Arizona Cardinals: Lyle Sendlein

Cardinals Camp Report: Day 5

July, 30, 2014
Jul 30
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Arizona Cardinals training camp:
  • Justin Bethel's ascent up the depth chart continued Wednesday. With Antonio Cromartie out with a pectoral injury, Bethel was part of the Cardinals' nickel and dime packages. He played wide corner in both schemes, with Jerraud Powers playing nickel back. In base, Powers has filled in for Cromartie at corner opposite Patrick Peterson. Bethel had an interception late in practice and showed his speed weaving between offense players. Bethel might have made the most improvement among his teammates this offseason and it should pay off with more opportunities to earn playing time.
  • Even though he’s dealing with a calf injury and didn’t dress for practice, Lyle Sendlein played center for Carson Palmer during 7-on-7 drills. The more Sendlein can continue to work with Palmer during non-contact drills, the more they can keep up the connection they’ve developed over the past year.
  • During an early drill, Bruce Arians called over Peterson and discussed arm and hand placement during press coverage. Even though Peterson just signed a $70 million extension, he’s not immune from a little coaching.
  • Anthony McCloud played nose tackle with the first team during most of Wednesday’s practice. Dan Williams is expected to return Friday, when the Cardinals practice next.
  • All of Arizona’s tight ends have looked good during camp thus far. Rookie Troy Niklas, still playing with a soft cast on his right hand, made an impressive catch for a touchdown through three defensive backs.
  • The kicking battle continued, with incumbent starter Jay Feely making all eight of his kicks. By my count, Danny Hrapmann made three-of-four.
  • LB Ernie Sims didn't practice Wednesday. Neither did RB Damien Thigpen.
GLENDALE, Ariz. – Carson Palmer took every snap of the 2013 season from one center.

So, when Lyle Sendlein went down early in Monday’s Arizona Cardinals practice with a calf injury, it was expected that Palmer would need time to adjust to his new center, Ted Larsen. Palmer fumbled their first snap, but after that, Palmer found Larsen’s sweet spot and their snaps were seamless for the rest of practice.

“You get so used to one guy and then all of a sudden another guy comes in, you just got to find out where to put your hands and where where he consistently snaps the ball,” Palmer said. “And Ted snaps it consistently to one spot, and I found the spot, and it’s not an issue anymore.”

Sendlein is expected to miss the next three weeks, Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said Tuesday morning. He’s aiming to have Sendlein, an eight-year veteran who went undrafted out of Texas, back for the third or fourth preseason game. That will give Sendlein and Palmer a chance to rekindle their routine.

“Lyle’s as integral a part of this offense as anybody is,” Palmer said. “He’s very, very underrated. (He’s) been a very good player for a long time. Really, really smart, very poised. Helps everybody out around him. So, when you lose that guy, it’s obviously a blow, but it’s a great opportunity.”

For the next few weeks, Larsen will be in charge of dictating protections and making sure there’s a smooth exchange at center. Until Monday, when Larsen replaced Sendlein, he practiced as a backup guard and occasionally at center. Larsen has started 31 of 60 career games, but playing with the first team this week has been a reminder of how competitive the first team is.

“It’s a lot more competition,” Larsen said. “It’s the ones, so it’s fast.”

Palmer said Larsen’s camp experience will benefit 27-year-old, especially after Sendlein returns. Larsen isn’t expected to be a starter this year, but he’ll likely be kept on the roster as the backup swing guard and center.

“I think when Lyle does get back, it’ll make him a better guard just having that experience at center,” Palmer said. “Making the calls, being the guy that everybody’s listening to and then when you go back to guard, you’re probably making the same calls at the same time Lyle is just because of the experience he has there.”

It will be tough for Palmer and Larsen to recreate the chemistry that Palmer shares with Sendlein, but Palmer isn’t concerned about Sendlein falling behind during the most important time of camp. If adjustments are made to blocking schemes or the offense, Sendlein has been absorbing those from the sideline.

Having a few weeks off from camp while still being engaged mentally is a good thing for Sendlein, Arians said.

“He’s a veteran. He knows what he’s doing,” Arians said. “It’s a blessing in a lot of ways. He stays healthier and some young guys get a lot of good reps.”

