Cardinals have roster decisions to make over Labor Day weekend

Aug 31, 2018, 5:47 PM
(AP Photo/Butch Dill, File)...
(AP Photo/Butch Dill, File)
(AP Photo/Butch Dill, File)

TEMPE, Ariz. — A roster cut down to 53 players is due Saturday afternoon, but the Arizona Cardinals will use the entirety of Labor Day weekend to finalize a regular season roster plus the 10-man practice squad.

“Very difficult time in trying to get down to the 53,” first-year coach Steve Wilks said Friday amid having those tough conversations with his players. “I mentioned to the guys last night that every individual in the locker room, all 90, deserve to be here. For whatever reason, we can only keep 53. It’s been tough this morning trying to really get down.

“Everything from a relationship standpoint, these guys have been here from April the 3rd. It’s not all about football. You get to know them as a person, as a man, as a father. It’s difficult when you tell them you’re moving on.”

Leaks of the Cardinals’ roster moves began circulating Friday morning.

Wilks sidestepped discussing specifics but did indulge in propping up departing kicker Matt McCrane, who had tweeted about his release and thanked veteran Phil Dawson, who made the 53-man roster. The rookie McCrane hit all four of his field goals this preseason, including from 53 and 54 yards.

“Matt did a tremendous job and I told him that. I wanted to try to give him every opportunity to showcase his talent for other teams,” Wilks said. “A lot of times you see us going for those long field goals because we believe in him. I foresee Matt competing and kicking for someone in the National Football League this year.”

Linebacker Scooby Wright, who served as a de facto first teamer for the first two preseason contests and was a special teams player, reportedly was released. That, despite Wilks saying he held special teamers in high regard.

“You always have different opinions, which is great,” Wilks said of the internal roster discussions. “It’s what we want. A lot with me with those guys, I look at, OK, special teams value. Guys that, if they’re going to be here, particularly be up on gameday, what do they bring? Particularly if you start talking about third running back, fourth or fifth receiver, same with DBs, linebackers.”

One player in relation to the release of Wright was linebacker Zeke Turner, who played well Thursday night in Arizona’s 21-10 loss to the Denver Broncos. The safety-turned-linebacker fit into the special teams mold but, unlike Wright, has the versatility to play in the box and drop back into coverage.

Wilks reiterated that Turner’s 11 tackles and sack on Thursday indeed carried weight in the undrafted rookie’s fight to hang on with the Cardinals.

“I talked about a few guys last night. Zeke Turner, I’m not saying he’s on the team, but he definitely gave himself a great opportunity, as well as (receiver) Trent Sherfield,” Wilks said. “I’m excited when guys can show up like that and it shows we did a tremendous job in the evaluation process as well.”

Final roster decisions will be ongoing for Arizona heading into Sunday as the Cardinals attempt to pick up cut players from other teams. In determining the 53-man roster and the practice squad, they also must decide on whether tight end Jermaine Gresham (Achilles) and defensive end Markus Golden (ACL) will be pulled off the PUP list.

If so, they will take up a roster spot each. If not, they will miss at least the first six weeks of the regular season before they can return.

Wilks said he’s optimistic both players are close to returning. A check-in with the team’s training staff awaits.

“I think those guys should be ready to go based off our conversations the last couple of weeks. Talking to the players personally, they feel like they’re ready. We’ll see exactly where we are on Monday,” Wilks said.

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Cardinals have roster decisions to make over Labor Day weekend