NFC West: Arizona Cardinals

TEMPE, Ariz. – Michael Bush stood in the Arizona Cardinals’ locker room Wednesday, a few feet from his locker and almost a year removed from his last snap, a refreshed man.

After seven seasons, Bush hasn’t been worn down by years of overuse. His body hasn’t been beaten up by weekly poundings. His legs aren’t dragging because of too many carries.

Just the opposite, in fact.

The Michael Bush signed by the Arizona Cardinals on Tuesday still has plenty of tread left on his tires, but how well-oiled they are is an entirely different question. Bush hasn’t played a down since Week 17 of the 2013 season with the Chicago Bears, which concluded his worst season in the NFL with a career-low in carries (63) and yards (197).

[+] EnlargeMichael Bush
Ron Schwane/USA TODAY SportsMichael Bush played in 15 games last season for the Chicago Bears.
“I'm fresh," Bush said. "I've been fresh for two seasons. I ain't been on the field so, yeah, I'm good."

He spent the first 12 weeks this season training, playing golf and wondering why he wasn’t given at least a flier by a team in need of a short-yardage back.

“It was tough because a lot of people can’t really give you a reason why,” Bush said Wednesday. “They say you’re 30, your age, but I only got 800 total carries. You look at somebody else who’s 30 they got about 1,200 or 1,500 carries, and I’m like, ‘Yo, I ain’t even broke a sweat.’

“But it’s out of my hands so I just try to take care of what I could.”

Of the nine NFL running backs who are 30 or older, five of them have more carries in their career than Bush’s 809, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

When he spoke before his first practice since last season, Bush wasn’t sure how his body would react, but he anticipated playing the role of Atlanta running back Steven Jackson on the scout team. With only three padded practices left – and none this week – Bush said that puts him behind as far as getting hit for the first time since December.

It’s unlikely that Bush will have a significant role Sunday in Atlanta, but he said playing on special teams might be an option.

“It’s going to be hard to have a guy who didn’t play in OTAs and didn’t have a training camp, and for me to give him the ball on Sunday, that would be pretty hard,” Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said.

But Arians isn’t in a rush to get Bush involved.

“We didn’t sign him for this week,” Arians said. “We signed him for the long haul, so we’ll have him ready when we need him.”

Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said packages for Bush would start being implemented Wednesday, and they’ll likely involve short-yardage and goal-line situations.

In his seven-year career, Bush has 12 touchdowns on 26 goal-line carries. And in the red zone, he’s run for 249 yards and 24 touchdowns inside. In short-yardage situations – when a first down is within four yards – Bush ran for the first down 52.8 percent of the time, the same percentage as the Cardinals this season.

Bush doesn’t see himself as just a power back who can get tough yards, and his career suggests it's more than a belief. In 2011, he had career-highs of 977 yards, seven touchdowns and 256 carries, but his stint in Chicago typecasted him in a single role – a characterization that Bush said was perpetuated by the media.

The Cardinals discussed signing Bush for the last three weeks, Arians said, and brought him in for a tryout Tuesday two days after running for just 64 yards against Seattle.

“The stigma with me is a big guy who can get hard yards,” Bush said. “I think there’s a reason they brought me in as well, and when the time is right, coach will let me know and we’ll go from there.”

Arians liked Bush’s size and has been impressed with what kind of shape Bush was in this week. Bush has been training since February when he anticipated his release from the Bears. He moved to Arizona last spring and drove to Tuesday’s workout.

“He’s got really light feet for a big man, so he can jump and cut a little bit and get it north,” Arians said. “It’s something we really haven’t had since Jonathan [Dwyer] was lost. [Stepfan Taylor] did a nice job last week, but we’ll see what kind of role we can develop for him.

Arians added: “Whether it’s a major addition or just a minor one, we’ll wait and see.”

Cardinals’ offense to get confidence boost?

November, 26, 2014
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Cardinals reporter Josh Weinfuss says the team’s offense has a chance to break though vs. the Falcons’ porous defense.
TEMPE, Ariz. -- Kevin Minter used to head to the locker room soon after practice ended at LSU, but he'd see Odell Beckham Jr. head over to the JUGS machine or lobby Zach Mettenberger to throw more passes.

[+] EnlargeBeckham
Al Bello/Getty ImagesOdell Beckham Jr. made this catch on Sunday, but former LSU teammate Kevin Minter said, "It's stuff I've seen from him for a long time."
"He was always there forever after practice," Minter said. "I'd only catch a glimpse before I went inside. I'm not going to stand around and watch this fool do this stuff."