Cardinals Camp Report: Day 3

July, 28, 2014
Jul 28
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Arizona Cardinals training camp:
  • Another day, another injury. This time it was starting center Lyle Sendlein who was missing for the majority of practice. He suffered a left calf injury and was replaced by veteran offensive lineman Ted Larsen. Sendlein has been durable, missing just five games since his rookie season. Larsen is in his fifth season. Cardinals coach Bruce Arians will address Sendlein's injury Tuesday morning when he meets the media.
  • One of the most asked questions leading into the first day with pads was whether or not John Brown would be as fast with pads on as he is without them? He answered that quickly, connecting with Drew Stanton for an 82-yard touchdown pass in which he outran safeties Rashad Johnson and Curtis Taylor.
  • A day after announcing he wasn't playing offense anymore, cornerback Patrick Peterson began Monday's practice going through foot drills with the quarterbacks and running short goal line routes during their warm-ups.
  • One of the lighter moments of practice came when punter Dave Zastudil hit tackle Kelvin Palmer for a touchdown pass on a fake field goal. The 6-foot-4, 290-pound Palmer went airborne for the pass over a defender and came down for the score.
  • As the kicking competition continues, Jay Feely went 4-for-5 on Monday, making two kicks from 48 yards, and a kick from 45 and 46 while missing a 33-yarder. Danny Hrapmann made kicks from 33, 45 and 46 while missing a 48-yarder.
There are a few positions in this year's NFL draft that were deep enough to draw the notice of Arizona Cardinals general manager Steve Keim.

Wide receiver was one. The other was tackle. And the latter is good news for the Cardinals.

Keim made it clear last week Arizona will contemplate drafting at every position during their six picks this week, right tackle included. Common sense says starting left tackle and guard are the only positions at which Arizona is locked in. For the first time in recent memory, the left side of the Cardinals' line is solidified with the offseason signing of left tackle Jared Veldheer and the return of left guard Jonathan Cooper from a broken leg. Center Lyle Sendlein has been steady and consistent in the middle.

But it's the right side that's questionable heading into the draft.

Right guard Paul Fanaika returns as the incumbent starter while right tackle is up for grabs between Bradley Sowell and Bobby Massie. All three are able but the Cardinals won't hesitate if an upgrade is on the draft board.

"Obviously Bradley did a nice job on the left side last year," Keim said. "We'll see how he can transition to the right side and then Bobby Massie is a guy that has all the physical tools but we've talked about it over and over -- it's up to him. He's a guy that you hope develops. Only time will tell."

The Cardinals may not give Massie or Sowell much time to prove themselves, especially if they can land a tackle in the first or second round. Of the top six tackle prospects, it's unlikely Auburn's Greg Robinson, Texas A&M's Jake Matthews and Michigan's Taylor Lewan will be available when the Cardinals draft at 20th. That leaves the possibility of Notre Dame's Zack Martin, Virginia's Morgan Moses and Alabama's Cyrus Kouandjio.

In last year's draft, tackles were the position du jour with three going in the top four picks. This year's class is even deeper, Arizona vice president of player personnel Terry McDonough said.

"We were talking today that, possibly, any of the top four tackles (in this year's draft) could've gone one overall in the draft last year," he said.

Yet while a tackle is on Arizona's radar, the best-player-available philosophy may lead the Cardinals to another option come pick No. 20 or No. 52. Finding a good fit on the offensive line has long been a conundrum for the Cardinals.

Arizona drafted five offensive linemen in 2012 and 2013 combined, but that was after not picking any in the two years prior. Since 1970, the Cardinals have picked seven offensive linemen in the first round.

In the last 10 years, 13 of Arizona's 72 draft picks were offensive linemen.

The Cardinals will be looking again this year, but the question this year becomes will they find a right tackle to solidify the whole line? And when?
Monday marks the start of the Arizona Cardinals' offseason conditioning program under new strength and conditioning coach Buddy Morris.

