Rehabbing Cardinals C Shipley: ‘This was the hardest year on me mentally’

Dec 21, 2018, 6:06 PM | Updated: Dec 22, 2018, 9:21 pm

Arizona Cardinals center A.Q. Shipley (53) during the first half of an NFL football game against th...

Arizona Cardinals center A.Q. Shipley (53) during the first half of an NFL football game against the Los Angeles Rams, Sunday, Dec. 3, 2017, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

(AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

TEMPE, Ariz. — Ironman center A.Q. Shipley prides himself on his reliability. As Arizona Cardinals teammates went down around him along the offensive line the past two seasons, he was the rock, playing and starting in every game.

A torn ACL suffered in the Red & White practice on Aug. 4, the beginning of training camp, ended his 2018 season before it began, but the 32-year old said he’ll “100 percent” be ready for training camp when it opens in late July.

“Everything’s going good. On track, on schedule. Still got a ton of time ’til August, so I’m just kind of following everything they’re telling me to do,” Shipley said Thursday.

“Never been more determined in my life to get back. An injury will do that to you, a year away from the game will do that to you. This was the hardest year on me mentally just because you sit back, you see things, there’s things you want to do, there’s things you want to see. You watch the games and it’s like, you know no matter what, there’s nothing you can do to help on the field.”

Shipley’s knee injury was the first of many blows to the Arizona offensive line this season. Guards Justin Pugh, Mike Iupati and Jeremy Vujnovich, tackle D.J. Humphries and guard/tackle John Wetzel have all been placed on injured reserve this season.

In their place, combinations of three rookies and three midseason pickups have been left to start the final four games of the year.

For the Cardinals’ Week 16 game Sunday against the Los Angeles Rams at State Farm Stadium, it will be rookie tackle Korey Cunningham, rookie guard Colby Gosssett, rookie center Mason Cole, plus veteran guard Oday Aboushi and vet tackle Joe Barksdale starting for the second game in a row.

It’s been an especially tough challenge for the players drafted in the third (Cole), sixth (Gossett) and seventh (Cunningham) rounds of the 2018 NFL Draft.

“It’s never an easy situation,” Shipley said. “I remember my rookie year. It’s like, if you compare rookie year to year 10, the game slows down so much. By years six, seven, it’s like there’s not anything they can really throw at you anymore that you haven’t seen.

“From college and then getting thrown right into this, it’s a whole different world,” he added. “You got people that are disguising things that you’ve never seen before in your life; thinking something’s coming from this side and then all of a sudden they drop, drop, drop (and) blitz from the other side.”

Twenty days after Shipley’s ACL injury, he signed a one-year contract extension with the Cardinals. The deal was done just two days after general manager Steve Keim returned from a five-week suspension stemming from his July 4 DUI arrest, a sign of just how much the center’s contributions were valued.

Since, Shipley has been rehabbing in the Cardinals’ practice facility, lending a hand with his young peers and the coaching staff. He’ll continue to do so throughout this upcoming offseason.

As little as Shipley has felt he’s been able to contribute while sidelined, he has made sure to give the young players their space while allowing them to seek him out for advice.

“When I’m playing, I don’t want a million different people telling me a million different things,” Shipley said. “I’ve basically left it up to these guys — I’ve been like, ‘Hey, here’s the deal: I’ve played against these guys, I’ve played against all these D coordinators. You got questions throughout the week, I’m here all week rehabbing. Come to me, ask me, I’m an open book. I’ll give you everything I got.”

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