That "fool" became the talk of the NFL this week and "this stuff" helped Beckham haul in an acrobatic 43-yard touchdown pass from Giants quarterback Eli Manning that instantly became the best catch of the season. Beckham bent backward, far enough that the back of his head was parallel with the ground, fully extending his right arm to snag the pass.

"It was probably his best catch ever," Minter said. "But, still, I've seen a lot of that from him."

That's saying something considering Minter and Beckham Jr. were teammates at LSU from 2011-13.

"You kinda knew it from seeing him around in college," Minter said. "He was always making acrobatic catches, always doing that crazy stuff.

"It's stuff I've seen from him for a long time."

Minter said Beckham Jr.'s catches are a product of his intense focus and his hands.

When he tried to explain just how large Beckham Jr.'s hands are, Minter couldn't find the right words and tried to show a reporter compared to his own hands. The best description Minter came up with was "his hands are already pretty big."

"I wasn't surprised it was him," Minter said. "He just always had that great work ethic. And y'all are starting to see what we've all seen.

"I'm sure when they asked the other LSU guys that's been on the team with him, they probably said the same thing: It's Odell."
TEMPE, Ariz. – Victory Mondays have become the norm this season for the Arizona Cardinals, but they’ve also been a day of work, even if it's just voluntary.

For the last six weeks, the Cardinals' veterans have showed up to work on Mondays, getting in a lift and watching film on their own time. When they had to show up this Monday after losing 19-3 to Seattle, it was nothing out of the ordinary for the NFC West leaders.

Except, this Monday included a team meeting -- and a tongue lashing or two.

[+] EnlargeSeahawks
Steven Bisig/USA TODAY SportsSunday wasn't comfortable for the Cardinals, who made a lot of mistakes in losing only their second game of the season.
The message wasn’t just about avoiding a two-game losing streak by beating Atlanta this weekend. It was about fixing the myriad mistakes from the Seahawks game: Quarterback Drew Stanton's accuracy, missed sacks, dropped passes, poor pass protection and missed tackles, to name just a few.

General manager Steve Keim said on Arizona Sports 98.7 that he was disappointed with Arizona’s overall lack of execution.

“But, more than anything, and we knew this going in there, when you play in a hostile environment like that against a good football team, I think you have to match their level of intensity in all three phases,” Keim said. “And we certainly didn’t do that in two of the areas -- offensively and special teams.”

Cardinals coach Bruce Arians even found areas to fix on defense -- which held the Seahawks to four field goals before a touchdown on a broken play.

“Looking back at the tape, I thought defensively, missed tackles on the quarterback cost us points,” Arians said. “The three or four field goals they got, I know three of them were off of busted plays where we either missed a sack, chased him out of there, didn’t cover our guy and dumped a receiver, all leading to points.

“Seven sacks is a nice day but when you miss four more, it could’ve been a huge day. Those are huge points. In a game like that, we can’t give away three points at a time.”

Arians even felt Calais Campbell, who had a career-high three sacks, could've played better. "He had a potential five-sack day," said Arians of Campbell.

Stanton finished with 149 yards passing but Keim said it was tough to assess Stanton’s performance because the run game wasn’t effective. That led to ineffective play-action which didn’t keep Seattle’s defense honest. The Seahawks blitzed Stanton on 10 of his 32 drop backs, and he completed just two passes when blitzed, according to Pro Football Focus.

The pressure forced Stanton to scramble, but he wasn’t as successful on the move as his counterpart, Russell Wilson. Seattle forced eight quarterback hurries, according to PFF. Stanton ran for 23 yards compared to Wilson's 73.

“I think with the pressure that he was getting, his scrambling ability was nice but we didn’t make anything of it,” Arians said. “They were all incompletions, where Russell was making plays when he was scrambling around.

“We didn’t get anything from the improv part of it, and there was too much of it happening.”

According to ESPN Stats & Information, the Cardinals dropped just two passes Sunday but one, by Jaron Brown, was in the end zone. But Keim felt Stanton made it as hard on his receivers as his receivers made it hard on him.

“I thought he made our receivers work a little too much for the ball,” Keim said. “And we didn’t help him a couple times dropping some passes. I didn’t think it was one of Drew’s best games, but I know Drew’s a great competitor and really good leader for us. I know he’ll be ready to play next week in Atlanta.”