They’ll see two new faces in the weight room this year in Morris, who has a long history with Bruce Arians from their days together in Cleveland and sharing a facility in Pittsburgh, and Roger Kingdom, a two-time Olympic gold medalist in the 110-meter hurdles, who was hired as the Cards’ speed coach.

But for 17 players, the start of conditioning doesn’t just mark the first organized activity for the Cardinals since they lost to San Francisco, 23-20, on Dec. 29. It means they can start earning their offseason workout bonuses. While 100 percent participation usually isn’t required, teams typically mandate that players participate in 80-90 percent of the team’s offseason workouts.

The largest workout bonus that can be earned this offseason is $250,000 each by quarterback Drew Stanton, wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, defensive end Calais Campbell and defensive tackle Darnell Dockett.

The list of potential workout bonuses:

With the Arizona Cardinals' remaining cap space steady the last couple of weeks, it’s a good time to look at who’s taking up the largest portion of the Cardinals’ cap space. According to the most recent numbers by ESPN Stats & Information, Arizona’s cap space this week is $4,522,983, which changed slightly from last week because of the release of LaRon Byrd and Dan Giordano.

Two weeks ago, free agency kicked off with a flurry of moves. The Arizona Cardinals joined the frenzy almost immediately. During the last 14 days, the Cardinals have been steadily active and made improvements to their lineup -- some significant, some not so much.

Only two positions are truly open at the moment: right tackle and strong safety. The Cardinals will try to fill both of those in the draft if they can’t find other options through a trade or the rest of free agency.

Here’s an updated look at Arizona’s 2014 lineup as of today (new starters in bold):


QB: Carson Palmer

RB: Andre Ellington (Rashard Mendenhall retired)

TE: Rob Housler

TE: Jake Ballard (Jim Dray signed with Cleveland)

WR: Larry Fitzgerald

WR: Michael Floyd

RT: (Eric Winston -- free agent)

RG: Paul Fanaika

C: Lyle Sendlein

LG: Jonathan Cooper (Daryn Colledge released)

LT: Jared Veldheer (Bradley Sowell)


DE: Calais Campbell

NT: Dan Williams

DT: Darnell Dockett

OLB: John Abraham

ILB: Kevin Minter (Karlos Dansby signed with Cleveland)

ILB: Daryl Washington

OLB: Matt Shaughnessy (re-signed)

CB: Patrick Peterson

CB: Antonio Cromartie (Jerraud Powers)

FS: Rashad Johnson/Tyrann Mathieu

SS: (Yeremiah Bell -- free agent)


K: Jay Feely (re-signed)

P: Dave Zastudil

LS: Mike Leach

KR: Ted Ginn Jr. (Javier Arenas signed with Atlanta)

PR: Patrick Peterson
Starter: Eric Winston, Paul Fanaika, Lyle Sendlein, Daryn Colledge, Bradley Sowell

Backup: Nate Potter, Mike Gibson, Earl Watford, Bobby Massie

Injured: Jonathan Cooper

Under contract in 2014: Fanaika, Sendlein, Colledge, Cooper, Sowell, Potter, Watford and Massie

Cash committed in '13: $21.8 million

Cap committed in '13: $19 million

Recap: Like the rest of the Cardinals' offense, the offensive line started the season out with much work to be done. It allowed 23 sacks in the first eight games and then 18 after that. Relying on three veteran anchors -- Winston, Sendlein and Colledge -- head coach Bruce Arians added two young, inexperienced players to the mix in Fanaika and Sowell and by the midway point of the season they were all in sync. But that wouldn't have happened had Arizona not traded left tackle Levi Brown after Week 4 and promoted Sowell to a starting role. The Cardinals' offensive line was ranked 32nd by Pro Football Focus, but it performed better than the critics said during the final eight games. The line will get younger in 2014 with Colledge already released and second-year player Jonathan Cooper assuming the starting left guard job.
With free agency approaching in less than a month, teams are in crunch time when it comes to figuring out who is worth keeping for 2014 and who isn’t. And it all comes down cap room.

The Arizona Cardinals got some breathing room last week when star receiver Larry Fitzgerald restructured his mega deal, giving Arizona about $10 million in cap space to work with during free agency, which officially begins at 2 p.m. MT on March 11.

