TEMPE, Ariz. — Are you ready, Marion Grice?
With Stepfan Taylor out nursing a strained calf, Arizona will need someone to back up starter Andre Ellington and help shoulder a bit of the rushing load.
There’s a very good chance that responsibility will fall on the former Arizona State star who was signed off the San Diego Chargers’ practice squad in late September.
“Marion will slide up the depth chart,” Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said, adding that fellow back Robert Hughes will also be in the mix. “But yeah, Marion will be the next guy up.”
Grice was selected in the sixth round of the 2014 draft by the Chargers after accumulating 1,675 rushing yards and 25 touchdowns on the ground and another 863 yards and 14 scores as a receiver in two years in Tempe. He turned 41 preseason carries into 167 yards, but chose to leave San Diego’s practice squad for Arizona with the guarantee of being on the 53-man roster and with it, what appeared to be a better chance to play.
It took a while, but the chance seems to have finally arrived.
“I feel pretty good,” Grice said Friday. “Just been waiting patiently and stuff like that, proving to the coaches that I’m learning the plays and everything and I’m coming along pretty good. Just getting the opportunity every day just in practice to show that I’m learning the plays and I’m ready to go and stuff like that.
“It feels pretty good to finally get a chance to get out and play.”
Grice was active for the first time in his NFL career last week against Philadelphia, but only saw one special teams snap in Arizona’s win. While he’s likely to see time on special teams once again this week, it’s likely he’ll asked to do more on offense, too.
Though he was patiently biding his time, it’s an opportunity the 22-year-old has been waiting for.
“It’s a dream come true,” Grice said. “I just have to take it all in and go out there and just play my game. Just be patient and everything. Everything’s going to happen. Just go out there and pretty much execute the game plan. That’s pretty much what it is, just show the coaches that they can trust me in everything for us and put me in and me making plays for them.”
How much Grice figures to play is uncertain. Ellington has received the lion’s share of carries this season, and there is no indication the coaches plan on lightening his load anytime soon. But if Ellington needs a break or the team just wants to go with a different look in certain packages, Grice could hear his number called.
In fact, it’s a good bet he will, especially now that he knows the offense well enough to contribute.
“It’s always a process, but like I came into the team meeting room [Thursday] and he was in there studying by himself,” offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin said. “He’s going to play; he’s got to play with Stepf being down, and I’m confident in his ability to be a player and make plays for us.”
Goodwin added he can see Grice helping on first, second or third downs throughout the game. Arians said he felt really comfortable with Grice until he dropped a handoff in Friday’s practice, but followed that up by saying the running back is “ready to go.”
Grice feels the same way, saying he does not know what role the coaches have in mind for him but that it really does not matter because he’s confident he will be able to get the job done.
“Oh yeah,” he said. “Any time, whenever they need to call upon me, I’ll be ready; I’ll be waiting for it.”