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Arizona Cardinals QB Drew Stanton both a competitor and a mentor

Arizona Cardinals quarterback Drew Stanton (5) runs drills during the Cardinals' first day of NFL football training camp, Saturday, July 22, 2017, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Matt York)

GLENDALE, Ariz. — The role of a backup quarterback is to be ready if and when the starter suffers an injury.

It’s a role Drew Stanton has served for his entire 10-year NFL career, including the past four seasons with the Arizona Cardinals.

Stanton, however, has another role, one which he wholeheartedly embraces, and that is mentor.

“I take that role very seriously, being able to help everybody else around me,” he said Monday, “because if it wasn’t for that, I wouldn’t be in the league.”

Stanton pointed to veterans like Shaun Hill, Jon Kitna and Dan Orlovsky for his longevity. They each taught him how to be a professional and, perhaps more importantly, how to survive in a league that at times can be very cruel.

It’s why Stanton feels an obligation to pay it forward, whether it be to Logan Thomas or Matt Barkley in years past, or now to Blaine Gabbert and Trevor Knight.

“I was fortunate to have older guys that kind of took me under their wing and I’ll be a resource for (Gabbert) and Trevor and everybody else,” Stanton said.

Still, it has to be hard to help a player who wants to be in your position, doesn’t it?

“No,” Stanton said. “I think for my personality and the humility that comes along with it — eventually I’m not going to be able to play this game any more and the most important thing to me is how I’m thought about in this locker room. The locker room is such a close-knit group but hopefully even though I haven’t played a ton in my career people would say they enjoyed playing with me, that they respected me and the way that I approached the game and that’s all I can ask for.”

Stanton insists the addition of Gabbert has not changed his approach to training camp.

“In the past, with some other guys around here that weren’t as established as Blaine, I don’t think it had any difference,” he said.

During the offseason, head coach Bruce Arians made it known Stanton was the clear No. 2 quarterback behind Carson Palmer. Yet early in camp, Arians opened the door, ever so slightly, for Gabbert to supplant Stanton.

“It’s going to be a tough one to get,” Arians said, referring to the backup job, “but yeah, that’s why he’s out there.”

Stanton, too, sees Gabbert as competition.

“Everything is competition,” he said. “If you’re not, you’re going to probably be out the door. Everybody wants these jobs and there’s only so many to go around.”

Stanton, 33, understands his role is rare. There are just not many career backups around anymore. The league has changed. It’s why Stanton has never taken his situation for granted.

“I mean you guys see the scouts out there. They’re not out there just for the heck of it. They’re out there evaluating everything we do,” he said. “And we have to be our toughest critics as well.”

To this day, Stanton charts every throw he makes, and doesn’t, in practice.

Last season, Stanton played in five games, starting one — a win at San Francisco in Week 5 in which he passed for 124 yards and two touchdowns in place of a concussed Palmer. That victory improved him to 8-5 as a starter.

For his career, he has appeared in a total of 33 games, never playing in more than nine in a single season.

But Stanton is always ready. Always.

“Everybody is hoping that Carson stays healthy and that’s the first and foremost goal but if that doesn’t happen, I want to be as up to speed with everything I can,” he said. “I’ve got goals for myself that’s allowed me to get to the position that I’m in now and trying to evaluate and get better each and every year, so that’s what I’ve done.”

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