Until then, Arizona will be working around the clock to determine if players still under contract in 2014 are worth keeping.

Here’s a look at the all the Cardinals’ cap numbers for 2014 that are more than $2 million:

QB Carson Palmer - $12 million

DE Calais Campbell - $11.25 million

DE Darnell Dockett - $8.75 million

WR Larry Fitzgerald - $8.6 million

G Daryn Colledge - $7.275 million

LB Daryl Washington - $6 million

CB Patrick Peterson - $5.864 million

CB Jerraud Powers - $4.75 million

C Lyle Sendlein - $4.125 million

DE John Abraham - $3.375 million

LG Jonathan Cooper - $3.3 million

WR Michael Floyd - $2.72 million

QB Drew Stanton - $2.67 million

LB Jasper Brinkley - $2.2 million

NT Dan Williams - $2.185 million

S Rashad Johnson - $2.133 million
Bruce AriansAP Photo/Ross D. FranklinArizona Cardinals coach Bruce Arians has his team pointing towards the postseason.
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- For the first 11 weeks of the season, Bruce Arians would stand at the podium following wins and losses and dissect the Arizona Cardinals' performance.

He’d talk about big plays, crucial stops, failed third-down conversions and the Cards’ inability to convert inside the red zone -- but never about individual performances. That was saved for Monday mornings.

That was then.

This is now: "Normally, I’ll come in and talk about a statistic or two, but the only one that matters is a W," Arians said following the Cardinals’ 40-11 rout of the Indianapolis Colts. "From here on in, it doesn’t matter about third-down statistics, red zone statistics, rushing statistics or anything like that.

"It’s just about winning damn games."

That’s what happens when the offense finally clicks, and it leads to four straight wins, putting the Cardinals in the thick of the playoff race.

Oh, you haven’t heard? This season’s Cardinals aren’t the same team opponents used to beat up on after a weekend vacation in Scottsdale, Ariz. There’s no more penciling in wins against the Cards. At 7-4, Arizona is barely sitting on the outside of the NFC wild-card race. If the San Francisco 49ers fall Monday night, the Cardinals will take over their place as the sixth seed and hold the tiebreaker over No. 5 Carolina.

The last time Arizona was 7-4 was in 2009, and they went to the playoffs.

Yet nobody is paying attention to what’s happening in the desert. While the rest of the country is dusting off its winter coat, buying new snow boots and debating on whether to shovel or use a snow blower, the Cardinals are enjoying more than the sunshine in Arizona.

That’s just how the Cardinals prefer it.

"I kind of like flying under the radar," quarterback Carson Palmer said. "You want to earn your respect in January and February. Right now, being 7-4 and beating Carolina, Detroit and now these guys [the Colts] -- we’ve beaten some good teams. We’re giving teams our best shot.

"We go to Philly next week, St. Louis knows us and Tennessee. You look at records this time of year, and you start realizing who teams have beaten, and I think we’ll start gaining that respect."

After putting up 40 on the Colts and limiting them to 96 total yards through three quarters, that respect might be here before they know it. Arians has seen firsthand how a good story and a winning record can attract national media.

He’d prefer the attention stay away, but he brought it upon himself by believing in a 33-year-old quarterback and a system that carried Arians to two Super Bowls as a coordinator. By running over a division leader that had a 7-3 record, that noise is going to get louder by the day.

And it’s all because of an offense that took the Cardinals weeks longer than anyone expected to learn. But that begs the question: Why, during the past four games, has it just started working the way it was intended to?

"We haven’t changed the way we have prepared," center Lyle Sendlein said. "We’ve been doing what we’ve been doing. I think we’re a confident team right now. I think everybody’s starting to believe in each other, and it’s starting to show."

That confidence isn’t built on false hope.

A few weeks into the season, players were saying the offense was complex, but, like anything, with time came the understanding. The receivers aren’t asking each other if their alignment is right just before the ball is snapped. And during practice, players are asking each other questions instead of running to Arians.

It doesn’t matter what finally clicked; it did, and the offense just keeps getting better. Last week in Jacksonville, Palmer threw for 416 yards. This week, the Cards scored 40. In the end, the opponents don’t matter.

