ARIZONA CARDINALS

After near-retirement, Cardinals’ Justin Pugh taking center reps

Jun 14, 2022, 5:48 PM
Arizona Cardinals OL Justin Pugh warms up ahead of OTAs on Wednesday, June 1, 2022, in Tempe. (Tyle...
Arizona Cardinals OL Justin Pugh warms up ahead of OTAs on Wednesday, June 1, 2022, in Tempe. (Tyler Drake/Arizona Sports)
(Tyler Drake/Arizona Sports)

TEMPE — Last season appeared to be the end of the road for Arizona Cardinals starting left guard Justin Pugh.

After telling his teammates as much, the lineman headed into the offseason with a wedding and his post-football health on his mind.

The NFL was seemingly on the backburner.

That was until he and general manager Steve Keim went back to the drawing board in finding a way Pugh could return for his 10th NFL season and fifth in Arizona. Though he had a hefty final year of his original deal scheduled, the team reportedly worked out a one-year contract for Pugh to return on a $5.5 million salary with $1.5 million in incentives, per Arizona Sports’ John Gambadoro.

Throw in the team’s trajectory, his love for the area and its community, and it was a done deal when the dollar signs aligned for the lineman.

“I thought last year was going to be my last year,” Pugh said Tuesday.

“I was preparing (for it after) taking a pay cut going into the fourth year of my contract. I thought we were going to go through that battle again. Me and Keim were able to figure it out. … I wasn’t sure if that was going to happen. Obviously, there’s the business side to football, so I had gotten down pretty low this offseason.

“Was starting to see a two-pack coming in for my wedding. I was happy with (my career). I kind of went out on my terms and someone’s got to block Aaron Donald so they needed to bring me back.”

The change in offseason plans threw Pugh in a ramped-up routine to get back to his playing weight, having gotten down to around 265 pounds at one point. Now, Pugh is taking in 5,000 calories a day and picking up about a pound a week in an effort to reach that 285-pound mark he was at in 2021.

Pugh’s return could mean a lot more than previously thought, too.

With starting center Rodney Hudson not in attendance for any of the voluntary OTAs or the team’s mandatory minicamp on Tuesday, his status remains up in the air with just one more day of work before the team breaks until training camp.

Taking that into account, head coach Kliff Kingsbury has given added center reps to both Pugh and rookie lineman Lecitus Smith. Before Kingsbury’s comments on Tuesday, Arizona had also been utilizing Sean Harlow at the position with Hudson not with the team.

If called, Pugh sounds confident in the task at hand.

“I could see myself playing center,” Pugh said. “I’ve capped out money-wise at guard. If anything, they’re taking more money off my plate if I play guard. So it’s like, why not go out there and try to play center in this offense with Kyler?

“Center’s a very important position. … There’s a lot of centers that played older in their years, because physically, it’s not as demanding. Mentally, it’s much more intense. And that’s where I think I can still succeed at that position. We’ll try it out, we’ll see how it goes. If I go out there and don’t play real well, you’ll see me at left guard.”

EXTRA POINT

– Pugh on Hudson: “Rodney’s my guy. Saw him a few weeks ago when I was down in Florida, saw him at my bachelor party, he was at my wedding. I don’t talk football with him … we just kind of relax and get away from it. Obviously, we love Rodney, wish he was here, but that’s something above my pay grade. That’s not a conversation that I’m going to have.”