In just his second Monday meeting of the year, Arians told the Cardinals that Sunday wasn't just a loss.

"Learn from this because we play them again real soon. We're 9-2 for a reason. We lost two games on the road. We have a big road game coming up but we play these guys again, so make it fresh in your mind," Arians told the Cardinals. "Make sure we get these corrections. It's not like playing Denver, who we wont see again until maybe in the Super Bowl. When you play a team twice in a month, you've got to learn from your mistakes and you've got to remember them."

QB snapshot: Drew Stanton

November, 25, 2014
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A quick observation of quarterback Drew Stanton and how he played in the Arizona Cardinals' 19-3 loss in Week 12:

Stanton
Quarterbacks don’t want to telegraph their plays, and Stanton improved on that in his second start since being named the permanent starter. But he’s also playing favorites -- not with targets but with sides of the field.

Stanton threw for 149 yards on 14-of-26 passing against Seattle, but 90 of those yards were thrown outside the left hash mark, according to ESPN Stats & Information, compared to 25 in between the hashes and 34 yards to the right side. His favorite targets on the left side were rookie John Brown, who caught three passes for 61 yards, and running back Andre Ellington, who had three catches for 24 yards.

And when Stanton took off on foot, he also favored the left side. Of his 23 rushing yards -- the second most for Arizona on the day -- 18 of them were outside the left hash mark.

The more Stanton puts his tendencies on tape, the more easily defenses will be able to prepare for him.
TEMPE, Ariz. -- It was evident how much the Arizona Cardinals missed wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald in Sunday’s loss to the Seattle Seahawks.

Larry Fitzgerald
Fitzgerald
What’s not clear the day after, however, is when they’ll get him back.

“We still don’t know anything about Larry,” Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said. “If we were practicing today, he would not practice. We’ll see how he improves by Wednesday and go from there.”

Monday morning, general manager Steve Keim said on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM that Fitzgerald is day-to-day a week after suffering a Grade 2 MCL sprain against the Detroit Lions.

Keim thought Fitzgerald would tough it out and play against Seattle.

“For him not to play this past weekend surprised me a little bit,” Keim said. “Not because of the injury, just because Larry’s such a tough guy. He was disappointed, frustrated and I know he’ll do everything he can to get back out there this week.”

Fitzgerald was a game-time decision Sunday. During his postgame press conference in Seattle, Arians said Fitzgerald “couldn’t run” pregame, which led to him being inactive. Filling his role, Jaron Brown dropped a gimme touchdown pass in the second quarter.

The Cardinals missed Fitzgerald’s “sure-handedness” and his ability to be where he’s supposed to be in the offense, Arians said. But, Arians added, Arizona missed Fitzgerald’s intangibles more Sunday than his tangibles.

“You always miss Larry’s passion for the game,” Arians said, “but we’re deep enough at receiver that that’s not as big of an issue as it could be.”
SEATTLE – They bent and bent some more.

Despite giving up more than 100 rushing yards to a team for just the second time this season, the Arizona Cardinals’ defense didn’t break in Sunday’s 19-3 loss to the Seattle Seahawks.

Alford
Campbell
 If the Cardinals’ defense had actually broken, their second loss of the season would’ve been closer to 2012’s blowout at Seattle than Sunday’s defeat .Time and time again, the defense bailed out the offense, only to give them the ball back, only to have to bail them out again.

“It’s OK, there’ll be games like that,” defensive tackle Frostee Rucker. “Maybe some games they carry us when we have a tough outing, and that makes up a team. We’ll be alright. We’ll bounce back. We just got beat today.”

But it wasn’t because of the defense.

Arizona had a season-high seven sacks, five of which came in the first half. Through the first 11 weeks of the season, the Cardinals had seven total first-half sacks.

“This is a different type of offense to get sacks on,” Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said. “You know you got a quarterback [who] runs a lot of bootlegs, more so than dropping straight back. We had our chances to get four or five more negative plays, and we just could not tackle him.”

Leading the charge was defensive end Calais Campbell, who had a career- high three sacks Sunday, all coming in the first half.

“I feel like I did a lot better,” Campbell said. “There’s some plays I left out there, that’s just part of the game. For the most part, just went hard and left it all on the field.”

