A.Q. Shipley: I think I’m the guy at center for the Arizona Cardinals
TEMPE, Ariz. — Flashback one year: Arizona Cardinals center A.Q. Shipley anchored the first-team offensive line throughout offseason workouts only to lose the job in training camp.
This year, Shipley once again finds himself being the first player to touch the football in organized team activities. And yet again, his hold on the position is unclear.
Last week, offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin called the center spot an “open competition” between Shipley and rookie Evan Boehm, with reserve lineman Earl Watford also in the mix.
Shipley, 30, welcomes the competition.
“I think I’m the guy; that’s the way I approach it,” he said this week.
Last season, Shipley appeared in 12 games with three starts, twice as a fullback and once at center in Week 15 at Philadelphia with Lyle Sendlein injured.
In that game, the Cardinals rushed for a season-best 230 yards and three touchdowns on 39 attempts. The yards gained on the ground were the most by the team in over four years.
“I’ve just got to do what I’ve always done and that’s go out and play. I can’t sit here and worry about it,” Shipley said, referring to the center competition. “In the Philadelphia game I played against Fletcher Cox, who’s about to sign a $100-million deal, and I played pretty well. We ran for 230 yards. When I get an opportunity to play, I can play.
“We’re playing against an all-pro defense every day, so you’ve got no choice but to get better.”
Whether it’s Shipley or Boehm, or maybe even someone else — Sendlein remains unsigned — whoever is under center Week 1 against New England, the coaches will make that decision, though likely not until late in training camp or the preseason.
In the meantime, Shipley and Boehm have already begun to form a bond.
Yes, they’re competing for the same job, but the competition can only make each of them — and ultimately, the team — better.
“He’s great,” Shipley said of Boehm, who the Cardinals drafted in the fourth-round out of Missouri. “I’ve been the young guy before. I’ve been kind of on the younger side of things. It’s kind of your job as the older guy to kind of bring them along, and that’s what I’m trying to do. I’m trying to teach him everything I can. I’ve been in this system five years out of eight that I’ve been in (the NFL) — not here, obviously, but with (head coach) Bruce (Arians) in the same system — so I know it inside and out, and I’ve been just trying to give him little tips here and there.”
Not all veterans approach rookies that way.
Shipley, though, knows only one way.
When Shipley entered the league with Pittsburgh in 2009, he learned under Justin Hartwig and then later Samson Satele in Indianapolis and, of course, Sendlein last season.
“I’m a team guy,” Shipley said. “If (Boehm) is making a bunch of mistakes or whatever, then it looks bad on the whole group. We all kind of try and bring the younger guys along, that’s just kind of how we do it here.”
How important is the center position in the Cardinals offense? Extremely important.
“Leadership is the big thing because he comes up and identifies the defense,” Arians said. “He sets us, calls all the blocking schemes, so there’s a lot going on there. The quarterback can override everything, but the center sets everything for us.”
Again, Shipley is confident he can do the job, just as he was a year ago before Sendlein beat him out.
“I’ve worked hard,” he said. “I proved when I went in against Philadelphia last year that I can play. I’ve started 20-plus games in this league, and I’ve proved I can play each and every time I get an opportunity to. I’m going in with the mindset that I’m going to work as hard as I can to be the guy. Whatever happens long-term, that’s their decision. I can’t control that, but I’m going in thinking I’m the guy.”