Arizona Cardinals CB Byron Murphy attempts a pass during minicamp on Wednesday, June 15, 2022, in Tempe. (Tyler Drake/Arizona Sports) Arizona Cardinals QB Kyler Murray warms up ahead of minicamp on Wednesday, June 15, 2022, in Tempe. (Tyler Drake/Arizona Sports) Arizona Cardinals QB Kyler Murray warms up ahead of minicamp on Wednesday, June 15, 2022, in Tempe. (Tyler Drake/Arizona Sports) Arizona Cardinals WR DeAndre Hopkins warms up ahead of minicamp on Wednesday, June 15, 2022, in Tempe. (Tyler Drake/Arizona Sports) Arizona Cardinals QB Kyler Murray jokes around ahead of minicamp on Wednesday, June 15, 2022, in Tempe. (Tyler Drake/Arizona Sports) Arizona Cardinals QB Kyler Murray jokes around ahead of minicamp on Wednesday, June 15, 2022, in Tempe. (Tyler Drake/Arizona Sports) Arizona Cardinals QB Kyler Murray warms up ahead of minicamp on Wednesday, June 15, 2022, in Tempe. (Tyler Drake/Arizona Sports) Arizona Cardinals S Tae Daley catches a pass during minicamp on Wednesday, June 15, 2022, in Tempe. (Tyler Drake/Arizona Sports) Arizona Cardinals WR Greg Dortch catches a pass during minicamp on Wednesday, June 15, 2022, in Tempe. (Tyler Drake/Arizona Sports) Arizona Cardinals WR Antoine Wesley looks on during minicamp on Wednesday, June 15, 2022, in Tempe. (Tyler Drake/Arizona Sports) Arizona Cardinals S Budda Baker catches a pass during minicamp on Wednesday, June 15, 2022, in Tempe. (Tyler Drake/Arizona Sports) Arizona Cardinals WR Rondale Moore runs through drills during minicamp on Wednesday, June 15, 2022, in Tempe. (Tyler Drake/Arizona Sports) Arizona Cardinals CB Christian Matthew catches a pass during minicamp on Wednesday, June 15, 2022, in Tempe. (Tyler Drake/Arizona Sports) Arizona Cardinals WR Rondale Moore runs through drills during minicamp on Wednesday, June 15, 2022, in Tempe. (Tyler Drake/Arizona Sports) Arizona Cardinals DL J.J. Watt runs through drills during minicamp on Wednesday, June 15, 2022, in Tempe. (Tyler Drake/Arizona Sports) Arizona Cardinals WR Christian Blake runs through drills during minicamp on Wednesday, June 15, 2022, in Tempe. (Tyler Drake/Arizona Sports) Arizona Cardinals WR Marquise Brown looks on during minicamp on Wednesday, June 15, 2022, in Tempe. (Tyler Drake/Arizona Sports) Arizona Cardinals WR Marquise Brown looks on during minicamp on Wednesday, June 15, 2022, in Tempe. (Tyler Drake/Arizona Sports) Arizona Cardinals DL J.J. Watt runs through drills during minicamp on Wednesday, June 15, 2022, in Tempe. (Tyler Drake/Arizona Sports) Arizona Cardinals DL J.J. Watt runs through drills during minicamp on Wednesday, June 15, 2022, in Tempe. (Tyler Drake/Arizona Sports) Arizona Cardinals DL J.J. Watt runs through drills during minicamp on Wednesday, June 15, 2022, in Tempe. (Tyler Drake/Arizona Sports) Arizona Cardinals QB Kyler Murray warms up ahead of minicamp on Tuesday, June 14, 2022, in Tempe. (Tyler Drake/Arizona Sports) Arizona Cardinals WR DeAndre Hopkins warms up ahead of minicamp on Tuesday, June 14, 2022, in Tempe. (Tyler Drake/Arizona Sports) Arizona Cardinals QB Kyler Murray warms up ahead of minicamp on Tuesday, June 14, 2022, in Tempe. (Tyler Drake/Arizona Sports) Arizona Cardinals QB Colt McCoy jokes around ahead of minicamp on Tuesday, June 14, 2022, in Tempe. (Tyler Drake/Arizona Sports) Arizona Cardinals WR DeAndre Hopkins warms up ahead of minicamp on Tuesday, June 14, 2022, in Tempe. (Tyler Drake/Arizona Sports) Arizona Cardinals WR DeAndre Hopkins warms up ahead of minicamp on Tuesday, June 14, 2022, in Tempe. (Tyler Drake/Arizona Sports) Arizona Cardinals WR DeAndre Hopkins warms up ahead of minicamp on Tuesday, June 14, 2022, in Tempe. (Tyler Drake/Arizona Sports) Arizona Cardinals DL Leki Fotu runs through drills during minicamp on Tuesday, June 14, 2022, in Tempe. (Tyler Drake/Arizona Sports) Arizona Cardinals DL Rashard Lawrence runs through drills during minicamp on Tuesday, June 14, 2022, in Tempe. (Tyler Drake/Arizona Sports) Arizona Cardinals DL Michael Dogbe runs through drills during minicamp on Tuesday, June 14, 2022, in Tempe. (Tyler Drake/Arizona Sports) Arizona Cardinals DL J.J. Watt runs through drills during minicamp on Tuesday, June 14, 2022, in Tempe. (Tyler Drake/Arizona Sports) Arizona Cardinals CB Marco Wilson runs through drills during minicamp on Tuesday, June 14, 2022, in Tempe. (Tyler Drake/Arizona Sports) Arizona Cardinals CB Marco Wilson runs through drills during minicamp on Tuesday, June 14, 2022, in Tempe. (Tyler Drake/Arizona Sports) Arizona Cardinals CB Antonio Hamilton runs through drills during minicamp on Tuesday, June 14, 2022, in Tempe. (Tyler Drake/Arizona Sports) Arizona Cardinals CB Marco Wilson runs through drills during minicamp on Tuesday, June 14, 2022, in Tempe. (Tyler Drake/Arizona Sports) Arizona Cardinals CB Breon Borders runs through drills during minicamp on Tuesday, June 14, 2022, in Tempe. (Tyler Drake/Arizona Sports) Arizona Cardinals CBs Breon Borders (21) and Byron Murphy (7) run through drills during minicamp on Tuesday, June 14, 2022, in Tempe. (Tyler Drake/Arizona Sports) Arizona Cardinals CBs Antonio Hamilton (33) and Jace Whittaker (39) run through drills during minicamp on Tuesday, June 14, 2022, in Tempe. (Tyler Drake/Arizona Sports) Arizona Cardinals CB Byron Murphy runs through drills during minicamp on Tuesday, June 14, 2022, in Tempe. (Tyler Drake/Arizona Sports) Arizona Cardinals CB Antonio Hamilton looks on during minicamp on Tuesday, June 14, 2022, in Tempe. (Tyler Drake/Arizona Sports) Arizona Cardinals CB Christian Matthew runs through drills during minicamp on Tuesday, June 14, 2022, in Tempe. (Tyler Drake/Arizona Sports) Arizona Cardinals CB Byron Murphy runs through drills during minicamp on Tuesday, June 14, 2022, in Tempe. (Tyler Drake/Arizona Sports)

