<
>

Massie, Fanaika own strongholds on jobs

7/27/2014

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Cardinals coach Bruce Arians won't be rotating right tackles and right guards very much during training camp, a tactic used during offseason workouts to distinguish the better player.

Right tackle Bobby Massie and right guard Paul Fanaika separated themselves enough from their competition during organized team activities and minicamp to begin camp working with the first-team offense. It's both their jobs to lose, Arians said Sunday, but neither spot is guaranteed with Arizona donning pads for the first time in camp on Monday.

"If anybody goes and says they're starting, you're writing the wrong thing," Arians told the media. "They're lining up first today but the competition is still live. The other two guys are behind just because the other two guys won't let them take the job yet mentally. But physically that's a whole different ballgame.

"We're not going to shuffle a lot anymore," Arians added. "We've had plenty of time to do that and there's plenty of time to win or lose a job once we start hitting."

While Arians said Earl Watford is "more than ready" to compete with Fanaika, who started all 16 games last season, Fanaika hasn't given Watford an opportunity to overtake him.

"He's contending," Arians said of Watford, "it's just Paul is playing so well."

A lot of attention has been paid to the battle at right tackle between Massie and Bradley Sowell, who started 12 of 16 games last season at left tackle after Levi Brown was traded. Arians said Massie has "surpassed" Sowell "a little bit."

Massie, who admitted he struggled to learn Arians' offense last year, said he worked on eliminating his mental errors during offseason workouts. It's carried into camp and Arians has noticed, pointing out that Massie wasn't on Arizona's accountability sheet Sunday morning.

Spending last year learning the offense as Eric Winston's backup and studying on his own helped Massie. But his experience in 2012 helped even more. Massie allowed 13 sacks in his first eight games and none the second half of the season.

"I kinda had the mindset coming off 2012 and I finished a top 3 tackle in the league in pass protection, I was still coming off that kind of high," Massie said. "I felt I deserved the spot because of the way I played but obviously that wasn't the case and that showed. It was just a learning experience for me."

In the best shape of his career -- high school and college included -- Massie understands one person can undo all the work he's put in.

"I put myself in this position so the only person that can mess it up is me," he said. "So, I'm perfectly fine with it. Just play ball."

The one person who won't be fine with it if he's not starting in September is Sowell, who was unseated as the starting left tackle when Arizona signed Jared Veldheer on the second day of free agency. Sowell isn't worrying about not getting first-team reps, instead focusing on improving the reps he's given, which have been on the second team.

He knows, especially with the Cardinals putting on pads Monday, anything can happen.

"It is what it is," Sowell said. "You never know in this league and you keep battling until the end."