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Cardinals coach: As of now, Rashard Mendenhall is the starting running back

If the 2013 NFL season began today, Rashard Mendenhall would be the Arizona Cardinals’ starting running back.

“There’s no doubt,” Cardinals coach Bruce Arians told the NFL Network Tuesday when asked if the former Steeler would be the lead back. “You know, Rashard is just 25 years old, and he took me, personally, to a Super Bowl and I know what he can bring to the table as a runner and a pass protector and also a receiver.

“So he’s an every-down player and I think he’s looking forward to having an outstanding season.”

Mendenhall, who signed a one-year contract with the team in the offseason, rushed for just 182 yards on 51 carries last season. He was recovering from a torn ACL in his right knee, though, and Arians says that very much negatively affected his play.

“I think the ACL led to a little Achilles tendinitis and everything’s fine right now,” Arians said. “He’s healthy and ready to go.”

Prior to last season, Mendenhall had produced three consecutive campaigns with at least 900 yards and seven touchdowns, including highs of 1,273 yards and 13 scores in 2010.

And while no one will expect those types of numbers for a team that finished a distant last in the NFL in rushing in 2012, something close would go a long way in turning both Mendenhall’s career — and the Cardinals’ fortunes — around.