"I think we’re finally where we need to be to be a team that, you’re not going to fear us, but you’re going to respect us," Arians said.

With an offense that has three formidable receivers, a tight end rotation that can burn teams on any given play and a backfield that’s capable of getting third-and-1 as much as it’s able to break an 80-yard run, the respect is deserved.

Yet, as well as the defense had been playing and the offense finally matching their effort recently, something was missing. Until Sunday, the Cardinals had yet to play a game that put them on the map.

"We’ve won some games, but we don’t feel like we’ve made like a statement game," left tackle Bradley Sowell said. "We’ve kinda chipped away at some, won some, but we haven’t put the whole thing together yet.

"All week we were like, ‘We’re at home against a team we’re familiar with. Let’s make a statement game.' And, man, we got out there and we executed exactly how we wanted to execute. I’ve probably never been part of a game like that, where everything was going our way. And everything -- whatever we worked on -- we ended up getting done. It was an awesome statement game."

But the Cardinals are not done yet, running back Rashard Mendenhall said. A big win in an emotional game in November is nice, but it isn’t what Arizona is striving for. The Cardinals are playing for January and, hopefully, February.

"I think there’s [an] understanding in this locker room," Mendenhall said, "that we control what’s going to happen to us."

Cards target 3rd down with run game

November, 17, 2013
TEMPE, Ariz. -- It's taken 10 weeks, but the Arizona Cardinals' offense is finally forming into what coaches and players expected it to be when they set out to install Bruce Arians' high-octane, high-yardage scheme back in April.

But there's a tempered excitement.

For as much as it's evolved, mainly because the running game has decided to wake up, the Cardinals' offense still gets snagged on third down.

“I think it's coming,” offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin said. “I think one of the biggest things you gotta do is do a better job on third down. I think we had 3-of-10 last week, but a play here, [a] play there [and] we're over 50 percent on third down. That's the biggest area we're working on.”

Some players estimated that Arizona spends about half its practices on third-down situations and its production warrants the extra time. The Cardinals are ranked 31st in the league in third-down percentage, converting 31.5 percent this season.

Their 34 third-down conversions are less than four a game and the fewest in the league. Jacksonville, Arizona's opponent Sunday, has the next fewest with 36.

[+] EnlargeCarson Palmer
Stephen Dunn/Getty ImagesCarson Palmer and the Cardinals know they need to improve their production on third down.
But there hasn't been a common answer as to how to fix the Cards' third-down woes. Some inside the Cardinals' locker room say it's in the execution or getting all 11 players on the same page or paying more attention to detail.

Whatever the reason, it hasn't improved in 10 weeks and has been the difference between the Cardinals being inside the playoff picture with seven games left compared to looking at it from the outside.

Arizona's third-down scheme is different from the rest of the offense, quarterback Carson Palmer said. It usually features four or five receivers without a running back -- of Arizona's 108 third downs this season, only 13 were runs. And the scheme gets more complex depending on how far from a first down Arizona is.

“It's a make-or-break down,” Palmer said. “You don't get another opportunity. You see different coverages, you see a lot of different pressures, you see a lot of formations defensively. It's a completely different scheme.

“You have entirely different players, you have schemes that you don't run on first or second, so it's a completely different defense and scheme in itself.”

But what third down has that first and second downs don't is the pressure to get past the sticks. That has been an issue for the Cardinals, whose rookies have come up a half-yard or yard short of a first down throughout the season. As a blocking back on third down, rookie running back Stepfan Taylor said the need to recognize coverages, blitzes and defense is also greater on third down.

Palmer said there are “a million things that can go wrong,” but he chalks up the Cardinals' inability to convert to not being able to “out-execute” opponents.

But the third-down scheme gives him the ability to control the offense from the line of scrimmage.

“Most of the time it allows the opportunity for those guys to run numerous different routes based on coverage and leaves them a little bit of freedom,” left guard Daryn Colledge said. “Carson is free to just throw the ball he wants. Whatever he sees out there he has the ability to makes shifts and motions and change guys' routes to give him the best opportunity. For us, we need to get everybody on the same page and make sure we're blocking enough and give him the opportunity to throw those balls.”