The first half was a continuous cycle of bad field position for the Cardinals leading to good field position for the Seahawks. It started on the opening kick, which Arizona’s Ted Ginn ran out to the Cardinals 10. A three-and-out forced Arizona to punt, giving Seattle possession at the Arizona 49. That drive ended with the Cards forcing a field goal with the first of two red-zone stops by Arizona’s defense. From there, the Cardinals’ defense continued to hold, either forcing the Seahawks to punt or settle for a field goal.

Arizona’s average first-half starting field position was the 18-yard-line, whereas the Seahawks’ was the 43.

The Cardinals held the Seahawks to four field goals -- two of which came on red-zone stands -- and blocked a fifth attempt when Tommy Kelly got his hand on a Steven Hauschka kick late in the second quarter.

But, while the defense was impressive in stopping another top-tier running back, it struggled to slow down Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson. He ran for 73 yards -- 39 in the second quarter, alone.

"We did not tackle well early," Arians said. "We obviously didn’t tackle Russell Wilson late very well. We lost on a lot of broken plays. We had the regular play defended extremely well. We just missed tackles."

But the Cardinals held Seattle’s Marshawn Lynch to 39 yards – his lowest total of the season when he’s rushed at least 10 times.

However, for the third time this season, Arizona didn’t cause a turnover.

“We was playing against a great defense and, on the road, you got to outplay their defense,” linebacker Larry Foote said. “You got to create more turnovers, you got to give your offense a short field, and we made plays, but when you play against a good defense, you can’t give up nothing.”
SEATTLE -- Arizona Cardinals quarterback Drew Stanton's left ankle is "fine."

Stanton
With about 7 minutes left in Sunday's 19-3 loss to the Seattle Seahawks, Stanton went to the sideline and got his left ankle taped.

"We're good," he said.

"I was just scrambling, got rolled up a little bit, just kinda got caught in the pile," he added. "It wasn't anything major."

After it was taped, Stanton walked on it and could be seen testing it on the sideline. In the meantime, backup quarterback Logan Thomas started warming up, even going so far as taking snaps on the sideline from center Lyle Sendlein.

"It's not anything severe," Stanton said. "It's just precautionary for tape."
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SEATTLE -- For 10 games, it has been more than a motto, more than a slogan, more than coachspeak.

Arizona’s next-man-up mentality was as tangible as it could get.

When one player went down, another stepped in, took his place and kept the Cardinals’ engine purring to a league-best 9-1 record.

Until Sunday.

When wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald was ruled inactive at Seattle 90 minutes before kickoff, the baton was handed to the latest in a long line of next men up. This time that honor was bestowed upon Jaron Brown, who entered Sunday with nine catches for 76 yards. He showed no matter how good a team has become, enough injuries can pile up until it hits a limit.

And, as it turned out, that limit was Fitzgerald -- not quarterback Carson Palmer, as would be expected. When the two were missing together, Arizona looked like a team that wouldn’t be favored next Sunday in Atlanta.

The Cardinals finished Sunday’s 19-3 loss with 204 total yards, their lowest under coach Bruce Arians. They got 140 in the air and just 64 on the ground.

“All right, very simple analysis of this one: If you don’t block, catch, tackle, kick, you can’t win,” Arians said. “We didn’t do any of the four.”

For the third straight week, the running game couldn’t figure itself out, left tackle Jared Veldheer said. Andre Ellington finished with 24 yards on 10 carries, his second-lowest output of the season. Quarterback Drew Stanton was the team’s second-leading rusher with 23 yards on four carries.

“It’s still too many negative runs,” Veldheer said. “Got to eliminate those and then we got to be able to convert our third downs [25 percent on Sunday], so we can stay on the field and keep running it.

“If we’re not staying out there and sustaining drives, and all that stuff, as it’s reflected on the scoreboard you don’t score points.”

The Cardinals have scored three points in their past seven quarters, but Stanton said it’s more a result of the defenses Arizona has faced than ineptitude and poor execution by the offense.

Without Fitzgerald as an option Sunday, Stanton was 6-of-13 with an interception targeting wide receivers, according to ESPN Stats & Information. All six completions went to just two men: John Brown and Jaron Brown. Stanton’s favorite target, however, wasn’t even a receiver. It was Ellington, whom Stanton targeted eight times, completing five for 39 yards.

Offenses don’t tend to win games when a running back is the most-targeted option.

“He’s a playmaker,” Stanton said of Ellington. “We get the ball in his hands and that’s pretty well documented how good that defense is, so they present some problems and we thought we could attack them from some different areas, and we did early on.”

