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Stability defines Lyle Sendlein's career

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Give Lyle Sendlein a pair of work boots, some dirty jeans and a hard hat, drop him off at a construction site and he'll work as hard as he did to come back from a calf injury that's sidelined him for the past few weeks.

It's how Sendlein, the Arizona Cardinals' veteran stalwart center, is wired. He's as friendly as he is physically imposing at 6-foot-3 and 308 pounds. And if it was up to him, the glitz, fame and attention that comes with his job would be locked in a closet, never to be seen again.

All he wants to do is come to work every day, do his job and go home, which has made the last few weeks so difficult for the Scottsdale, Arizona, native. He just returned to practice Wednesday from the injury.

"I've never missed a camp practice in eight years," Sendlein said. "I pride myself on being a lunch-pail guy and being out there every day."

Sendlein has started every game he's played since 2008, his second year in the league, a streak of 81 straight heading into the Cardinals' season opener on "Monday Night Football." While stability has come to define Sendlein, the opposite can be used to describe the Cardinals' offensive line throughout his career, especially in the past few years.

According to ESPN Stats & Information, the Cardinals have employed 27 other offensive linemen since 2007. The most stable portion of Sendlein's career was his first few years in the league. According to the Cardinals' media guide, the usual starting offensive line was the same from 2007 to 2009, with the exception of one change.

After signing as undrafted free agent in 2007, Sendlein was just hoping for a career as a practice squad player but earned a spot on the 53-man roster when Al Johnson went down in the season opener on "Monday Night Football" against San Francisco. Sendlein was inserted into the lineup, played in 12 games that season and basically hasn't left.

"It's difficult," Sendlein said. "You make friends with people but it's about winning games. People are making decisions on who's the best five that'll give us the best chance to win a game. You can't let relationships or anything get in the way of the fact that the Cardinals are trying to win games and they're going to have whoever they need out there to do that."

This year's offensive line may be the Cardinals' deepest since 2007 but it's largely new. Only right guard Paul Fanaika is a holdover from last year's starting lineup. But right tackle Bobby Massie has been on the team since 2012 and left guard Jonathan Cooper was drafted in 2013, giving this year's line the all-necessary locker room bond.

It's "going to be a really tough squad to make," Sendlein said.

If Sendlein can stay healthy, his streak will remain intact and the Cardinals will have their most reliable offensive lineman of the last seven years on the field.

Sendlein watched Ted Larsen earn a starting job at left guard while filling in at center during camp, though Sendlein made sure to keep the continuity with quarterback Carson Palmer. Call it a veteran move but Sendlein snapped to Palmer during non-contact 7-on-7 drills.

"Just remembering where I put the ball and where his hands go is really important to keep moving forward with this offense," Sendlein said. "That way we don't have any missed reps with mishaps on snaps or anything, so I think it was important to keep that relationship in hand."

When Cardinals coach Bruce Arians arrived in Arizona in 2013, he wouldn't have guessed Sendlein was undrafted. Arians didn't know about his blue-collar 9-to-5 work ethic. And he didn't know he was inheriting stability on an offensive line in desperate need of it.

"Very, very underrated," Arians said. "He's as solid a center as I've been around in a long time."