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Cardinals focused on special teams fundamentals during bye

(AP Photo/Matt York, File)

The Arizona Cardinals spent a much-needed bye week resting up. The second half of the season continues this Sunday when Bruce Arians’ team hosts the San Francisco 49ers, this time with Colin Kaepernick taking snaps opposed to Blaine Gabbert, who was at the helm when Arizona won 33-21 in the teams’ first meeting.

Arians made his weekly appearance on Sirius XM NFL Radio’s Late Hits show to talk about where things stand after practice resumed Tuesday. The head honcho of the Cardinals talked about the injury situation, his staff’s special teams focus and Kaepernick’s performance after his third start of the year.

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Special teams focus is on fundamentals and not scheme. Arians said that injuries to the likes of Jaron Brown and other key special teams contributors is one of the hardest things to deal with. “We lost some really core special teams players in the last month,” the Cardinals coach said. “But those in-game substitutions — because we have a lot of starters that play specials teams — those in-game substitutions are the hardest thing for a special teams coach to handle.”

The Cards used the break to get healthy. Among the good news: Carson Palmer is the healthiest he’s been all year, according to the head coach, and new starting left tackle John Wetzel can fill in well for the injured Jared Veldheer. “Every time we’ve given John a chance he’s played extremely well for us,” said Arizona’s head coach. “He’s practiced all this time as a tackle, threw him in there as a guard (for Mike Iupati). Just have to have a trust factor with our guys, just have to let him know we trust him.”

Arizona will face a different beast in its second game against the 49ers. Arians believes big plays out of hit-and-run plays by San Francisco are a worry for his Cardinals defense. “They hit some short ones that they took to the house (against the Saints last week),” Arians said. “You really have to play great assignment defense to stop that running attack. I think (Kaepernick is) getting healthier, he’s getting into a nice flow. His legs and fact that he’s won is giving them more confidence offensively.”

Arians had a special relationship with former Alabama coach Bear Bryant. “The last words we said to me were, ‘Coach them hard and hug them later,’ and that’s been my philosophy ever since,” Arians said.

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