Back with the Arizona Cardinals, Lyle Sendlein says it’s ‘good to play football again’

Aug 7, 2015, 6:50 PM
Lyle Sendlein prepares to snap the ball to QB Carson Palmer during Arizona Cardinals training camp ...
Lyle Sendlein prepares to snap the ball to QB Carson Palmer during Arizona Cardinals training camp Aug. 7. (Photo by Adam Green/Arizona Sports)
(Photo by Adam Green/Arizona Sports)

GLENDALE, Ariz. — If Lyle Sendlein had his way, he never would have been released by the Arizona Cardinals in the first place.

But he was, and since that happened on March 12, he had been sitting around at home with a baby and little else to do.

Needless to say, he’s excited to be back.

“It’ll be good to get out of the house and do something other than changing diapers and lifting weights,” he said following his first training camp practice Friday. “So it will be good to play football again.”

Sendlein, who signed a one-year contract with the team Friday, said it did not take much for him to make his way back to the only NFL team he’s ever known. The Cardinals, apparently not totally pleased with the centers they had on the roster, gave him a call he was waiting to answer.

A Cardinal since 2007, appearing in 119 games (with 109 starts), the 31-year-old product of Chaparral High School in Scottsdale said there was interest at various times from other teams, but he and his family always wanted to stay in Arizona. But, that does not mean he had a feeling a reunion was going to happen.

“But I prepared for it,” he said. “I wasn’t going to be unprepared. This is obviously where my heart is, growing up here and being a big Cards fan. Gone through a lot of change with the organization, so that’s something I wanted to continue.”

Though he was the starting center the last time he was in a Cardinals uniform, Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said Sendlein is not going to be handed the role simply because the team brought him back.

“He’s not coming in as the starter.  He’s coming in to compete for the job,” the coach said. “We always look for the best available guys to add to the group.”

That said, Sendlein’s knowledge of the team’s offense as well as most of his teammates could go a long way toward his ascending up the depth chart. Arians noted that the center’s learning curve won’t be nearly as steep as it would be for someone else, and the fact that he’s “well-respected” in the locker room also won’t hurt.

And to that point, receiver Larry Fitzgerald talked about how pleased he is to see No. 63 back on the field.

“I’m glad he’s back.  He’s been a big part of the transformation of this organization.  Played in the Super Bowl with him, played in hundreds of games with him.  I know what he stands for,” the receiver said. “He’s one of the toughest guys I ever competed with.  In terms of his mental capacity, he knows what every single person is doing in terms of the line calls, what the defense is trying to do to him.  He’s going to be a huge addition.”

He very well could be.

By most accounts, Sendlein had a pretty rough 2014. ProFootballFocus.com graded him as the second-worst center in the NFL, and had he not struggled like he did, it’s fair to say the Cardinals may not have released him in the first place. However, though he did not miss a game last season, it was clear that Sendlein — who has been more steady than great over the course of his career — was not really himself, likely battling injuries that impacted his play.

So if he’s healthy now, it would not be a shock to anyone if he found his way into the starting role at some point in the near future.

From here, Sendlein said he needs to get himself back into football shape. He added the only way to do that is to play, which is what he finally gets to do.

Only now, unlike most other years he’s been in the league, he’s playing himself into shape while also trying to earn a job. It’s a change for a player who is used to coming into camp as the starter.

“It is a little different, being the target or chasing the target, and that’s something that I’ve always had the target on me and do my best in camp to fend off who’s coming for the target,” he said. “Now I’m trying to work my way like I did eight years ago.”

And make no mistake, Sendlein’s goal is to earn the starting job. After all, he said while it would be great to win the Super Bowl, it would be even better to be a player who helped make it happen instead of being someone who was just on the team.

Back with the Cardinals, a team that has championship aspirations, it’s a legitimate possibility.

Of course, none of this seemed likely back in March when the Cardinals chose to part with Sendlein. Arians talked about how that was a business decision, just as bringing him back into the fold is. It’s about putting the best possible team on the field, and nothing more.

Asked if that experience was something he had to think through before making the decision to come back, Sendlein chuckled.

“That was my first business experience,” he said. “Very few players in the league get to have long careers and never get cut.

“It’s all about how you get back up. I don’t think I’ve even known many guys to walk away from the game on their own terms, so I’m very fortunate to have a chance to play another year.”

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Back with the Arizona Cardinals, Lyle Sendlein says it’s ‘good to play football again’