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Shaq Riddick returns from injury, set on showing Cardinals what he can do

Linebacker Shaq Riddick runs across the field at Arizona Cardinals training camp, Wednesday, August 26 at University of Phoenix Stadium.

GLENDALE, Ariz. — For linebacker Shaq Riddick, the last two days of training camp have been his best because he’s been on the field.

It’s that simple.

The rookie fifth-round pick out of West Virginia has missed most of training camp with a hamstring injury. It’s an issue he dealt with during mini-camp, too, and one that he’s hopeful is finally in the rearview mirror.

Of course, he did not go from zero to 60 in a few seconds.

“It’s a process,” he said Thursday. “The first day, I didn’t slam on the gas the first day. Today is my second day, I actually put more onto the gas pedal. It’s just a progression because hamstrings ain’t nothing to play with.”

The hope or even expectation is that the 6-foot-6, 260-pound Riddkick, who tallied 7.0 sacks last season in his lone year with the Mountaineers, will eventually emerge as one of the team’s better pass rushers. Prior to Thursday’s practice, Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said he was pleased with what he had seen from the 2015’s draft’s 158th overall pick, who stayed late after practice Wednesday to get some extra work in.

“He shows what we drafted — big, tall guy that can really run, come off the edge and he’s got some good strength at the point of attack, which it should be his forte because he was a down lineman, but it looks like he can handle the sight-lines of an outside linebacker,” Arians said. “Pretty bright guy.”

Assuming Riddick can stay healthy, the goal is to return to full strength as soon as possible. Though he was in all the meetings and took mental reps while he was out, nothing can replace the live action practice provides. So he’s admittedly behind, and he’s not sure if he’ll be able to make up all the ground he’s lost.

“I wouldn’t know that,” Riddick said. “I’m just going to go hard every day like I always do and just try to get better and work on my craft. Everything else is in somebody else’s hands.”

Riddick said if the coaches say he can play in Sunday’s preseason matchup with the Oakland Raiders, he will be on the field. Having missed so much time already, he’s tired of being on the sideline.

“Oh it’s terrible, it’s the worst thing ever,” he said. “You can’t practice; you feel like you’re on the outside of everything. It’s just not fun. You’ve got all the vets and all the older guys nagging on you because you ain’t playing, especially in my case because I was dealing with this in the spring, too.

“So I haven’t shown anybody anything for me to even be on this team or on this field with all these good players. The worst part about being hurt, to me, was not being able to show that I’m meant to be here.”

While it’s not good he was not able to show what he could do, Riddick said he’s not concerned. He believes everything happens for a reason. All he can do is go hard, he said, and leave the rest in God’s hands.

But Riddick also knows the team is anxious to see what he can bring to the defense. He can’t wait to show them, but at the same time, he wants to make sure he continues to stay healthy.

That means taking care of his body, stretching and doing all he can to avoid a setback. There are certain steps he needs to take throughout practice to ensure he’s ready to go when called upon. That was the mistake he made at first, he said, and is one he has no plans on repeating.

However, that’s not to say he doesn’t think about the possibility of re-injuring himself. He just doesn’t worry about it.

“It’s always going to be that thought in my head, but if I’m out there, I’m going to go,” he said. “You won’t see no half nothing on me. I’m going to go if I’m out there.”

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