One of Stanton’s incompletions could’ve been a turning point for Arizona, but Jaron Brown, wide open near the middle of the end zone, left his feet to make a catch and tried to secure it against his body. After the game, he said he knew better than to do both.

And Fitzgerald? He has 20 drops in his 11-year career.

But the drop cost Arizona a touchdown and it entered halftime down 9-3 instead of 9-7.

“That’s part of the game unfortunately,” Stanton said. “Those are physical errors. We just have to limit those. Everybody took turns today. It wasn’t one position group or anything like that.

“Offensively, we didn’t play well enough to win. Anytime you score three points and come in here and only put up that number, you’re not going to be successful. We’re aware of that and we have to find a way to correct it.”
SEATTLE -- Observed and heard in the locker room after the Arizona Cardinals' 19-3 loss to the Seattle Seahawks:
  • Larry Fitzgerald
    Fitzgerald
    Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald was ruled inactive because “he couldn’t run" due to a Grade 2 MCL sprain he suffered last weekend against Detroit. It was the first game Fitzgerald had missed since 2007.
  • Arians said there were 10 men on the field when Seattle blocked Drew Butler’s punt in the third quarter. Running back Stepfan Taylor was the Cardinal not on the field.
  • Quarterback Drew Stanton didn’t appear to be walking with a limp in the locker room following the game. He got his left ankle taped late in the fourth quarter after a Seahawks defender rolled on it.
video When: 4:05 p.m. ET Sunday. Where: CenturyLink Field, Seattle. TV: Fox

Now who would have thought the Seattle Seahawks would be the team in a must-win situation in late November when the Arizona Cardinals came to town?

Such is the case in a key NFC West matchup between the division-leading Cardinals (9-1) and the Seahawks (6-4), who need a victory to keep alive any realistic hope of winning the division title.

Cardinals reporter Josh Weinfuss and Seahawks reporter Terry Blount take an in-depth look at some of the issues facing each team in this division showdown:

Blount: Josh, let's get right to the point. Can the Cardinals keep up the pace, win the NFC West and become the first home team in the Super Bowl with Drew Stanton at quarterback?

Weinfuss: If you would've asked me this last week, I would've said wait until we see how he plays against the Detroit Lions. I needed a game to decide whether he's capable of making the run that you just described, and here's what I've determined: He can keep the 9-1 run going and he can win the NFC West, but I'm not sure the Cardinals can go to the Super Bowl. Stanton is capable of winning games during the regular season for two reasons: 1. The offense hasn't changed and he's more than capable of running it almost as efficiently as Carson Palmer, and 2. The defense has been playing great and can clean up any mistake Stanton makes. But the reason I don't think Arizona makes the Super Bowl is because that deep in the playoffs, teams are good enough to capitalize on the missteps -- especially a team like Green Bay.

For the most part, a Super Bowl hangover is a myth ... yet it seems like that's what the Seahawks are going through this season. Simply asked, are they?

Blount: The players scoff at the Super Bowl hangover talk, but whatever you call it, things have not gone the way the Seahawks expected. These players believed they would continue to get better, the best was yet to come and they would make it back to the Super Bowl. The odds are against them now, but I think they've learned what so many other Super Bowl champs learned -- it's a lot harder to stay on top than it was to get to the top. The Seahawks just don't have the depth they had a year ago, and it has shown with the injuries they've experienced. And no matter how much they deny it, the Percy Harvin trade threw everyone for a loop and brought about a lot of national speculation about problems in the locker room. Most of it was baloney, but it was a distraction they didn't need.

Josh, I, for one, am shocked how well the Cardinals have played on defense this season after losing Daryl Washington, Karlos Dansby and Darnell Dockett. Does defensive coordinator Todd Bowles have some magic potion? How have they done it?

Weinfuss: If he does have some magic potion, he's not selling it. Arizona's defense hasn't dropped off, and that's because of Bowles. In short, his scheme works. He's able to develop a game plan and mold his 3-4 scheme around his and the opponents' personnel. Case in point: Against Dallas, Arizona ran a 4-3, he played Dan Williams and Sam Acho more, and the Cardinals broke DeMarco Murray's streak of 100-yard games. Bowles isn't one of those coaches who make a square peg fit into a round hole. And what's been the cement for all of Bowles' bricks has been the locker room buying into the next-man-up philosophy that Bruce Arians has preached since he got here.

