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Breakfast with Bruce: Offensive line, Adrian Peterson and injured players

Wednesday morning, at the Arizona Biltmore, Arizona Cardinals coach Bruce Arians chatted with members of the media for roughly an hour.

He was there for the NFC Coaches Breakfast, which was part of this week’s annual NFL Meetings.

Arians touched on a variety of topics — and avoided at least one other — throughout the morning. There were a lot of smiles and laughs, as well as the classic Arians sound bite.

Below is the first installment of our “Breakfast With Bruce” series, in which we will highlight some of the best stuff the third-year coach had to offer:

On what he thinks of the Cardinals free agency overall

“I was very pleased. I thought we addressed specific needs with quality players and quality people, which has always been our philosophy, is not just get the best player, but get the best fit for our locker room. All these guys are passionate players. It shows in the way they play and they have great respect in their locker rooms. In talking to the coaches where they came from, they hated to lose them. You know you got the type of guy you want in your locker room. I thought we got bigger, stronger, more physical and faster at a couple spots.”

On reworking the line so they can impose their will in the run game

“I know there were some areas last year that we fell short in, when you talk about running the ball in the red zone. Not so much goal line, but short-yardage situations. That’s an overall improvement in our running game. We felt like we got more powerful, but we also felt like we got very athletic. Mike (Iupati) is an extremely good puller. He’s good out in space. He did struggle some in pass protection with his foot last year, but he’s always been solid there. (Jonathan) Cooper’s got no problem because he’s been practicing on both sides of the ball, right and left, for two years now, so that will be an easy transition for him.”

On the battle at center, whether it will be a fight for the starting position

“Yeah, that will be a good battle. We wanted some competition. Ted (Larsen) played pretty much the entire training camp last year and was solid at center. I’ve had A.Q. (Shipley), I know what he is. He’s exactly what I’m looking for, as far as the same as Ted (Larsen). Very physical, extremely bright, knows our system inside out, so he can walk in the first day and make all the calls. When he’s played, he’s played extremely well. They’re both very versatile as far as playing guard and center.”

On the offensive line looking a lot different from last year

“That’s something that we wanted. We wanted more competition because we still got Earl Watford and Bradley Sowell and some other guys that are quality players and they’re not out of the mix. Earl’s right on the verge of playing. He played a lot of tackle last year, so he can play right guard, right tackle. I like our depth that we have there now.”

On what he wasn’t seeing at the center position last year with Lyle Sendlein that they had to make a change

“I thought Lyle played well last year. It wasn’t the matter of — in November, December he was hurt and gutted it out. It was not his best in those two months. As an organization, we felt like — we still would like to have him back and put him in that mix and compete.”

On whether they are looking to add a running back

“We’d like to have a bigger back. It’s probably my fault that we didn’t get Robert Hughes enough chances because every time he touched the ball last year he made plays and most of it was as a receiver. But, I’ve seen Robert run the ball, so he can fit that role. We obviously missed Jonathan (Dwyer). That was a big hit to us because Jonathan’s not just a big back, he’s a fast back. His running, he can bounce it outside and run it about 50 yards is typical Jon. We’re looking to hopefully find not just a big back, but a big, fast back.”

On whether Andre Ellington is still viewed as a number 1 running back

“Just the freaky injury and he still had his touches. What really set him back is he couldn’t evolve as the pass receiver, because he couldn’t get the reps in. The games — he’d make a questionable decision when he had a two-way go and the quarterback’s back there holding it, hit him in the back head. I can think of three times in Seattle when we had chances for big plays and we weren’t on the same page because he couldn’t practice it. The quarterback didn’t get to see him do it in practice, it was just gutted up for the game. So, his touches should not come down.”

On how he’s going to treat the return of Carson Palmer

“Right now, I’d be reining him back. He’s rolling, he’s wanting to go. When the doctors clear him, he and I will talk about the number of reps he gets. He’s a guy — he wants the reps, he wants to be with his guys in that huddle. You love that about him, it’s just, we have to be smart about it.”

On if Logan Thomas made the right amount of progress last year

“Oh, yeah. We drafted him for two years from now, not for November. It just so happened his number got called in November and I was not going to let him fail, because once you fail, those scars never go away. It’s very hard to get the guys back in the locker room if you cost them the playoffs. I just didn’t want to put him in that situation. Right or wrong, it just was my decision.”

On being excited about free agency from this point, where in the past the team has found great value

“I just love the way we do it, the way Steve’s approach is to it. We’re all on the same page and I think we’re all shocked that we got the guys we got the first and second day, the guys we targeted. So, that really couldn’t have gone any better.”

On what Cory Redding and Corey Peters bring to the defensive line

“Well, first of all, tremendous passion for the game. Cory Redding might be the best leader I’ve been around. He’s got a great knowledge, of not just his position, but the entire defense and it’s a very similar defense. He brings a passion and energy. His play hasn’t diminished in the last seven years. I mean, he’s still making plays. But, what he brings to that locker room. Cory Peters, again, is a very versatile player. He’s not coming out of the game. He’s got sacks. He’s disruptive in the middle of the pocket. He can play nose, he can play three…We’ve added great depth as far as position flexibility with those two guys and a lot of energy and passion.”

On what kind of role he sees for LaMarr Woodley

“Wood is a pocket crusher. He always has been. He collapses the pocket. We’ll have some good inside pressure now. LaMarr is a guy that has been a 10-12 sack guy every year and then the injury last year set him back. He’s a very physical, outside edge player.”

On having questions before bring Sean Weatherspoon in because of injuries

“No, I mean we love the player and that’s why we guarded ourselves with the contract. I love Spoon. Spoon is a guy that’s extremely bright, extremely passionate, he brings it every day. He reminds me a lot of Larry Foote. He loves to talk out there and you want that kind of swagger on your defense. We still have it in the room because Foote is going to be coaching there. I don’t know if we’ll be able to shut both of them up at the same time.”

Any word on Daryl Washington?

“Really can’t even talk about Daryl. He’s not a member of our team so there’s no sense in talking about him. Until he’s a member of our team, then I’ll find out.”

On Adrian Peterson

“You trying to get me fined? That’s tampering, dude. I can’t talk about another player. I ain’t saying jack about Adrian Peterson. I’d get fined for that. Nope.”

On what they’ll look for in the draft

“In the draft right now it’s still speed. Speed at running back, speed at receiver, speed at linebacker, another interior player. I think we’re pretty solid at tight end, but I’d like to find another young tight end that’s potentially a fullback, H-back-type guy.”

On Tyrann Mathieu being back to his play from his rookie year

“Yeah, everything that I’ve seen and heard, he’s flying around and he’s gotten a little bigger, but looks extremely healthy. I know this, he’s got a gleam in his eye that I haven’t seen in a while.”

Stay tuned for Part II of the series Thursday