TEMPE, Ariz. -- Besides closely watching a host of bubble players during Thursday night’s preseason finale against the San Diego Chargers, Arizona Cardinals coach Bruce Arians was keeping a close eye on a handful of potential starters who were returning from injury.
Arians wanted to see how linebacker Kevin Minter, guard Jonathan Cooper and nose tackle Alameda Ta'amu looked after missing significant time during training camp. For the first two, it was their first preseason games since Week 1, and for Ta’amu, it was his first game action since tearing his ACL in Week 17. Arians wants to see more of them -- he included safety Tyrann Mathieu in that -- in pads, but that will be tough with CBA restrictions.
Teams are allowed just 14 padded practices per season, 11 of which have to take place during the first 11 weeks of the season. Though there is a maximum of one padded practice per week, teams can choose to have two padded practices in one week as long as it's in the first 11, according to the CBA.
"They need to have their pads on and play football," Arians said. "You really can’t do it at this time of the year anymore."
Cooper would benefit from added practice time in pads, Arians said, because he needs to knock the rust off not just the past two weeks off, but the last year, having missed all of last season because of a broken leg.
Even though Cooper was beaten badly on a first-quarter sack of quarterback Logan Thomas, Arians felt he progressed Thursday.
"He got a little bit better as the game went on," he said.
Minter, who was out with a pectoral injury, finished with four tackles while wearing a protective sleeve on his left arm, which Arians said didn’t affect his play.
"Rusty but he flew around good," Arians said. "He was a little bit late on a couple reads, but he flew around good. It was good to see him out there."
Even though Ta’amu didn’t record a tackle, he was active in the running game, Arians said. The Cardinals held the Chargers to seven rushing yards in the first quarter.
But Ta’amu needs to improve his conditioning before Week 1.
"He got tired too fast," Arians said. "He doesn’t get moved, but he needs to move a little bit better."