don’t know if I’d have ever seen the field [in Arizona]. For me, when Carson was traded, it became pretty apparent that I wasn’t a part of their plans.

“Thankfully for me, I was able to go to Cleveland and get a chance to play. That kind of really got it rolling for me.”

After two seasons in Cleveland, Hoyer signed with the Houston Texans, where he played in 12 games and started 10 in two seasons. He started the 2016 season in Chicago as Jay Cutler’s backup and ended up starting five games for the Bears. Hoyer signed with San Francisco in March.

Soon after Kyle Shanahan was hired to be the 49ers head coach, he was left with no quarterbacks on his roster. He sifted through the available free agents, knowing he didn’t want to “handcuff” himself to a big contract. Shanahan coached Hoyer in 2014 as the Browns’ offensive coordinator, so there was familiarity and comfort between the two.

“The one thing I knew about Brian, being with him, I knew he was capable of running the offense,” Shanahan said. “I knew he had played at a high level in games before and hasn’t always been consistent, but I thought he played his three best games last year watching him at Chicago.

“I knew Brian gave us a chance to win.”

Although Hoyer hasn’t led the 49ers to a win yet in Shanahan’s first season, there’s promise. San Francisco put up 39 points in a Week 3 loss to the Los Angeles Rams, the second most in a loss in franchise history. But it was a marked improvement from Weeks 1 and 2, when San Francisco scored a combined 12 points.
“Brian, he’s a gritty guy,” Fitzgerald said. “I really enjoyed my time with Hoyer. He’s kind of bounced around a lot of different places. Everywhere he’s gone, he’s competed and played good football. You saw what he did in Houston; he played good in Cleveland. Everywhere he’s gone, he’s got an opportunity, he’s played good ball and you have a lot of respect for Brian and I’m glad to see him playing at a high level.”

Life is different these days for Hoyer.

He’s had time to learn the 49ers’ offense. He’s working hand-in-hand with a head coach as the Day 1 starter. And, maybe most importantly, he doesn’t have to go into a huddle and ask where No. 11 is.

“I think for me, knowing that I came in and started a game in the NFL — my first start ever — after only being there for about a week-and-a-half, two weeks, it kind of proves that you just got to go out and play,” Hoyer said. “Know what you’re doing and go out there and just read and react. It’s something that I’ll always remember.”

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TEMPE, Ariz. — One day last week, Arizona Cardinals offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin woke up earlier than usual, thinking, like he often does first thing in the morning, about how to keep Carson Palmer upright and clean. Goodwin was in the office by 4:30 a.m., working on ways for his offensive line to protect Palmer better.

Whatever the line tried in last week’s win against the San Francisco 49ers didn’t work.

Palmer was sacked six times Sunday for the second straight week. He’s been sacked 17 times this season, which leads the NFL. He’s also been hit 29 times, which is tied for seventh-most in the league.

“He can’t be hit like this continuously,” wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald told ESPN. “That’s just not possible. He’s not going to be able to withstand it. Nobody would be able to withstand that kind of punishment.

“He’s so tough to stand in there and hanging in there, and delivering the ball and still throw for 350 or whatever he threw for under that kind of duress. It’s remarkable.”

Palmer, himself, doesn’t get hung up on the number of hits he takes as opposed to the types of hits.

But his wife, Shaelyn, counts them all.
Carson Palmer has been sacked 17 times this season, most in the NFL. Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images
“Yeah, the wife always focuses on every one, but like I said before, it’s those awkward ones, for every position,” Palmer said. “Whether you are getting tackled as a running back or a wide receiver, those odd injuries come from when you hit the ground oddly and the way you get landed on top of oddly. That’s where those injuries seem to come from.”

It’s the potential of one of those injuries that has right tackle Jared Veldheer most concerned.

Veldheer doesn’t want to see Palmer take any hits, not just because they’ll add up over time on Palmer’s aging 37-year-old body, because one wrong hit could mean a disaster for Palmer and the Cardinals.

