TEMPE, Ariz. — After starting all 16 regular season games along with the playoff contest last season, Bobby Massie was once again supposed to be the Arizona Cardinals’ starting right tackle in 2015.
Then, a decision he made during the offseason changed everything.
Massie was suspended by the NFL for the first two games of the season for violating the league’s policy on substance abuse after a DUI arrest back in January, forcing the Cardinals, at least for a short time, to move on without him.
The 26-year-old was back at practice for the first time Wednesday as his suspension has been lifted and he’s free to play again — if the Cardinals want him to.
Coach Bruce Arians said he was not ready to make an announcement with regards to who will start at right tackle Sunday when the Cardinals host the San Francisco 49ers, with the competition being between Massie and Earl Watford, who has held the role to start the season.
What the coach did say was that everyone looked pretty good in practice Wednesday, and he’s not really all that concerned with the possibility of messing with any chemistry or continuity the line has gained up to this point. Knowing that, it would appear Massie has a chance.
“He did well in one-on-ones and was very sharp mentally,” Arians said of Massie. “Because he was allowed to go to meetings the whole time and he’s been working, obviously, on his own.”
Massie said he felt alright Wednesday, noting it was the first time in a while he has been on the field so there is some rust to shake off. He’s happy to get back to work, though, and is confident that he’s not too far behind after starting all last season and being in this system for the last two years.
“I’ll be fine,” he said of integrating himself back into the lineup. “It’s not my first time in this offense, it’s not my first time running with the first-team group. Nah, I’ll be alright.”
A starter in two of his first three seasons, Massie said he will prepare every day as if he will regain his role on the first team, but understands the decision will be up to the coaches.
It stands to be a tough call for Arians and his staff, as while there is a reason Massie was set to be the starter, Watford has played well in his stead and is not exactly deserving of being taken out of the lineup.
Arians said the 6-foot-6, 316-pound Massie has an edge in pass protection while Watford, at 6-foot-3 and 300 pounds, is better in the run game. In wins over the New Orleans Saints and Chicago Bears, Arizona has run for 235 yards and two touchdowns, averaging 4.4 yards per carry, while QB Carson Palmer has yet to be sacked.
Some might say if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
“It’s tough because we’re running the ball so well right now,” Arians said of having to make a decision. “So that’s why it’s not going to happen today.”
At the very least, Arians said it’s nice to have the kind of depth the team has now as someone with as many starts under his belt as Massie could conceivably not see the field Sunday. Whether that ends up being the case or not, Massie is glad the suspension is over.
“It sucked, you can imagine, boring,” he said. “Watching everybody else work and me do nothing. But that’s over with now.”
Now, for Massie, it’s all about trying to get his job back. He said he’s not worried about having to re-prove himself, though.
“I was the guy before this whole situation happened, and I’ve just got to get back into it and see what coaches want,” he said. “And I’ll be back in there.”
Whether that happens this week or the week after or at all, Massie learned a valuable lesson. Prior to it all he had the look of a young player who was starting to establish himself as an NFL lineman, and now, well, his career is kind of up in the air. He points the finger at himself.
“I [expletive] up, I made the wrong decision and I dealt with the consequences,” he said. “But all that’s in the past now so I’m ready to play.”
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