GLENDALE, Ariz. — By all accounts, Bobby Massie has done a fine job at right tackle this training camp.
In fact, the third-year pro has been consistently praised since camp began, and seemingly had a good grasp on the job that was his just two years ago.
So imagine his surprise — and maybe even concern — when he learned the Arizona Cardinals had signed veteran tackle Max Starks.
“I really wasn’t worried about it, because either way there’s nothing I can do about it. If they want to play Max, they’ll play Max,” Massie said. “I just need to go out there and do my job the best I can.”
It’s a healthy perspective from Massie, a fourth-round pick in 2012 who started all 16 games that season and seemed to have a hold on the job, only to see the Cardinals sign veteran Eric Winston on the eve of training camp the following year. Winston earned the starting role and Massie was mostly relegated to the bench.
But it was looking like this would be the year for the 6-foot-6, 316-pound Massie, only now it appears history may be repeating itself.
Appearances, though, can be deceiving.
“Last year, we were not sold we had a right tackle,” coach Bruce Arians said. “Right now, I feel very confident in Bobby. He’s having a great camp. This is more of a swing: Eric could not swing; he was a right tackle only. Max has played left for a long time, (but) he started out at right, so it’s just quality depth for us.”
If anything, it would appear Starks is in town to compete with Bradley Sowell and Nate Potter more than Massie, who said his coach’s comments help reassure him in his prospects at right tackle.
Arians said his philosophy is that you give the young players a chance to prove themselves, and if you don’t think they can do it, you pick up veterans to help improve your depth.
Right now, as the Cardinals are one week into camp, it appears that’s all Starks was brought in to be.
A 10-year veteran who has started for two Super Bowl winners, Starks certainly has the pedigree to be more than a backup.
“I think it’s a goal,” Starks said about wanting a starting job. “Obviously as I get more settled in and more comfortable, I definitely think it’s a competition.
“But my biggest role is to come in here and try and do the best that I can and try to help everybody around me.”
Starks said he’s in shape and feels good, but it’s been about 10 months since he put the pads on, so that will be the real barometer of where he is in terms of readiness.
But at the very least, it should not take long for him to get the mental side of things down.
Though he spent time with both the San Diego Chargers and St. Louis Rams last season, Starks spent the first nine years of his NFL career with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Arians was with the team for eight of them — including five as the offensive coordinator — so much of what Starks would have to pick up with the Cardinals he already knows.
“It’s easy: He just walks in and starts playing,” Arians said. “He doesn’t have to really learn anything. He was in San Diego last year and it was different, but he is a really, really sharp guy and picks it up right away.”
Familiarity has been important for Starks ever since he left the Steelers. Part of the reason he went to San Diego last year, he said, was the presence of Ken Whisenhunt, and Arians is absolutely one of the things that drew him to Arizona.
“I think the coaching staff is the primary reason why,” he said. “Obviously the leadership and the individuals and having that relationship with them prior I think adds a lot to it. I have experience in that system, so it makes the ease of transition a lot easier. I think those were probably the two main reasons.
“And obviously there’s a lot of guys on this team that I already knew ahead of time — either playing against or with in former years.”
One of those guys is Massie, with whom he’s spent time at LeCharles Bentley’s offensive line performance center, which is based in Scottsdale.
“I’ve known Max for the past two years,” Massie said, explaining how he’s learned a lot from the veteran already. “Now I just have him in house with me instead of just in the offseason. So yeah, I’ve learned a lot from him.”
Of course, there also those whom Starks has lined up against in the past, such as Darnell Dockett and Calais Campbell — both of whom were on the Cardinals team that lost to Starks and the Steelers in Super Bowl XLIII.
“D-Dock, we go back to playing against each other in college, that Florida State-Florida rivalry, so (we) had a long, outstanding relationship from there, and of course Calais was there,” Starks said. “It’s one of those things. It’s one of those things: It’s obviously a competition — one team wins and one team loses, and I’m glad I was on the opposite end then.”
The last line was said with a laugh, and it’s understandable why Starks was in a good mood Friday. In the Cardinals, he not only found a team to play for, but also one which he has long had an interest in playing for.
“I’ve been coming out here since I came out of college for combine training. (I) started training out here at Athlete’s Performance, and it’s a place that I loved instantly since coming out here. And I’ve always kept a place here in Mesa for a number of years. Then the wife and I moved up to Fountain Hills.
“So it’s home. It’s good to actually play for a team and be at home.”