“You don’t ever want to get the quarterback hit,” Veldheer said. “Your guy gets past you, you see him running to the quarterback, that’s a bad feeling because you never know.

“We just need to eliminate guys getting back there and keep him healthy.”

But Veldheer knows his words can only go so far.

“I think more than saying anything, it’s just showing him that we’re going to keep working to fix it,” Veldheer said. “We’re not going to quit. We’re going to take everything to heart. We take a lot of pride in protecting him.”

The offensive line’s most glaring issue isn’t effort, Veldheer said. It’s “technique stuff,” positioning and the intangibles.

What you need to know in the NFL

• Statistics
• Scoreboard
• 2017 schedule, results
• Standings
Even taking a career high of sacks through Week 4, Palmer has gotten off to the best start of his career through four games.

By Wednesdays, Palmer is typically close to normal. He credits his quick recoveries to a “good routine.” But there’s no secret: Getting hit fewer times would do his body good.

“As far as a secret to getting hit, the secret is to not get hit,” Palmer said. “I don’t know any secrets about getting hit.”

Though it doesn’t keep Goodwin up at night — he just wakes up thinking about Palmer getting pummeled — it’s been a major focal point for him and the offensive this season.

To a large degree, Goodwin is helpless standing on the sideline. Even more so when two starters are out, one for the long term and one for the short term. Left tackle D.J. Humphries, the man charged with protecting Palmer’s blind side, has been out since Week 1 with an MCL injury, which he aggravated in his comeback attempt last Thursday. Left guard Mike Iupati was placed on injured reserve with an elbow injury that will require surgery to repair.
John Wetzel has replaced Humphries and will continue to start in his place as he recovers. Alex Boone replaced Iupati in Weeks 2 and 3 but suffered a pectoral injury that kept him out of Sunday’s win against the 49ers. Rookie Will Holden — the backup’s backup — started his first career game in place of Boone, who’s expected to return Sunday in Philadelphia.

With a patchwork offensive line, Goodwin still expects it to keep Palmer as protected as he would be with the starters.

“I don’t want to see him get hit,” Goodwin said. “That’s the last thing I want to see. (Cardinals president) Mr. (Michael) Bidwill is paying that guy a lot of money and we know, as far as we’re going to go as a team, that guy’s a part of it.

“We’ve got to keep him upright and do a better job.”

 

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TEMPE, Ariz. — Arizona Cardinals coach Bruce Arians has a unique perspective on the protests happening at NFL stadiums.

Arians, 64, remembers watching the riots of 1968, 1969 and 1970, but not fully understanding at the time what, exactly, was going on. That came to him later. He’s not only part of a generation that grew up in the midst of civil rights movements, he made his own mark on it.

He and James Barber, the father to former NFL players Ronde and Tiki, were the first interracial roommates at Virginia Tech. Then Arians, who grew up in York, Pennsylvania, said he saw the country from another perspective when he coached in Alabama and Mississippi, “where it was totally different.”

What Arians is witnessing now is similar to what he saw in the 1960s and 1970s.

“It’s actually evolved back,” Arians said. “I grew up with [Tommie] Smith and [John] Carlos at the Olympics, and that was my era. Vietnam. We don’t have anything near the Vietnam protests now that we had back then.

“Hopefully kids aren’t going to get shot on campus by the National Guard. So, yeah, I’ve seen it come full circle. Social awareness is always a problem. We just have to keep hitting it, but there’s no place for racism and hatred in this country.”

What the world has today, four decades later, isn’t much different. Racism is still prevalent. Violence against minorities still exists. Social injustice runs rampant. But how those affected — and those who can create change — spread their word and their message has changed drastically from Arians’ youth.

Arians was shoulder-to-shoulder, arms linked with his players, coaches, staff and front office Monday night when the Cardinals stood along one of the goal lines at University of Phoenix Stadium before their game against the Dallas Cowboys. Together they demonstrated a show of unity as a response to President Donald Trump’s comments Friday that NFL owners should respond to players who protest social and racial injustices during the national anthem by saying, “Get that son of a bitch off the field right now. He’s fired. He’s fired.”