With the running game finally hitting a stride, the Cardinals need to be better on third down to be considered a serious contender for the postseason. They've rushed for 201 and 97 yards, respectively, in their last two games, and that balance has allowed the offense to do more, such as play-action and bootlegs.

While the Cardinals can't find any answers as to why third down continues plague them, they also can't find a reason why the running game woke up Willie Mays Hayes style.

“I can't put my finger on it,” center Lyle Sendlein said. “We worked the same every week. I think a lot of it has to do with the better success on first down. And if we're able to get yardage on first down then it opens up a lot on second and third down. The previous seven games we weren't getting as much success on first down.”

As another option to eat yards, the running game has alleviated pressure from the Cardinals' passing attack. After throwing the ball 40 or more times in four of Arizona's first seven games, Palmer has just 18 and 32 attempts in his last two, respectively. Both, not coincidentally, were wins.

If the Cards get better on third down, their drives are extended which means more opportunities to put points on the board. And, at the end of the day, that's every team's goal.

For Arizona, its mission is 30 points per game. That's the sign the offense is firing on all cylinders, that it's finally hitting its stride. Through nine games, however, the Cardinals have yet to hit 30, topping out at 27 the past two games. The difference between 27 and 30 can be a converted third down or two. Since he was hired in January, Arians has said he wants the Cardinals to match their point total to their time of possession.

“If you're scoring 30 points a game, you're going to be winning a lot of football games in a season,” wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald said. “I think that's a benchmark that we all are anxious to get past and anxious to do, but we have to continue to get better in third downs.”

With the running game having turned the corner, the only hurdle between the Cardinals and them having the type of offense Arians has always envisioned is converting on third down. If they can consistently reset the down marker, Arizona has the potential to make a run in these final seven games.

If it can't and is forced to punt or settle for field goals, a .500 record will be the standard in Glendale.

“I feel like we're taking steps in the right direction to have a great second half of the season” Colledge said, "and peaking at the right time to make us competitive in December."
The Cardinals face the Jaguars for just the fourth time since Jacksonville became a franchise in 1995.

Series: Jaguars, 1-2

Last game: Sept. 20, 2009 -- Cardinals 31, Jaguars 17

First game: Dec. 10, 2000 -- Jaguars 44, Cardinals 10

Streaks: Cardinals one in a row after losing first two to Jags.

Cardinals in Jacksonville: 1-1

Since ... 1989, the Cardinals have won in Florida just twice and have never won twice in the state in the same season.

You should know: Only five Cardinals from the team's 2009 starting lineup are still starters in 2013: Larry Fitzgerald, Lyle Sendlein, Karlos Dansby, Darnell Dockett and Calais Campbell.
TEMPE, Ariz. -- Cardinals coach Bruce Arians was short with his answers Friday, about 15 hours after Arizona lost 34-22 to the Seattle Seahawks. The poor play of the offensive line dominated his day-after press conference, but that's been the topic du jour for a few weeks running:
  • Arians said Daryn Colledge left the game after twisting his back, which popped out his S1 vertebrae. It was fixed on the sideline but gave him spasms the rest of the game. He expects Colledge to return by Wednesday.
  • Arians is hopeful WR Brittan Golden can return next week. He missed Thurdsay's game with a hamstring injury.
  • Patrick Peterson suffered a jammed finger and could be seen on the broadcast with fingers taped together on his left hand.
  • Arians didn't see any hesitation in DE Calais Campbell, who returned to the field four days after being carted off the field in San Francisco after suffering a bruised spine. "He had a great game," Arians said.
  • Arians said he doesn't usually praise players after a loss but that Campbell and LB John Abraham, who had two sacks, had outstanding games.
  • C Lyle Sendlein was the highest-graded offensive lineman.
  • S Rashad Johnson isn't playing tentative, Arians said, despite playing with essentially eight fingers because his left middle finger is taped to another finger during games.
  • Arians said Thursday was the first time in 20 years he didn't come out of a game with an "explosive" play, meaning 20 yards or longer. The Cardinals' biggest play was 19 yards.
TEMPE, Ariz. -- When Arizona coach Bruce Arians saw the Cardinals’ schedule back in April, he had a one-word response. But it wasn’t for the reasons one would expect.

