Mendenhall not taking it easy at practice

TEMPE, Ariz. -- Arizona Cardinals coach Bruce Arians and his top running back are on the same page after Rashard Mendenhall fumbled twice and dropped another carry Sunday in Tampa Bay.

Arians had some harsh words about Mendenhall after that game, even though the two shared a brief conversation on the sideline that ended with Arians embracing Mendenhall. He admitted to taking it easy on Mendenhall in practice because of the back’s toe, which led to Mendenhall not being as sharp as he could have been. That changed this week, Arians promised.

“He totally agrees. He knows,” Arians said. “I just want to see Rashard practice in full-speed, and I’ll take full responsibility for that but he needs to get back into game speed on Thursdays and especially Wednesdays in pads and getting back to where he belongs.”

Mendenhall expressed his gratitude toward Arians for not being pulled after the second fumble. Most coaches would not have given the second-string back an opportunity, but Arians stuck with the trust he had in Mendenhall.

Mendenhall’s practice schedule had been erratic the last two weeks. He didn’t practice the Wednesday and Thursday, and was limited the Friday before New Orleans. Then he was limited the Wednesday but practiced fully the Thursday and Friday before Tampa Bay.

“Maybe that has something to do with it,” Mendenhall said. “All in all, that wasn’t acceptable and I have to do better and that’s what I’m working toward.”

That work will be done in practice, in full pads, at full speed. Offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin said it’s an easy equation: If you don’t practice, you’re not going to play well. And Sunday was a direct result of Mendenhall not practicing.

Mendenhall didn’t write off Sunday’s performance as an anomaly and move on. He studied his mistakes and learned from them. Then he closed the chapter on the Bucs game and began focusing on Carolina.

But he’s been walking a fine line of getting healthy and needing to practice. Sometimes it’s a Catch-22, but Mendenhall learned last weekend what can happen without enough reps in practice.

“Most importantly you have to be prepared to play the game and that’s what it’s all about, be it health wise, be it preparedness,” Mendenhall said. “I think we’re finding that balance to be prepared for the game.”