TEMPE, Ariz. – Cardinals coach Bruce Arians ruled tight end Rob Housler out of Sunday’s game at St. Louis with an ankle injury, leaving the Cardinals without their primary offensive tight end and a significant cog to Arians’ scheme.
It’s likely rookie D.C. Jefferson will get the start in place of Housler. Jim Dray will start on the other side.
“I had this game marked on my calendar not just for the opener but it was a divisional game,” Housler said. “It’s really important that we get started off on the right foot. Didn’t want to get started off on this foot. Disappointed.”
Housler’s absence takes away an irreplaceable option for quarterback Carson Palmer. The 6-foot-5, 250-pound Housler had improved his pass protection during the offseason and Arians was planning on using him to spread the field coming off the line.
The three active tight ends for Sunday – Jefferson, Dray and Kory Sperry – enter this season with a combined two catches for 15 yards, all credited to Dray. Housler had 45 receptions for 417 yards in 2012.
But Arians has faith in his tight ends. He said Jefferson has shown improvement on a daily basis and has learned how to practice better, a likely byproduct of post-practice work sessions with Larry Fitzgerald. Sperry’s ankle that caused him to miss time in training camp is almost healed, Arians said.
And Dray has been steady and consistent.
“He does everything right,” Arians said. “Not flashy but it all gets done and it all gets done correctly. That’s the kind of guys you count on.”
Housler suffered a high right ankle sprain in the Cardinals’ third preseason game Aug. 24 against the San Diego Chargers. Arians has said throughout the week that he’d rather Housler wait to return fully healed than risk the injury linger throughout the year.
“I can’t play because I can’t play,” Housler said. “It’s not a maybe kinda thing. I just wouldn’t be an asset to the team. It’s hard to swallow but its one of those things you can’t really do anything about.”