Dealing Cards: A surprised Stanton, a surprise call from the team president
TEMPE, Ariz. – The decision surprised Drew Stanton.
Back in the facility on Monday, following the loss at Washington, Stanton did not expect to be told to get ready. He was once again the starting quarterback for the Arizona Cardinals.
At least for this week, against the New York Giants.
Eleven years in the NFL, Stanton knows the game and, perhaps more importantly, knows the business.
With two games remaining in the season and the Cardinals out of playoff contention, it would’ve been easy to understand, Stanton said Wednesday, if Blaine Gabbert had remained the starter.
At the same time, Stanton also knows players are judged by their performance; and the Cardinals, with Gabbert under center, have struggled, going 10 consecutive quarters without scoring a touchdown. Thus, a change was made.
“The competitor in me loves the fact that I get a chance to go out and do it again,” Stanton said. “But at the same time, the humanistic side of things is you feel bad for somebody that you’ve been around for this period of time with Blaine and stuff. He’s handled it unbelievably well, which is no surprise to me, as a true professional.”
Sunday will mark Stanton’s third start of the season and first since hurting his knee against Seattle in Week 10.
The injury moved Stanton into a backup role for the past five games. And though his name hasn’t appeared on the injury report in recent weeks, the knee is not all the way healed.
“I think there’s a little bit of an unknown there, without a doubt. So, we’ll see,” he said. “I’m going to continue to do everything I can to try and get as healthy as I can leading up to the game and feel good about it and get out there and not give it a second thought when I step across the line.”
In two starts, Stanton has completed 50.6 percent of his passes for 474 yards with three touchdowns and one interception.
“I’ve been called upon to play this week, and so I’m going to go out there and do whatever I can to try and help this team win now,” he said.
A call from the (team) president
It’s become a tradition: Cardinals players who make the Pro Bowl receive a congratulatory phone call from team president Michael Bidwill before the official announcement.
For perennial pro bowlers like wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald and cornerback Patrick Peterson — selected for the 11th and seventh time, respectively — the call is routine. But for first-timers, the call can be a surprise.
“I was very professional. I was nervous. I didn’t know who was calling me at first. It was an unknown call,” said linebacker Chandler Jones, who earned his second career Pro Bowl nod, his first with the Cardinals.
“It was a blocked call. I didn’t really know who it was,” rookie safety Budda Baker said. “He was like, ‘It’s Mr. Bidwill here.’ That was cool.”
While the call may have been a surprise, the selections certainly were not.
Jones leads the league in both sacks (15.0) and tackles for loss (25).
“Just to get approval from all your peers, all the fans; just goes to show that your work doesn’t go unnoticed and it’s not in vain,” he said.
Baker, meanwhile, became the first Cardinals rookie since Peterson in 2011 to make the Pro Bowl. And like Peterson, Baker earned the honor based on his special teams play. His 15 special teams-tackles not only leads the team but are tops in the NFC and third-most in the NFL.
“As the season progressed and people were telling me you’re the No. 1 leading tackler and all that type of stuff, that’s when I realized I could maybe go to the Pro Bowl on special teams,” he said.
At 6-8, the Cardinals are hardly having the season they, or others, expected so to have four players named to the Pro Bowl speaks volumes of those individuals’ performances in 2017.
“Happy for them and the two alternates,” head coach Bruce Arians said, referring to safety Tyrann Mathieu and running back Adrian Peterson. “I think it was well-deserved. They’ve all had great seasons.”
A lengthy injury report
The media was warned ahead of time.
“Alright, you’ll need your tape recorders for this one. You can’t write that fast,” Arians said.
One after another Arians announced the names of the players who did not practice on Wednesday. After the 12th name Arians added, “That’s why we walked thru the second half of practice.”
Of the 12 players, only Fitzgerald and defensive lineman Frostee Rucker were not injury related. They had the day off.
The others were either hurt or sick: safety Antoine Bethea (knee), linebacker Josh Bynes (ankle), linebacker Karlos Dansby (knee), linebacker Gabe Martin (hamstring), tight end Troy Niklas (ankle), defensive lineman Robert Nkemdiche (wrist), defensive lineman Olsen Pierre (illness), right guard Earl Watford (ankle), wide receiver Chad Williams (illness) and running back Kerwynn Williams (quadricep/ribs).
Listed limited were left guard Alex Boone (hip/knee), wide receiver John Brown (toe), tight end Jermaine Gresham (illness), defensive lineman Corey Peters (ankle) and right tackle John Wetzel (ankle).
“I’m hoping to get two or three back tomorrow and maybe four by Friday,” Arians said. “But, it’s going to be touch-and-go on some of those guys, and the flu is kind of running through the team right now.”