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Wednesday, June 25, 2014
Housler not distracted by competition at TE

The difference between Cardinals tight end Rob Housler finding a significant role on this year's team and him being just a situational piece in Bruce Arians' offense is Housler being comfortable with the head coach.

Housler said this offseason -- Arians' second -- felt different than 2013.

"It's my second minicamp with Bruce," Housler said. "It definitely felt like my second minicamp with Bruce because I felt a lot more familiar with the system and being able to play fast, so that's what I'm going to take away from this minicamp."

There may not be another player who had as much to prove during the offseason and has as much to lose during training camp. He underachieved last season, partly because Housler was hampered by a high ankle sprain for the first month of the season and partly because he's not a blocking tight end, the kind Arians prefers.

During the offseason, the Cardinals showed their dissatisfaction with Housler, signing John Carlson and drafting Troy Niklas. Including Jake Ballard, who was signed midway through last season, the Cardinals have three tight ends who weren't on the roster in Week 1 of 2013.

Housler, who caught 39 passes for 454 yards and his first career touchdown, said he doesn't feel any pressure. But, he added, it's clear he has turn his game up a notch.

"It's definitely one of those things where the reps go down. The reps are shared and so you kinda see the fact that you have to be precise in everything you do," Housler said. "And it's actually easier this year to be precise in what I'm doing because I'm familiar with it. You can kinda see both ends of the spectrum and for me it provided a good perspective on everything."

Housler was drafted by the previous regime in Arizona, which saw him as a tight end in the mold of San Francisco's Vernon Davis, St. Louis' Jared Cook and New Orleans' Jimmy Graham -- the basketball-player body who can run routes like a receiver. There'll be a small role for that type of player in Arians' roster, but it's not the kind of tight end Arians covets.

At 26, Housler is the veteran of the group when it comes to playing under Arians. And he has competition for the first time in a few years. Housler's place on the roster isn't guaranteed, especially with a month of training camp and four preseason games looming. The three other tight ends -- Calrson, Ballard and Niklas -- were all hand-picked by Arians and cut from the cloth he likes.

But Housler won't let that intimidate him. He's grown physically and mentally every year since he was drafted in 2011 and that won't stop. This year, he just has to fight a little harder for his job.

"There's always competition in a room," Housler said. "I mean that in the sense of, you're competing against every tight end in the league. You always want to compete. You always want to be the best. We are in a very competitive division as far as tight ends go. For me, we brought in some really good guys.

"But, so far I like the competition. It's also a chance to be in their shoes where I was last year -- where they were learning the system for the first time. I was able to help them out as much as I could."