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Kicker Zane Gonzalez finds familiarity with roster-churning Cardinals

(AP Photo/Bill Feig)

TEMPE, Ariz. — As a member of the Cleveland Browns, Zane Gonzalez for the first time failed to clear a hurdle as an NFL kicker, something that can ruin a career.

It’s taken the second-year pro out of Arizona State more than two months to land his next opportunity.

With the Arizona Cardinals’ practice squad, it’s a darn familiar one.

“I actually never realized how close the practice facility was,” Gonzalez said Wednesday at the team’s Tempe home base. “I used to live not too far, maybe like two miles down the road.”

It’s more than the familiar surroundings. It’s the people that seem to make the Valley home for Gonzalez.

He has taken advice from former Arizona kicker Jay Feely since he was released from the Browns in mid-September following a game that included two missed point-after attempts and two missed field goals in a 21-18 loss to the New Orleans Saints.

Gonzalez also has a previous relationship with Cardinals veteran kicker Phil Dawson, an idol in the young kicker’s eyes who with 1,843 points scored is 11th all-time in the NFL.

Like his new mentee, Dawson began his career in Cleveland and then spent his first 10 playing years with the Browns. Gonzalez met him a few years back and cherishes the opportunity to pick his brain as Dawson’s teammate.

“He’s a legend. Being in Cleveland — Phil this, Phil that. He’s an amazing guy. He’s a great mentor,” Gonzalez said.

Looking forward, now it’s about whether Gonzalez could set himself up to be the successor to Dawson if the 43-year-old decides to hang up the cleats after this season or beyond.

Gonzalez hit 15-of-20 field goals as a rookie with the Browns but went 2-of-5 in two games this year before getting cut. He worked out for the Cardinals about a month ago but wasn’t inked until Monday as a slow-healing groin injury held him back.

“With the injury and stuff like that, it’s just been a waiting game,” Gonzalez said. “Eventually (the groin) got good but now I feel great. Haven’t had any pain in a few weeks.”

Mentally, Gonzalez, had challenges to overcome. The NCAA record-holder for the most made field goals in a career said he laughed off the berating of Browns fans after his worst game as a pro.

“That’s the past. I don’t think about it anymore,” he said. “I went back, I watched the tape. There’s obviously a lot of issues with injury, amongst other things. I’m not the kind of guy who’s going to go out there and make excuses. I took it on the chin for what it was an moved on. I think I earned a lot of respect from people back in Cleveland for that.

“Everybody goes through downs. Just ate it. It’s part of the game.”

CARDINALS CONTINUE BACKEND ROSTER CHURN

The Cardinals are attempting to find diamonds in the rough.

Last Sunday, they might’ve done just that as rookie tackle Korey Cunningham held up playing for the first time, and at the blindside spot at that. But Arizona is hoping he’s not alone.

The team waived veteran cornerback Jamar Taylor this week, giving sixth-year pro David Amerson a spot on the roster while promoting undrafted rookie corner Chris Jones from the practice squad.

Taylor bit and fell down on a route covering tight end Jared Cook, who scored a 23-yard touchdown in the opening minutes of a 23-21 loss to the Oakland Raiders on Sunday.

“We needed more production out of that position,” Wilks said of Taylor’s release. “It’s not just one isolated incident with him or any of the guys. We just felt like it was the best move for the team.”

The Cardinals also promoted receiver Jalen Tolliver to the roster, making him the third rookie receiver in the group of six.

The strong-handed receiver out of Arkansas-Monticello flashed in the preseason.

“I thought Jalen had a great practice today,” Wilks said. “Caught some balls, especially in traffic.”

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