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Bruce Arians’ theory: More padded practices have kept the Cardinals healthier

Arizona Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer (3) talks with Arizona Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians during the second half of an NFL football game against the New England Patriots, Sunday, Sept. 11, 2016, in Glendale, Ariz. The Patriots won 23-21. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

The Arizona Cardinals snuck past the San Francisco 49ers but head to a rowdy Minnesota stadium to face the Vikings in Week 11.

Head coach Bruce Arians made his weekly appearance on Sirius XM NFL Radio’s Late Hits show on Tuesday to discuss the team’s win and the keys for playing a Vikings team tumbling due to injuries. The head honcho of the Cardinals also talked about how padded practices have seemingly helped Arizona remain healthy and the Tuesday roster moves to re-sign punter Drew Butler and release Ryan Quigley.

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— Can a rougher practice schedule lead to fewer injuries? Arians thinks so. His “science” does, too. “I’ve been doing this little study. We had practice with no pads on twice this year and put three guys on IR. Last week, we practiced in pads twice and nobody got hurt,” Arians said. “You get in football shape in my mind. Nobody ever gets hurt in practice in pads and you have great practices. I think it carries into the games.”

Arizona released punter Ryan Quigley and re-signed a healthy replacement in Drew Butler on Tuesday. Arians explained the move that at surface level did not appear obvious. “We really like Drew because he also gives us a backup kickoff guy and a backup field goal kicker,” Arians said.

— Talk about keeping your quarterback positive. During Arizona’s win this week, a late Carson Palmer interception with 3:13 left and the Cardinals leading 20-13 gave San Francisco a chance to tie the game. Arians was caught on the sideline tapping his own chest when Palmer ran off the field following the pick, and the head coach explained the moment on Sirius. “I just, I got a little too greedy probably. We’re playing for points. We had a play that we had two guys open but might’ve been a time to run the football, in hindsight,” said the Cardinals coach. “I didn’t want him thinking anything was his fault because we need the two-minute drill to win the game.”

— Minnesota’s defense is still dang good. The Vikings won their first five games but lost the last four. Arians said the offense has struggled but the defense hardly looks different from the beginning of the season. “I probably respect Mike Zimmer as much as any coach in the National Football league,” Arians said of the Vikings’ defensive-minded head coach. “Been going against him way too long.”

— This week, the Vikings beat-up offensive line might have Arizona looking at ways to pressure quarterback Sam Bradford. That might be a challenge with Minnesota running a quick-hit, West Coast style offense. “It is hard to get there (in the backfield). I think tight coverage helps stop some of that stuff and lets some of those guys get home,” Arians said. “We’ve been fortunate the front four is getting there without blitzes as much as we normally do, but we may have to put some interior pressure on it.”

— What the key to beat the Vikings? “Block Everson Griffen,” Arians said. “He’s one of the best there is that nobody doesn’t ever talk about, along with (Brian) Robison and (Linval) Joseph. They’ve got a great front. And we’ve had a little problem with three-techniques the last couple of weeks, so our guards are going to have to really step up.”

— Arians, on Larry Fitzgerald’s continued success: “He still acts like he’s a rookie. He asks questions, he makes sure he’s spot-on in his assignments and asks coach, ‘what are you really looking for in this situation, what are you wanting me to do?’ And it rubs off on the rest of the team. But I think the biggest thing is … the reason we run the ball so well is because he’s blocking at a level that only I’ve ever seen was by Hines Ward.”

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