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Cardinals RB Alfonso Smith stays ready

Beanie Wells has yet to practice, while Ryan Williams has
yet to go through a full practice during three weeks of

The same script is expected to be followed this week when
the Cardinals hold their mandatory mini-camp with five
practices over three days.

With the team’s top two running backs still recovering
from knee injuries, the door has opened for 25-year-old
Alfonso Smith.

“I’m putting a lot of extra pressure on myself to really
be that guy in case those guys aren’t ready in the
preseason or at the beginning of the regular season,” said
Smith, an undrafted rookie free agent in 2010.

“This,” said head coach Ken Whisenhunt referring to
Smith’s increased repetitions, “will give him an
opportunity to compete with less reps in training camp
when Beanie and Ryan get back. And that’s what it’s all

Last year, Smith saw action in 15 of 16 games, mainly on
special teams.

But with Wells and LaRod Stephens-Howling in and out of
the lineup (and Williams missing the entire season)
because of injuries, Smith found his number called in
almost half the games he played.

“Every week it was maybe I would be starting,” said Smith,
who had 30 carries for 102 yards a touchdown. “I never
really knew if I was going to play a lot or if I wasn’t
going to play at all.”

That uncertainty, Smith admitted, was tough, but not
unlike his time at Kentucky, where he made only nine
starts in 49 career games.

“It’s a little tough at times because you have to stay in
your playbook,” he said. “There are times when you’re
really thinking that you’re going to get in and you study
hard all week and then you don’t see any plays on the
field. It’s kind of hard to get over that.”

Whisenhunt has been pleased with what he’s seen out of
Smith. But like with all of his players this offseason,
he will reserve judgement until training camp.

“[Smith] does a good job hitting the holes, knowing the
offense, knowing where to go in his check-downs, but until
you get a chance to see him actually carry the ball, until
he has to step up and block a linebacker or make his play
in a protection, then that’s where you’re really going to
get a chance to judge him.”

Wells and Williams are both expected to be able to do more
when the team heads to Flagstaff in July, which will make
it that much more difficult for Smith to catch the
coaches’ attention.

“I’m not really worried about that,” said Smith. “I can
only control what I can control.

“I know it’s a physical league. I know one, two, three
running backs are probably going to see the field. Guys
are going to get dinged up. I don’t want to say it but
it’s going to happen. It’s football.

“There’s going to be a time when I’m going to be called
on. I just got to be ready.”