GLENDALE, Ariz. — Thirty-three games. Seventy-one receptions. Zero touchdowns.
Arizona Cardinals tight end Rob Housler, for all his talent, had never found the end zone as an NFL player. That all changed Sunday when he took a screen pass 12 yards for a touchdown in Arizona’s 27-24 win over the Houston Texans.
Perhaps appropriately, his first touchdown celebration involved removing an imaginary monkey from his back.
“You try not to think about it, but it does weigh on you a little bit,” he said of that monkey, with a chuckle. “But it’s just something you take in stride because whatever you do to distract yourself, you’re not focused on your job, so I tried to eliminate that.”
Housler added that he did not exactly plan the celebration ahead of time, though he had thought about what he would do when given the chance. His concern, really, was about not doing anything that would lead to a penalty by asking teammates to help.
“So I was like I’m just going to take this monkey off myself.”
“It was huge, it was huge,” Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said of the touchdown. “He got off the schneid.”
To be fair, Housler’s touchdown drought was not entirely his fault, because if not for some shaky quarterback play during his first couple seasons, the former Florida Atlantic product would have certainly scored a touchdown before Sunday.
Yet, for all his struggles to finally notch that first touchdown, Housler said any pressure that was placed on him was of the external variety. Touchdowns or not, he said all he was focused on was going out and executing his role in the offense.
Sunday, that role led a career first.
“That time, I knew we had a good shot of getting in the end zone on that play, and as a red zone offense you want to score touchdowns and not kick field goals,” he said.
Housler said the ball will probably be given to a family member because he doesn’t “sit there and put them on mantles or anything.”
The tight end finished the day with four catches on five targets for 57 yards and the touchdown, and now has 16 receptions over the team’s last four games.
“All season long we’ve been trying to get him involved, been wanting to get him involved,” quarterback Carson Palmer said. “He made some great plays, made some great catches. Cut back against the grain a couple times, got some extra yardage, stayed in bounds.
“Made headsy football plays.”