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A.Q. Shipley sees training camp as opportunity to secure starting center job

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Even before Arizona Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said Friday that the starting center job was A.Q. Shipley's to lose, the veteran offensive lineman had already adopted that mindset.

“I feel like I played well all spring,” Shipley told ESPN. “I feel like I played well when I got my opportunities last year. I know the system inside and out. The guys feel comfortable with me. It’s a matter of going out and doing it. It’s never been a can he or can he not get it done.

“I’ve started a bunch of games in this league and I’ve got it done every time I’ve played under Bruce and under other guys, so it’s just a matter of getting that opportunity.”

Shipley, who has been the first-team center since the Cardinals began OTAs in May, was in the same position at the same point in training camp last season. He was the first-team center all offseason and for the first week of training camp until Arizona re-signed Lyle Sendlein.

Overnight, Shipley was demoted to the second team.

“It had nothing to do with A.Q.,” Arians said. “It was with who was behind him. We just wanted to go with competition. And in all fairness, A.Q. never lost the job. I gave it to Lyle.”

While that’s unlikely to happen again this year, Shipley’s competition is coming from two players who don’t have much experience at center. Rookie Evan Boehm, who was drafted in the fourth round out of Missouri, may be the center of the future but he’s still learning the Cardinals’ system. Earl Watford, who impressed coaches this offseason by showing his versatility in playing all five positions, also took reps at center during OTAs and minicamp.

But Shipley has something on his resume that neither of his two competitors have: game experience under Arians. He started five games for Arians in Indianapolis in 2012 and one game at center last season, when the Cardinals ran for a season-high 230 yards. He also was on the Pittsburgh Steelers’ practice squad in 2009, when Arians was the offensive coordinator.

“This is essentially my fifth year with Goody (offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin) and B.A.,” Shipley said. “I’m very confident. I’ve been with (assistant offensive line coach Larry) Zierlein for three out of those five years, too.

“I feel confident. I know the system. I know what everybody’s supposed to do. I know the adjustments. I can see things. I’m going into my eighth year overall. Everything slows down each year. That’s definitely an advantage for sure.”

Despite directing the offensive line during the run game’s best performance last season, Shipley knows what the knocks are against him: He’s undersized at 6-foot-1 and 307 pounds, and has short arms.

“I think that’s always kind of something I’ll have to battle and something I’ve always battled,” Shipley said. “I think at the end of the day when I get a chance to go out to play, I can play.

“Whatever I did for B.A. I still haven’t done that for the front office guys. I had to go out and prove that I can get the job done. I think they feel a lot more comfortable in that sense. I’m looking at it like it’s mine. I’m going to go out and do whatever best I can and play the best I can and get the job.”