TEMPE, Ariz. — A couple of players whom the Arizona Cardinals figure to rely on in 2015 will be making their debuts Thursday, as the team wraps up its preseason slate in Denver.
After practicing in full Tuesday, both linebacker Sean Weatherspoon and running back Chris Johnson have been declared fit and ready to play by head coach Bruce Arians.
When it comes to Weatherspoon, who hurt his hamstring on day one of training camp and hasn’t done much since, it will be a chance to see what he can do.
“It’s good to get to see what he is as a football player, where he’s at,” Arians said. “Get a chance to measure him against the other guys. That’s always the evaluation process.”
The 27-year-old inside linebacker has been effective when on the field, but various injuries over the last few seasons have severely limited his playing time. Signed to a one-year deal in the offseason, the last thing he was hoping for was to miss as much time as he has.
“It stinks, man, because a new free agent signing, you want to show people what you can do,” he said Monday of having to sit out. “When you’re banged up you don’t get a chance to do that.”
Thursday, however, the former Atlanta Falcon with career marks of 336 tackles, eight sacks and two interceptions, will get his shot. The same can be said of Johnson, a running back signed on Aug. 18, who has been dealing with his own hamstring injury.
“Just go out there and try to get in the groove, get some carries in,” Johnson said of what he’s hoping to accomplish Thursday. “I haven’t been tackled since last year. I haven’t played a full-speed game or anything.
“So just go out there and get used to, back to playing football again, getting tackled and stuff like that.”
Johnson, 29, has rushed for 8,628 yards and 51 touchdowns in his career, though is coming off a season in which he ran for a career-low 663 yards and one score for the New York Jets.
So, he will be taking the field with something to prove.
“I always have something, have a chip on my shoulder,” he said. “I’m just happy to be playing football right now. Just going to go out there and make the most of my opportunity.”
Arians said the goal is to get but with both players enough work to feel comfortable while not pushing them too hard in their first game back. And with this being the fourth preseason game, one where the team’s starters are not expected to take the field, the key is getting the pair of veterans enough work to feel comfortable, but not too much to where they end up back on the sideline hurt.
“You have to really watch how many reps and watch them at the game and see how fatigued they’re getting,” he said. “Because if it’s a 10-play drive they could possibly pull it again from fatigue.”
Arians also said another player who has yet to debut for the team, tight end Jermaine Gresham, will not be traveling to Denver as he works to get through his own hamstring injury.
- Bruce Arians ‘truly believes’ Fitzgerald would play in right system
- Browns to hire former Cardinals special teams coach Amos Jones
- Latest names, updates on Cardinals’ search for new head coach
- NFL head coaching job tracker: Titans enter search by firing Mularkey
- Bidwill: Cardinals coaching search will take time, looking for right fit