It was the culmination of a powerful weekend of protests and demonstrations at NFL stadiums across the country, when the nation saw players use their platform to stand up against the president’s words, following former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s initial protest when he knelt for the national anthem a year ago.

“I think things have heated up more so,” Cardinals defensive tackle Frostee Rucker said. “The continued dialogue on it keeps it going around. Unfortunately, you don’t want to just stop talking about it because it is real issues but at the same time, it’s like we want to focus on winning the game and not let this be the reason you talk to us.”

Professional athletes have long had a unique platform to express their views, take on causes or help enact change. They’re beloved by some, idolized by others and listened to by many. When they talk, people listen. But that platform, while still wildly effective, has changed. Athletes no longer need a newspaper or a newscast to get their feelings and opinions out.

With the widespread growth of social media, they can do it themselves.

“I think guys should, in fact, exercise their right to speak up more,” Rucker said. “For some, in our sport, it’s more ‘Stay in your lane, don’t be a distraction, just focus on football,’ because we only have 16 weeks. Other [sports], baseball, if they want to say something, or basketball, it’s not much of a distraction because they’ve got so many more games.

“After a week or two, the buzz is gone about that and it’s more about the sport. A week or two or three is a quarter of our season. It’s tough. But I think guys should say more about things they have interest in.”

Over the past couple of months, there have been countless examples of how athletes used their fame and name, such as Houston Texans linebacker J.J. Watt raising $37 million to help victims of Hurricane Harvey and Rucker using his social media accounts to share information about the American Diabetes Association.

Neither Arians nor Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald think professional athletes must use their platform to help in times of need. Their charity and their involvement need to come from the heart, Arians said. And if an athlete isn’t among the top paid in their sport, just offering their voice and their presence can make a difference, too, Arians added.

However, if professional athletes don’t use their status for good, Fitzgerald believes that they still should be socially aware.

“You can’t just live in your little bubble,” he said. “You got to understand what real life is like. You got to understand what the plight of everybody around you is. I think socially aware is something you should be but I wouldn’t say all athletes have to do it.

“But for me, I think it’s important.”

Rucker believes players around the NFL “can’t lose sight that we’re human.” That means they have interests and opinions, too.

“We can take to our social medias and stuff like that to say whatever we want and you just have to be conscious of what can come after it,” he said. “And that has other things to do with not just social injustices, but anything.”

Retired Pro Bowl linebacker Seth Joyner feels that if athletes use their platforms to amplify their voices and opinions on causes of social justice, then “it’s advantageous for people to step up in these circumstances, 100 percent.”

While the past year has seen an increase in the number of athletes who have used their platform to share their opinions on social issues, there were years, Joyner said, when athletes didn’t speak up at all — it didn’t matter for what.

And people were looking.

Joyner was a rookie in 1986 and played 13 years for four teams. By the time he got to the NFL, athletes were, for the most part, quiet.
“I think we were kind of in a transition,” he said. “You had the ’60s and ’70s, when players were speaking out about civil rights and the ability to be equal, to be able to perform in the game and earn in the game like their counterparts. And then you had a little bit of a lull, in my opinion, from the ’80s to the present time, when even the media wondered out loud, ‘Where are all the voices for social change?'”

That has changed, and recently because of Kaepernick, Joyner said.

But Joyner looked at that nearly 30-year stretch as a missed opportunity for athletes to get involved.

“I think social injustice has been a part of our fabric of our history in the United States for a long time,” Joyner said. “I think you go through times, I think you go through lulls, where it’s really prominent and you go through times where it’s not so prominent.

“I think that we’re at a point in time now where you look at what happened with Colin Kaepernick and his thing, and no matter what you believe or what you think about our president, there is that effect that factors into it. Then you throw the Charlottesville piece of it right on top of it and you got this perfect storm of issues that are occurring that requires the professional athletes, actors and actresses use their voices for social change. It’s their responsibility. It’s all of our responsibility to step up and voice something when we see an injustice taking place.”