ARIZONA CARDINALS

Returning from knee injury, Cardinals’ D.J. Humphries eyes a better 2018

Jun 4, 2018, 4:57 PM | Updated: Jun 5, 2018, 8:19 am
In this Aug. 19, 2017, file photo, Arizona Cardinals offensive tackle D.J. Humphries (74) lines up ...
In this Aug. 19, 2017, file photo, Arizona Cardinals offensive tackle D.J. Humphries (74) lines up against the Chicago Bears during the first half of a preseason NFL football game, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, File)
(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, File)


Seven plays.

Cardinals offensive lineman D.J. Humphries recalled that number four times during his appearance on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station’s Bickley & Marotta on Monday.

On the seventh play of the 2017 NFL season, Humphries sprained his MCL.

He would return to play four more games before another MCL injury, plus a dislocated kneecap, ended his season.

“The most frustrating part about it was I knew how much progress I made two years ago and I knew how much progress I made between the season before that just passed, going into that one, and I had a great feeling about what was going to happen,” Humphries said. “And then to go down, the seventh play of the season, it was super frustrating.”

As a rookie two years ago, Humphries was given the nickname “Knee Deep” by then-head coach Bruce Arians as the coach tried to keep his young lineman motivated after Humphries hyperextended his knee during a preseason practice.

“A knee in his (expletive) every day,” Arians said at the time. “A foot wasn’t going to do it, so I nicknamed him ‘Knee Deep.’”

Humphries worked his way to the starting line.

But in 2017, the knee injury forced Humphries to get his first-ever surgery — one that left a 16-inch scar.

Now, Humphries is looking toward his comeback.

He said he’s been taking limited reps at practice over the last month.

“It’s coming along good,” he said. “There’s highs and lows but for the most part, we’ve been having highs and I’m really excited about that.”

Humphries said his dad has given him advice throughout the years, and one piece stuck out for him.

“My dad taught me, you gotta focus on getting one foot in front of the other and focus on the now,” he said. “What you did last year or what you plan on doing the next three years don’t matter if you don’t handle what’s happening right now.

“That’s the motto that I’ve been trying to stick to is just try to maximize what i can get out of the day, and get to the next one and do the same thing.”

It’s hard for him not to look forward to the near future, though.

First off, he has been impressed by offensive line coach Ray Brown, who had a 19-year career in the NFL spanning from 1986-2005. He was an assistant offensive line coach for eight years. This will be his third year in charge of a line, his first in Arizona.

Humphries said the way they communicate is “effortless.”

“He’s done the same thing so he understands,” Humphries said. “It’s completely different when you can look over to a guy and ask him, ‘How would you have done this?'”

Second, he’s back with fellow offensive lineman Mike Iupati, who’s rather reserved publicly, but Humphries said makes his voice heard around the team.

“Mike matches my tempo,” Humphries said. “It’s funny to see him all week chill, and then he’s, ‘Let’s go, let’s go!'”

When the game starts and Iupati is “huffing and puffing,” Humphries knows: “We finna put on a show today.”

It’s not just the line, though. Around the field, Humphries sees positives.

The stars and the high-paid players aren’t acting like divas. The bench units are playing well. Everybody has been working hard in practice. Cornerback Patrick Peterson blocked a kick Monday, Humphries said.

“No one’s going through the motions,” he said.

It’s one thing to call out preseason forecasts that predict a losing season.

Humphries sincerely sounds like he thinks this year will be better than last. He took a breath and lowered his voice a little before sharing his expectation:

“I think we’re going to have something special going on around here.”

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