TEMPE, Ariz. — As will be the case every day in which the Cardinals practice during the season, we will provide a notebook that features some interesting tidbits that will not necessarily be turned into full-fledged stories during the week. It will be called “Dealing Cards,” because puns are fun and a better name was not thought of.
There is a buzz permeating through the Arizona Cardinals’ training facility these days, and it is easy to understand why.
Game week is here and the season opener is getting closer by the moment. Now, all across the NFL players and teams are excited to get things going, but in Arizona, where there are legitimate Super Bowl expectations, the vibe is a bit different.
In a normal game week, Wednesday would offer the first chance to really get a feel for the week’s preparation as it is the first day in which the team gets on the field to practice ahead of the next game. Following the Labor Day holiday this week’s schedule is a bit different, but we still had a chance to chat with head coach Bruce Arians as well as a handful of players.
First, some injury news
The entire injury report for this matchup can be found here, but for the Cardinals, the only players who did not practice Wednesday were linebackers Kareem Martin and Lamar Louis as well as running back Stepfan Taylor, all of whom are dealing with knee injuries.
Arians said Martin, who hurt himself in the preseason finale last Thursday, “is about two weeks away, maybe three.”
Taylor suffered his knee injury a couple weeks ago against Houston, and Louis tweaked his knee in practice Tuesday.
You’re up, Brandon Williams
Given how training camp went, it’s really a surprise that Brandon Williams will be starting at cornerback opposite Patrick Peterson.
“Yeah, Brandon’s starting,” Arians said. “And all the rest of the guys will have a role.”
Though still a raw rookie, the third-round pick out of Texas A&M earned the job through a combination of talent, effort and health. The ball figures to come his way often, though, and Arians said he does not really care if teams plan to pick on the rookie or worry about whether or not the player can handle it.
“He’s the best we got, so he better be (able to),” he said.
The 23-year-old Williams said he never really got caught up in the idea of starting or not; instead, his focus has remained on the things he can control and getting better every day.
He admitted there will likely be a mixture of excitement, anxiety and nerves Sunday night, which is understandable since this will be his first real NFL game.
However, he said while he does not want to come off as cocky, the fact that he will be starting does not come as any kind of shock.
“Because I know what type of work I put in behind closed doors,” he said. “A lot of sacrifice, a lot of commitment, dedication — being consistent. All that good stuff.
“I know what I do, I know how I prepare myself. So, being surprised about the position I’m in right now? I’m not surprised at all.”
Peters is happy to be back
Corey Peters never played a down for the Cardinals last season after suffering an Achilles injury in training camp, but he made it back this year and made it through the preseason in good health. Now, he’s preparing for his first regular season snap for the team he signed a free agent contract with in March 2015.
“I’m super excited,” he said. “It’s been over a year since I really had an opportunity to kind of play, so I’m excited about it. I’m feeling pretty good.”
The defensive tackle, who at 28 years of age has 11 sacks to his name, would not say he is at 100 percent physically, but is as close as he can get.
“I feel really good,” he said. “Football always has your little bruises and nicks, but overall I couldn’t ask for a better situation.”
No Brady? No tears
There are some people who are disappointed the Cardinals will not get to face Tom Brady, who is suspended for the first four games of the NFL season.
Don’t include Arians among that group.
“We play whoever’s there; injuries happen — I’ve been in situations same way that they’re in,” he said. “You play who you’ve got and you go out and you formulate a gameplan and you expect to win. I don’t think they’re coming in here expecting to lose.”
For fans, there may be a small sense of disappointment because most have probably never gotten to see Brady, a future Hall of Famer, play in person. This will be the Patriots’ first trip to play the Cardinals in Arizona since 2004, and unless you were at that game or either of New England’s two Super Bowl appearances in the desert, this might have been your last chance to catch him.
Brady is 39, after all.
Of course, him missing game figures to be advantageous to the Cardinals, who will take any win they can get in their pursuit of a playoff spot and homefield advantage.
That said, there is at least one player on the team who wouldn’t have minded No. 12 being on the field.
“I always like playing against the best, you know, it’s a future Hall of Famer, and any time you play against those guys it always makes it more exciting,” defensive lineman Calais Campbell said. “But it is what it is.”
Getting better with age
Cardinals VP of media relations Mark Dalton provided an interesting note via a tweet Wednesday.
He provided a graphic that pointed out how the three NFL head coaches with the best records over their last 60 games are the league’s three oldest coaches, in New England’s Bill Belichick, Seattle’s Pete Carroll and Arizona’s Arians.
Arians, incidentally, is the youngest of the group at 63, while the other two are each 64 years of age.
Anyway, when asked about that, Arians replied that it ought to tell you something.
So, what does it say?
“Experience counts,” he replied, with a smile.