Arizona Cardinals

Head coach Brian Flores of the Miami Dolphins looks on from the sideline during the second quarter ...
Arizona Sports

Report: Cardinals head coach candidate Brian Flores takes Vikings’ DC job

Arizona Cardinals head coaching candidate Brian Flores has reportedly accepted the Minnesota Vikings' vacant defensive coordinator position.
1 day ago
Arizona Cardinals WR A.J. Green (Jeremy Schnell/Arizona Sports)...
Arizona Sports

Cardinals wide receiver A.J. Green announces retirement on Instagram

Arizona Cardinals wide receiver A.J. Green has announced on his Instagram account that he has retired from the game of football.
1 day ago
Budda Baker #3 of the Arizona Cardinals gestures during warmups prior to the game against the Los A...
Tom Kuebel

Budda Baker: Cardinals were unprepared for 2022 due to poor training camp participation

Cardinals pro bowl safety Budda Baker told NFL.com that he could tell his team was ill-prepared after a Week 1 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs.
1 day ago
Acting head coach defensive coordinator Vance Joseph of the Arizona Cardinals looks on during the t...
Wills Rice

Report: Cardinals narrow head coach search to 3 candidates after eliminating 3 more

The Arizona Cardinals have reportedly narrowed their head coaching search down to three names after eliminating three more on Sunday.
2 days ago
SCOTTSDALE, ARIZONA - FEBRUARY 12: Bottles litter the 16th hole after a hole-in-one by Sam Ryder of...
Dan Bickley

City of Phoenix better at hosting championships than winning them

This week might also be the busiest, buzziest and most profitable week ever in our history as big-event hosts.
1 day ago
AFC wide receiver Davante Adams (17) of the Las Vegas Raiders runs with the ball as NFC strong safe...
Arizona Sports

Cardinals’ Budda Baker snags INT in NFC’s Pro Bowl win over AFC

The Cardinals had one participant in the Pro Bowl Games on Sunday, and safety Budda Baker made sure to put on a show.
2 days ago
After near-retirement, Cardinals’ Justin Pugh taking center reps