“I went, ‘Wow,’” Arians said Tuesday night on SiriusXM NFL Radio. “To go to San Francisco, probably [one of] the two more physical teams that we’ll play all season and then come back in the short week to play the team [Seattle] that’s favored. I can’t remember … it’s never happened to me in 21 years.”

Larry Fitzgerald
The NFL didn’t do the Cardinals any favors scheduling their two biggest NFC West games of the season within 96 hours of each other. If Arians didn’t like playing on Thursday then, and now that he's in the middle of the most crucial week of the season for Arizona, he likes it even less.

“I don’t think it’s really fair to the players, especially the veteran players,” Arians said. “This is really, really hard on them. There are so many [times] over the course of the last 10 years I’ve seen guys that could not play on Thursday but could play on Sunday. And that’s really hard on a football team.”

The Cardinals have two players who are questionable, Arians said, but he didn't say who.

“I’m more concerned, as the head coach, if they tell me they’re ready to go, are they really ready to go?” Arians said.

Arians said Monday he began game planning for the Seahawks last summer. He began breaking down tape of last year's team as soon as he could.

But the real preparation began in earnest last Wednesday and Thursday, Arians said. Offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin said he began working on Seattle last Friday night and early Saturday morning.

Arians said working last week allowed the Cardinals to begin this abbreviated week ready to practice. Eliminated were Monday’s film day and Tuesday’s off day. Instead, Monday was like a Wednesday, Tuesday like a Thursday and Wednesday will be like a Friday and Saturday.

“We’ll do our Friday practice [on Wednesday] morning and we’ll go to the hotel like a Saturday night,” Arians said.

Veteran center Lyle Sendlein said his body usually starts feeling sore from the previous week’s game on Tuesday, just two days before Arizona has to play again. While readying their bodies is one part of playing on a short week, preparing their minds is an entirely different philosophy.

Safety Rashad Johnson said getting ready for a Thursday night game is easy, but different.

“You got to spend more time on your own outside of the building because you don’t have Thursday, Friday, Saturday before the game. Just got to do extra prep on your own and be a professional. That’s what we’re here to do.”

Cardinals receiver Larry Fitzgerald also isn’t a fan of Thursday night games, but he took solace in the fact that the Seahawks are also playing on a short week and they have to travel.

“Thursday night games, not particularly are the funnest,” Fitzgerald said. “But any time you get a chance to play in front of a national stage and let the world see what your team is all about it’s a great opportunity.”
TEMPE, Ariz. -- Sunday’s game against the San Francisco 49ers is more than a rivalry that’s been brewing for years.

It’s an NFC West duel that, even in Week 6, can have playoff implications. And it’s never too early, especially in football, to start thinking about the postseason.

“This is not baseball. You don’t got a 160-game season,” wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald said. “This is 16 games. Every single game is imperative to put yourself in position down the road. You got to take care of these kind of games.”

By “these,” Fitzgerald was referring to road games. The Cardinals’ goal is to win all eight at home and a few on the road.

Arizona is tied with San Francisco for second place in the NFC West at 3-2 but is 0-1 in the division. A win Sunday and one of two things can happen: The Cardinals can move into a tie for first place if Seattle loses or take sole possession of second.

“Our goal is to win the West,” center Lyle Sendlein said. “The way to win your division is by beating the previous year’s champ. So we’re obviously thinking about our goals as a unit right now. Knowing that there’s three other teams in our division that stand in the way of us accomplishing that goal, I guess that by us having our goals of winning the West, I guess you could say it is thinking of playoffs.”

Sendlein said he keeps track of how his division foes are faring throughout the season.

The Cardinals have lost seven of their past eight to the Niners and are 5-15 in Candlestick Park. But Arizona hasn’t been to the playoffs since 2009 and the faithful – inside and outside the locker room – are starting to get restless.

But the road to the NFC West title goes through San Francisco, which is the two-time defending champ.

“This is the game we got to go out and play well,” Fitzgerald said. “This is the best in our conference.”