Cardinals DL Roy Lopez hoping to stick with hometown team
Sep 27, 2023, 5:45 PM
TEMPE — Three games into the regular season, it appears the Arizona Cardinals have hit on their sixth-round pick and starting cornerback Kei’Trel Clark.
Now, they’re hoping for similar results in another sixth-rounder, albeit from three seasons prior.
In an effort to help shore up defensive line depth, the Cardinals went out and added former Houston Texans defensive lineman Roy Lopez to the practice squad on Saturday before quickly signing him to the active roster three days later.
As a Tempe native who played for Mesquite High School, it’s a clean slate, in a familiar setting, with a team he grew up watching.
He went from rocking Emmitt Smith and Larry Fitzgerald Cardinals threads as a kid to sporting his very own Lopez jersey. And he doesn’t even have to customize it.
“Everybody’s been so welcoming, it’s been amazing. Just humbled, appreciative, excited and grateful. It’s crazy how things work out,” the three-year-pro Lopez said Wednesday. “The moment I drove into the facility, I was like, ‘Man, this is crazy.’
“You see the Cardinal logo your whole life and even when I was playing (for the Texans), you always check up on your hometown team and everything and keep up with the draft picks and how they’re doing. Now, I’m in the locker room saying, ‘What’s up, man?'”
Despite his free-agent status before the Cardinals signed Lopez, the defensive lineman could very well make an impact early on, if he can get up to speed in a hurry.
Entering the league in 2021 with the Texans, Lopez quickly made his way up the depth chart behind 15 starts across 16 games played. He added 14 more through a complete season in his second year.
The added time on task resulted in two sacks, 11 tackles for loss, five QB hits and a pass defensed. And above all else, it gave Lopez valuable experience that is already evident within the walls of the Cardinals training facility.
“He’s quick, instinctive, has striking ability and smart, so I’m excited to get him out here and get him going,” head coach Jonathan Gannon said Wednesday.
“I’ve got high hopes for him, and he was awesome in the meeting (Wednesday),” the head coach added. “He conceptually understands what’s going on. He’s playing a little different system than he’s played in coming here, but I like his skillset and I like his brain.”
If Lopez can nail down the intricacies of his new defense ahead of Week 4’s tilt against the San Francisco 49ers, there’s a very good chance he’ll hear his number called come Sunday.
With Jonathan Ledbetter missing practice on Wednesday with a finger issue, the Cardinals have just four defensive linemen without an injury designation currently on the active roster.
For a defensive unit that hangs its hat on rotating much of the front seven, having every man on deck is huge for the unit’s success.
His involvement Sunday will all come down to if defensive coordinator Nick Rallis and Co. trust that Lopez picked up the playbook enough to be an asset rather than a liability.
Because from the sounds of it, Lopez already has the rest covered.
“I feel great. I’ve been blessed to be able to have played the game early in my career,” the lineman said. “I was appreciative of Houston every single day and still am. That opportunity to play there was amazing.
“Just being around, being one of the guys and play in those games, you learn the flow of the game, learn the intensity of the game and understand that every play, every snap, every series counts. It’s something I won’t take for granted. I’ll be ready.”
Mom’s home cooking
One of the best perks of Lopez returning to his home state as a member of the Cardinals?
Getting some of his mom’s home cooking.
“Monday when I signed officially, I went home and had some tacos. That happened,” Lopez said. “She tried to have another celebratory meal last night. I told her, ‘OK, I got to start eating better now.’
“She literally texted me yesterday like, ‘Tacos? Enchiladas? Tostadas? What you thinking?’ Mom, I’m going to have some chicken and rice. Leave me be. Let me lock back in. It’s been great. They’re excited. I don’t even think they know what to do with themselves. They’re just looking forward to whenever I touch the field.”
Lopez has seen plenty of Cardinals games growing up.
His favorite memory, though, happens to come from one of Arizona’s biggest games as a franchise.
What was Valley native and #AZCardinals DL Roy Lopez’s favorite Cards memory growing up?
Watching his dad “catch air” during Super Bowl XLIII. 😂😂 pic.twitter.com/uX1CxPoNon
— Tyler Drake (@Tdrake4sports) September 27, 2023
“If (my dad) sees this, he’s probably going to be so mad at me,” Lopez said with a smile. “Super Bowl, they played the Steelers of course. Everybody knows the play, Larry Fitzgerald down the middle of the field.
“My dad’s a big dude and he has this Lazy-E Boy chair at the time. We’re sitting there watching the Super Bowl, we’re locked in, we’re cheering and Larry Fitz broke down the middle of the field and it was the first time I’ve ever seen my dad catch air. Just jumped up with both hands in the air. I can’t wait until he sees this (interview).”