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‘Knee Deep’ D.J. Humphries back on the field, trying to get better

D.J. Humphries (74) tries to keep linebacker LaMarr Woodley (52) away from QB Drew Stanton during Arizona Cardinals training camp Aug. 12. (Photo by Adam Green/Arizona Sports)

GLENDALE, Ariz. — The comment drew laughter from the media in the room as well as pretty much everyone who heard about it later.

Arizona Cardinals coach Bruce Arians was at the podium answering a question about what it took to motivate rookie tackle D.J. Humphries, and, well, he was honest.

“A knee in his ass every day,” the coach said. “A foot wasn’t going to do it, so I nicknamed him ‘knee deep.’”

Ha. Ha. Ha.

“I didn’t think that was going to make it to the media,” Humphries said, with a laugh. “I’ve been getting called that since OTAs.”

And when asked if the critique is valid, Humphries thought about it for a bit, said you’d have to ask Arians, and then admitted, “I hear it a lot, so I guess it is.”

This was not the first time Arians spoke about Humphries’ attitude. Mind you he has never seemed upset with the first-round pick, taken 24th overall in last May’s draft, instead maybe a little frustrated at the pace in which some rookies mature. Humphries himself said the key is growing up, not being 21 and “just being a grown man on the field.”

But really, is the fact that a player who was in college just a few months ago needs to mature really a surprise?

“I knew I had to mature, I’m 21, so I knew it was going to take some maturing when you’re on the field with guys who’ve got wives and full families, you know what I mean? So it was just a stepping stone.

“I feel like I’m getting it and I’m starting to understand.”

All Humphries needs to do to move on from the nickname is improve as a player. With training camp rolling along in its second week, Humphries is back on the field after missing time with a hyperextended right knee.

“It felt really good, I can’t complain,” he said. “I’m glad to be back on the field. It felt good to get out there and get some contact in and get some guys off the ball.”

Humphries said it was tough being sidelined, but understands that injuries are a part of football and that though he was not on the field, he was able to take mental reps during the four practices he was sidelined while getting healthy.

The tackle said his knee has not been an issue over the last couple of days, adding that his mobility has been fine and while has experienced a little soreness after practice, there has been no pain. The hardest thing to deal with, he noted, is making sure he’s where he needs to be mentally. But even that hasn’t been much of an issue.

“I felt like I’ve missed a little time but I didn’t feel like I was out there lost,” he said. “It was just a couple protections that I had a problem with that I had to ask some questions, messed up on a couple times, but other than that I felt pretty good.”

Humphries’ progression became a bit more of a story line over the last couple of days. While he was always going to be watched — what first-round pick isn’t — it’s possible that if teammate Bobby Massie’s three-game suspension is upheld by the NFL, the rookie will be in the lineup at right tackle in Week 1.

Humphries does not feel any extra pressure to be ready to go because of that, though.

“You’ve got to be ready for whatever,” he said. “Regardless if nothing ever happened, I was still going to have to be ready for whatever, if anybody went down, so it’s just trying to get better every day and every play.”

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