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Mike Iupati targets Week 3 vs. 49ers for return

TEMPE, Ariz. — The Arizona Cardinals signed Mike Iupati to a five-year, $40 million contract in the offseason because they wanted the three-time Pro Bowler to help anchor an improved offensive line.

So far, though, he’s been unable to do that.

The left guard has been sidelined since Aug. 19 after undergoing surgery to repair the meniscus in his left knee. At the time, it was believed he would be on the shelf for six to eight weeks. However, Iupati was back on the practice field Wednesday — albeit in a limited capacity — roughly four weeks since his operation.

At this time, Iupati said it was time to take the next step in his recovery.

“It feels great, but but I haven’t really done — football is a physical sport, so you’ve got to go out there and do the football work and stuff like that,” he said.

The 28-year-old, who spent the first five seasons of his career with the San Francisco 49ers, said he is anxious to get back on the field. He wants to participate and contribute to the team, which is 1-0 after knocking off the New Orleans Saints 31-19 last Sunday.

Iupati is now sporting a brace on his left knee, one he says isn’t an issue as he has played with one before. He’s not going to rush back, though, saying he needs to be smart because it’s a long season and there’s no reason to push things.

As of Wednesday, there was no official target date for Iupati to return to game action. But now that he’s back practicing, the wheels are in motion for that to happen.

“No, I mean, next week,” he said. “Hopefully this week goes well, hopefully next week I’ll come back.”

If things work out the way Iupati hopes, that would mean he would be making his season debut against his former team on Sept. 26 at University of Phoenix Stadium. That fact is not lost on him, and he admitted he would like to be back on the field for that game.

“Good,” he said of how it would feel. “It’s one of those things, you want to play against your old team. But it feels good. I have a lot of good friends and family out there, and (it is) a great organization.”

But really, Iupati isn’t too concerned with who he makes his season debut against. At this point, he just wants to put on his Cardinals jersey and contribute.

“It’s really tough,” he said. “You play a game that you love and it just feels like you’re not part of the team when you’re not out there.”

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