Dealing Cards: Prideful Jermaine Gresham provides emotional spark for team

Dec 28, 2016, 6:21 PM | Updated: Dec 29, 2016, 5:35 pm
Arizona Cardinals tight end Jermaine Gresham carries the ball after a catching a pass against the S...
Arizona Cardinals tight end Jermaine Gresham carries the ball after a catching a pass against the Seattle Seahawks in the first half of an NFL football game, Saturday, Dec. 24, 2016, in Seattle. (AP Photo/John Froschauer)
(AP Photo/John Froschauer)

TEMPE, Ariz. — Jermaine Gresham has been an Arizona Cardinal for nearly two full seasons now, and though his statistical impact has been rather negligible, his impact on the team cannot be understated.

The seventh-year tight end who has caught 37 passes for 391 yards and two touchdowns this season has worn his emotions on his sleeves and helped serve as inspiration to the rest of his teammates, even if that is not his intention.

“That’s just me, going out there and playing,” Gresham said. “I put a lot into it so I have a lot of pride. That’s pretty much it.”

Quiet off the field but not so much on it, the 28-year-old’s journey as a Cardinal has been at times a bumpy one. He first signed early in training camp in 2015 while still recovering from a back injury, and in 15 games last season caught just 18 passes for 223 yards and one touchdown. A small part of the passing game, Gresham often earned rave reviews for his blocking.

“A lot,” QB Carson Palmer said of what Gresham means to the team. “Just starting in the run game and with the intensity he plays with, the passion he plays with. He’s a physical specimen; he can block defensive ends, he can catch the ball, and you’ve seen him run people over and stiff-arm people.

“He just brings a fire and a passion. He loves the game, he loves practice, he loves being out there, and it’s contagious.”

Palmer added that if there is a lull in a game or people are tired, they need to take a look at Gresham, who is bouncing around, fired up and “blocking people and telling them about it” for a little extra motivation.

“That intensity is contagious and it rubs off on all of us,” the QB said.

Gresham did not come to the Cardinals an unknown, as he was a two-time Pro Bowler with the Cincinnati Bengals. He caught a career-high 64 passes in 2012, and posted a line of 62 receptions, 460 yards and five touchdowns a season prior to joining the Cardinals.

But while his passionate play has led to some impressive moments, it has also at times cost the Cardinals. In last Saturday’s win over the Seattle Seahawks, a personal foul penalty on the tight end for taunting took Arizona out of field goal range. It was not the first flag Gresham earned for some post-play actions, as just a few weeks ago in Miami he cost the Cardinals 15 yards due to an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty in which he got into an opponent’s face and had some choice words.

Now, in the case of what happened in Seattle, replays showed Gresham was on the receiving end of a cheap shot from Seahawks cornerback Jeremy Lane — one the officials did not see or penalize — and then while Gresham was on the ground, Seattle defensive lineman Frank Clark went over and said something that set the tight end off.

After the play, Cardinals coach Bruce Arians was caught having a conversation with Gresham.

“Just calm down,” Arians said of what message he relayed. “You only get one of those — one more and you’re out of the game. We can’t lose you; we’ve got to have you.”

Gresham went on to catch just one pass for six yards after the second quarter-penalty, and finished the game with 40 yards on two receptions.

“It means a lot coming from B.A., that being said,” Gresham said of his coach’s support. “Just getting my emotions intact. It means a lot coming from B.A., having the support of your commander in chief, even through a tough time like that — I kind of lost my emotions there for a minute — and him still standing behind me says a lot about his character as a person.”

Gresham’s personal fouls notwithstanding, Palmer praised Gresham’s maturation over the years. The two were teammates in Cincinnati in 2010 when the tight end was a rookie first-round pick out of Oklahoma, and Gresham said that bond is part of the reason why he came to Arizona in the first place.

“There’s been times where I go out there and I kind of do my own thing, and he still finds me,” Gresham said. “So that’s just a rapport that we have, he just knows me very well, so that’s kudos to him.”

The Palmer-to-Gresham connection has been a solid one, and the tight end’s ability to help in the run game has not gone unnoticed. He has also produced some violent stiff-arms and at times been incredibly difficult to tackle. It has all come together at a good time for Gresham, as he is once again scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent.

Last offseason, he took less money to sign a one-year contract because he believed in what the Cardinals were doing. Going into this offseason, he said he feels the same way.

“I still have faith in this team,” he said. “More than anything, just a couple situational things this year that didn’t go our way. We didn’t play our best football but that doesn’t have anything to do about how we play.”

Injury update

The official injury report can be found here, and in it you’ll see receivers John Brown and Larry Fitzgerald as well as QB Carson Palmer and DT Frostee Rucker all missed Wednesday. There is nothing to see with them missing time, however, as all have been held out of practice on Wednesdays for rest and recovery. Defensive lineman Ed Stinson was sick, while cornerback Marcus Cooper — who missed Saturday’s win over the Seahawks — was limited.

Catanzaro comes through

Much has been made of Chandler Catanzaro’s struggles in clutch situations this season.

There was the miss that potentially cost the Cardinals a win over New England as well as the one that did prevent a victory against Seattle. There were other kicks, too, like miscues in Miami in a loss to the Dolphins.

Even last Saturday, against the Seahawks, Catanzaro came up short on a 53-yard attempt in the third quarter. But unlike in other games he missed kicks, in this one he had another shot late to come through.

And come through he did, as the third-year pro drilled a 43-yard attempt through the uprights as time expired to lift the Cardinals to a victory. Needless to say, it felt good.

“That was a powerful moment for me, for sure,” Catanzaro said. “Definitely got a lot of confidence from it. I’m glad that opportunity came when it did.

“Like I said on Saturday, I’m just thankful for my teammates for setting it up; I’m proud of them for how they played. We’re never going to say die, like I said Saturday, we’re always going to fight, we’re going to claw.”

It was not the first game-winning kick of Catanzaro’s career, after he had a pair last season in victories over the Bengals and Vikings, but it was the first time he made one on the road.

Add in the fact that the clock was running and everyone had to get on the field, get set and run the play in a manner of seconds, and it was an experience Catanzaro won’t soon forget.

The snap was on target, the hold was good and the kick split the uprights as time expired. On that play, everything worked the way it was supposed to.

“That was a cool moment and something I’ll always remember,” he said. “Very powerful; it was definitely a moment of redemption and I’m just thankful the opportunity came when it did to finish the season strong.”

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