Dealing Cards: Avoid anxiety, keep D.J.’s emotions in check and starting in rare air

Sep 9, 2016, 4:13 PM | Updated: Sep 10, 2016, 6:47 pm
FILE - In this Aug. 28, 2016, file photo, Arizona Cardinals running back Chris Johnson (23) warms u...
FILE - In this Aug. 28, 2016, file photo, Arizona Cardinals running back Chris Johnson (23) warms up prior to an NFL preseason football game against the Houston Texans in Houston. Johnson was on his way to his seventh 1,000-yard season in eight years before getting hurt last season. He ran for 814 yards in 11 games. His injury gave David Johnson an opportunity to play more and he was dynamic. The Cardinals are good hands with either Johnson, but expect David to get the ball more than Chris. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson, File)
(AP Photo/Jeff Roberson, File)

TEMPE, Ariz. — As will be the case every day in which the Cardinals practice during the season, we will provide a notebook that features some interesting tidbits that will not necessarily be turned into full-fledged stories during the week. It will be called “Dealing Cards,” because puns are fun and a better name was not thought of.

Anyway, Friday was for the most part uneventful at the facility, as it usually is. You have to remember, we’ve had all week to talk to players and coaches to learn whatever we were hoping to, so by now there is not much left to discover.

Instead, we reporters generally use the last day of the practice week to find out any last injury information, tie up loose ends with stories and learn a couple tidbits that may be useful heading into the game.

First, the injury news

Hopefully everyone has enjoyed this week’s injury report because this is likely as short and painless as it’s going to be. Coach Bruce Arians said LB Kareem Martin (knee) was the only player who did not practice Friday, with everyone else either being full-go or limited in some capacity.

The entire injury report for both the Cardinals and Patriots (for whom there plenty of “questionable” players, including TE Rob Gronkowski) can be found here.

No stress here

All week there has been talk about the excitement of finally getting the regular season underway, and that itself is very understandable. The Cardinals have Super Bowl aspirations, and Sunday marks their first chance to really build toward that goal.

Arians, however, said while he has sensed the team’s excitement, the last thing he wants is for the players to be anxious.

“You can feel it, but it’s still a long ways away,” he said. “You can burn up a lot of energy with anxiety trying to get ready today when you don’t play until Sunday night.”

The coach, who is in his fourth season with Arizona, said it’s not just the young players who have to learn to relax a bit at this time of year.

“You have to remind them all — Carson (Palmer), all of them,” he said. “Because there’s a natural reaction to start getting excited, and it’s not time yet.”

D.J.’s time has finally arrived

By now, everyone is well aware of the fact that D.J. Humphries was inactive for every single game last season. The 2015 first-round pick went into this year’s offseason penciled in as the starting right tackle, and though there were some bumps along the way, he held onto the job and will start Sunday evening against the Patriots.

Thursday, offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin mentioned how the second-year pro will need to keep his emotions in check Sunday. That was an issue at times in the preseason, and it’s something Humphries knows he has to be better with. That said, he feels ready to go.

“Trying to keep it all in, trying not to be amped up and all over the place,” he said. “Trying to remember all the stuff, all of the naysayers and all the talk and all the craziness that was going on last year — I haven’t forgotten any of that. So trying to use that as fuel, but not getting too riled up to where I’m all out of whack.”

Arians said he expects Humphries to have a natural hype — some of which they want — but noted it must be controlled.

The 22-year-old admitted it is challenging for him to not get too riled up because he is a little high strung as a person.

“It’s kind of tough, but I’ve got a good group of guys around me that know me and they know how to reign me in when I get a little too far out there,” he said.

As for who is best at keeping him in check? Humphries pointed to veteran right guard Evan Mathis.

“Me and Evan have got a deal when I just make a stupid mistake, he’s allowed to smack me upside the helmet,” he said. “It only happened once so far, but that’s our deal.”

Humphries, with a laugh, added that if anyone sees Mathis smack him in the helmet, it’s important to know everything is under control.

Oh, and as for Goodwin’s comment Thursday that Humphries “is always going to be ‘Knee Deep'” to him, the player did not seem to take much offense.

“I’m the youngest guy on the line, so it’s kind of always going to be — for the next couple of years — it’s always going to be that kind of a leash, like don’t get too far out there,” he said. “It’s kind of something that he’s got to do as a coach.

“And I just, me on my end, just holding up my end of the bargain and being coachable and listening to everything I’m supposed to do, taking all the good stuff with the bad, keeping everything in motion.”

Super Bowl aspirations are not always present

Before joining the Cardinals last year, Chris Johnson had spent seven seasons playing for the Tennessee Titans and New York Jets. He had appeared in just one playoff game, however, a 2008 Divisional Round game which Tennessee lost at home to the Baltimore Ravens.

It’s part of why he was so bummed about missing the Cardinals’ run to the NFC Championship Game last season, because he of all people knows how rare the chance to play in the playoffs is.

But heading into this season, the Cardinals are not just eyeing a playoff berth. They fancy themselves Super Bowl contenders, and that feeling is one Johnson said does not permeate every locker room. Sometimes, he said, players expect an uphill climb from Week 1.

“I’ve had a couple seasons like that when I was with Tennessee, when I was with New York,” he said. “But it just feels different; being here just feels different because you know most teams that go that far, even make it to the Super Bowl or anything like that, you know a lot of people want to get paid and you know the team splits up, every year it’s a different team.

“I’ve just never been a part of a team where the whole entire offense came back the next year and added more pieces.”

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Dealing Cards: Avoid anxiety, keep D.J.’s emotions in check and starting in rare air