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All-Access with Bruce Arians: J.J. Nelson banged up with groin injury

Bruce Arians at Cardinals camp on Aug. 1, 2016. (Adam Green/Arizona Sports)

GLENDALE, Ariz. – Head coach Bruce Arians, now in his fourth year with the Arizona Cardinals, meets the media each day during training camp.

Here, in this space, we’ll highlight many of the key topics and personnel conversations he has with reporters following the morning walk-through.

“New injuries: J.J. Nelson has got a groin, Frank Okafor tweaked an ankle, Ed Stinson got kicked in the calf so he’ll be out today. The only serious one, we don’t know the extent, Alani Fua has got a knee. He’s undergoing an MRI now, so we’ll find out hopefully this afternoon it’s not too bad. But, the normal bumps and bruises of training camp. Expect to get some guys back Thursday (after Wednesday’s off day). Carson (Palmer) has a scheduled day off today. Larry (Fitzgerald) was scheduled but we got some receivers down, so he’s going to go a little bit.

“I thought yesterday’s practice, tempo and everything was good, we just always had 10 men playing. There was one guy screwing it up every other play. Kind of ruined a good practice because it’s an 11-man game. It only takes one. The last hour of practice, fatigue set in a little bit on us and we had some mental errors, and that’s when the one-man stuff started and we got to clean that up. Other than that, pretty pleased.”

Who do you expect to get back Thursday?

“Hopefully (Jermaine) Gresham, possibly John Brown, Okafor, (Evan) Mathis, possibly J.J. Depends.”

What did you see from Deone Bucannon that led you to believe he could play inside?

“Well, he was one of our best 11 and he was sitting on the bench, and you want your best 11 out there. He showed in nickel (packages) that he could handle reading the front and seeing it the box, and it was just natural to move him to the base (package) so that we always have that much speed on the field.”

How does that—and more teams are doing that now, playing a safety in the box—affect offenses?

“It really doesn’t. It matters in coverage. You got speed, your mismatches aren’t quite as great if you’re on safeties versus linebackers, but you still think you can run at them. You don’t really want to run at Buck because that’s what he loves. They’re kind of rare breeds to find.”

He refuses to call himself anything but a safety.

“Yeah, he’s a dollar linebacker. He’s a money linebacker.”

Was there a moment when you realized what you had in David Johnson?

“The first day. You knew what you had. You knew what you had in training camp. It’s was just a matter of not overloading him to where he slowed down because he was thinking and putting him in positions he was very comfortable. Like most rookies, you want them ready at Thanksgiving when you’re really going to need them. He got thrown into the fire early. The role just kept increasing and opportunities just kept coming his way. When you make the best of your opportunities, Wally Pip. You forget about that other guy.”

Last year Ifeanyi Momah had a really good training camp before getting hurt. Is he still the same player this year?

“He’s getting there. The knee is starting to get healthy. He’s starting to make plays that he was making in camp last year. He was a true mismatch in the passing game, but he still has to improve as a blocker.”

What does he have to do to improve as a blocker?

“Blocking somebody; not having your ass come backwards.”

Chris Johnson said he talked to you before he made the decision to return. How often do you get involved in those types of things?

“It’s very rare. I don’t deal at all with contracts. Don’t want to. But when he checked out (in his exit interview), he felt very comfortable here and we felt very comfortable having him. Just happy it worked out.”

Gresham, too, decided to return. How surprised were you that they both decided to return?

“I’ve never seen it the league before to turn down money, guaranteed money, to stay on the team that they really enjoyed playing with. It speaks volumes of the culture of the locker room.”

You’ve had great relationships with your quarterbacks in the past. Is there anything unique about your relationship with Palmer that’s different?

“Yeah, his age. I’ve always had young guys and you brought them up and then you watch them have kids. He came in with three kids and now has four. He’s my first California guy. It’s different. He don’t like that (laughs).”

Jared Veldheer added weight in the offseason, putting on 20-30 pounds. Did you think he needed to that?

“Yeah. When he first got here, he was a mountain. Last year, he was a pole. He got on one of those health diets and he lost way too much weight and it showed up on the field. He was getting bull-rushed more than the first two years.”

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