GLENDALE, Ariz. – The season opener: that’s the last time Arizona Cardinals rookie defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche played.
The team’s first-round draft pick will end a four-game absence, and he’ll be in uniform when the Cardinals play the New York Jets on Monday Night Football at University of Phoenix Stadium.
The decision to dress Nkemdiche is a curious one considering comments by head coach Bruce Arians only days earlier.
“It wasn’t as good as I was hoping,” he said Saturday, referring to Nkemdiche’s play in practice late in the week. “He was on the busted assignment sheet too much.”
The Cardinals do list three defensive tackles among their inactives: Olsen Pierre, Ed Stinson and Xavier Williams.
Stinson had already been ruled out because of a toe injury that has now kept him sidelined for two straight weeks.
Also returning to action are tight end Darren Fells and defensive tackle Josh Mauro. They each had missed the game in San Francisco because of injury; Fells dealt with a shoulder problem and Mauro a chest issue.
The Cardinals’ remaining inactives included left Mike Iupati, tight end Hakeem Valles, cornerback Brandon Williams and running back Kerwynn Williams.
Iupati was doubtful to play. He did not practice this week after suffering a sprained ankle against the 49ers.
John Wetzel will get the start, his first-ever, in Iupati’s place.
For the Jets, linebacker David Harris (hamstring) and tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins (ankle) are out due to injury. Harris, a starter, had played 121 straight games, the seventh-longest active streak in the league.
The others not in uniform for New York are quarterbacks Christian Hackenberg and Bryce Petty plus receiver Jeremy Butler, cornerback Nick Marshall and offensive tackle Brandon Shell.
The Cardinals are playing their second of three consecutive primetime matchups, a first in franchise history. Under Arians, the Cardinals have an 8-3 record on the national stage, and they have earned victories in both their appearances on Monday Night Football.
“We understand how important it is,” quarterback Carson Palmer said. “We understand the rare opportunity that it is to play on national television and expose the rest of the country to our team and our city and all those things. It means a lot to us. We take pride a lot of pride in that.”