Terry, will Marshawn Lynch be able to carry the Seahawks to the playoffs this year, or has that ship sailed? And how has not having Golden Tate affected the offense?

Blount: If ever there was a player who fit the definition of an enigma, Lynch is it. On the field, he is performing as well as he ever has. He's rushed for 264 yards in the past two games alone. But this man marches to the beat of a different drummer. He's still upset about not getting what he wanted after his contract holdout, an issue that Pete Carroll said they are working through. Lynch's decision last week to stay on the field at halftime to get treatment on his back led to speculation about him sulking, which wasn't true, but the fact that he didn't talk to reporters after the game led to increased speculation. Now he's been fined $100,000 by the league for not talking. It becomes a sideshow the team doesn't need, but he answers by giving all he has on the field and playing at as high a level as he ever has. As for Tate, it's clear now he was a big loss, not only at receiver but also as a punt returner. Frankly, the Seahawks haven't gotten what he gave them at either spot.

Josh, the Cardinals now are 19-7 under Arians after going 18-30 the previous three seasons before he arrived. And the Indianapolis Colts were 9-3 while Arians was the interim head coach during Chuck Pagano's 2012 illness. What is it about Arians that has made him so successful?

Weinfuss: It all boils down to the fact that he doesn't pull any fast ones on his players. His players respect him and bought into his philosophy. They'll do anything for him. It also helps that Arians is an offensive genius. When his scheme finally started clicking last season and Arizona went on that tear in the second half, his players finally saw he wasn't this mad scientist with a confusing offense.

Both Russell Wilson and Carroll downplayed losing to the Cardinals last season. Have you seen that game linger in their memories at all this week?

Blount: Not at all. The truth is the Seahawks entered that game knowing they had two home games left to clinch the division title and home-field advantage in the playoffs, so they didn't have a sense of urgency. They sure as heck do now, and they realize Arizona is the real deal. They are way more concerned with the 2014 Cardinals than the 2013 version that caught them napping last December.

TEMPE, Ariz. -- Arizona Cardinals outside linebacker Sam Acho was added Thursday to this week’s injury report with a neck injury. He was listed as limited.

Other than that, the Cards’ report was status quo.

Receiver Larry Fitzgerald (knee) and defensive tackle Ed Stinson (toe) didn’t practice for the second straight day.

Linebacker Lorenzo Alexander (knee), running back Andre Ellington (hip/foot), running back Robert Hughes (hamstring) and safety Rashad Johnson (back) were all limited at Thursday’s practice.

Linebacker Larry Foote (hip) and nose tackle Dan Williams (elbow) practiced in full.

For the Seattle Seahawks, four players didn’t practice for a second straight day, including running back Marshawn Lynch (back).

Defensive end Michael Bennett (not-injury related) returned to practice in full, as did right cornerback Byran Maxwell (calf), guard James Carpenter (ankle), guards JR Sweezy (thigh) and linebacker Bobby Wagner (toe).
TEMPE, Ariz. – Arizona Cardinals outside linebacker Matt Shaughnessy returned to practice Wednesday after missing six weeks because of surgery to repair the meniscus in his left knee, but he’s not eligible to play in a game until Arizona hosts Kansas City in Week 14.

Between now and then, Shaughnessy, who had nine tackles in four games, believes he’ll be able to get back into game shape.

Shaughnessy
“I mean I’ll be working with [strength and conditioning coach] Buddy [Morris], so I’m pretty sure he’ll whip me back in shape,” Shaughnessy said.

He said he’ll take it slow to start this week, but he can’t predict how much rust he’ll have to knock off.

“I pushed it pretty hard, but you can’t simulate playing the game,” Shaughnessy said. “So I’ll get out there and see how it feels and go from there.”

Shaughnessy, who had 36 tackles and three sacks last season, said the past six weeks were difficult but said he’s been around his teammates during his rehab. The Cardinals’ pass rush struggled at first without Shaughnessy, but has 10 of its 14 sacks without him in the last two weeks.

While Shaughnessy’s pass-rushing has been missed, coach Bruce Arians hasn’t spent time dwelling on his absence.

“I don’t worry about the ones that can’t play,” Arians said.

Shaughnessy’s been feeling well enough to practice the last couple of weeks, but he’s antsy to get back on the field in a game situation.

“I just want to be part of the team again and start contributing,” he said.

“It’s been hard. I’ve also been busy rehabbing. I’ve been here been around the guys so it’s not like I’ve been out of it.”
Carson PalmerTim Heitman/USA TODAY SportsCoach Bruce Arians hopes to have Carson Palmer back from his second torn ACL by July 1.
TEMPE, Ariz. -- The recovery and rehabilitation Arizona Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer remembers after tearing his ACL in 2006 isn't the same as what he's about to embark on for the next eight or nine months.

Orthopedic philosophies and rehab techniques have changed in the past eight years, but the toughest part of Palmer's process, experts say, may be dealing with a second ACL injury at age 34.

“There's no question that our ability to recondition after an ACL reconstruction will change as we get older,” said Brian Cole, team physician for the Chicago Bulls and Chicago White Sox.

Recovery, Cole said, is inversely related to age. But since Palmer's first ACL injury, doctors have become more aggressive during rehab to get athletes back on the field or court, he added. That's been obvious with Cardinals safety Tyrann Mathieu's return and defensive end Darnell Dockett's ahead-of-schedule recovery.

ESPN injury analyst Stephania Bell said success and return-to-activity rates for a second ACL are still high but it may take longer than the typical eight months to get back. She said Palmer may need as much as nine to 12 months to be cleared for everything. Palmer hopes to be back by organized team activities but Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said July 1 may be more realistic -- putting his recovery at less than eight months.

Palmer's road back to the field began Tuesday, when he had surgery to repair the ACL using his patellar tendon. Cole said 75 to 85 percent of team physicians opt to use patellar tendons if they're sturdy enough. In 2006, Palmer's ACL was replaced with a cadaver ligament.

By using a patellar tendon, Palmer will likely face a more strenuous recovery early in the process, Bell said. One significant part of his rehab will be getting his kneecap moving as soon after surgery as possible so he doesn't develop scar tissue and “unusual stiffness” around the kneecap.

“It's a strong graft,” she said. “That will be something that will be different for him because he wasn't concerned with that when he did the other type of graft before. But other than that, it's probably more straightforward for him.”

While he's trying to get his range of motion back, Palmer will be looking at a series of mental hurdles, said former Carolina Panthers and New York Giants receiver Domenik Hixon, who tore his right ACL twice within 14 months.

Soon after the second injury, which he suffered in September 2011, Hixon said he began to doubt whether he was going to get another chance to play. He also was worried about defenders around his knees and going across the middle.

But recovering from the second surgery was easier than the first, he said.

“The unknown is gone, you've done it once before, you know what's expected,” Hixon said. “I knew the timetable where I'm supposed to be at and why they were measuring certain things and you're not going into it blind.

“I think that helped out a lot from the mental aspect.”

One significant change in rehab philosophy since 2006 is not using a clock to determine when an athlete will return to action, Cole said.

Since 1998, there have been 1,254 NFL players with knee-related injuries that were placed on injured reserve, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Of those, 249 were identified to have ACL injuries. And just nine injured -- before Palmer -- the same one at least twice.

Palmer's tearing the same ACL -- or a revision, as it's called in the medical community -- almost nine years after the first tear is rare, Cole said. Retear rates range between 2 to 7 percent depending on the sport and graft, Cole said.

“This is a little unusual in that it's a later failure,” Cole said. “In some respects you can argue this is an entirely new injury.”

His surgery Tuesday went “great” and “very, very small cartilage” was repaired, Arians said. Cole said retorn ACLs tend to have more cartilage damage than initial injuries.

Since the last time Palmer had his ACL replaced, doctors have an increased understanding of tunnel placement in the knee because, Cole said, they've become more educated in the “normal anatomy” of a knee with an original ACL.

With Day 1 of Palmer's recovery over, he already has benefited from the improvements and advancements of philosophy. He's on the verge of finding out how different his recovery and rehabilitation will be eight years after his first ACL.

“I'm mentally prepared,” Palmer said last week. “I'm mentally strong and I'm going to grind this thing out. I know the mindset you need to take, and that's the one-day-at-a-time thing, and it's baby steps and it's doing calf raises and small, little incremental movements and all these little tedious things that you don't feel like are doing anything but you have to do them.

“But you have to do what they tell you to do.”

Cardinals will take advantage of Seahawks injury

November, 19, 2014
Nov 19
10:00
AM ET
video

ESPN Cardinals reporter Josh Weinfuss talks about the banged-up Seahawks line and how the Cardinals defense can take advantage.

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