NFC West: Rashad Johnson

TEMPE, Ariz. -- Yeremiah Bell's absence from the roster has left the Arizona Cardinals with a sizeable gap in the secondary.

Without a true strong safety on the team, the Cardinals will be looking to fill the position in May's NFL draft. If Arizona is forced to, though, it can turn to the two free safeties currently on the team -- Rashad Johnson or Tony Jefferson -- to move to strong safety. That's not an ideal situation, said ESPN NFL Insider Matt Williamson.

Johnson
Jefferson
“Neither is ideal and either might be best suited to be the third safety, but I think it depends what they want from the position,” Williamson said. “To me, Johnson is clearly the better cover guy and Jefferson is the better run player.”

Arizona's safety corps is in flux until Tyrann Mathieu returns from his ACL and LCL injuries and until a strong safety is signed. Last season with Bell, currently a free agent, on the field, Mathieu became the starter in Week 4 after Johnson lost the tip of his left middle finger. Mathieu played well enough to supplant Johnson until Mathieu got hurt in Week 13.

But when Arizona' safeties are restocked, Johnson and Jefferson would give the Cardinals “great” depth, Williamson added.

Until then, however, Johnson would be the presumed starter at free safety while Jefferson would fill in at strong safety. Both are 5-11, not the ideal size for a tandem of safeties. Last season, it was often Bell's responsibility to defend opponents' tight ends. That didn't work in the Cardinals' favor because of a combination of Bell's declining speed at 35 and lack of size. Of the 29 touchdowns thrown by opposing quarterbacks, 17 went to tight ends.

Ideally, the Cardinals would like a safety taller than 6-foot who can run with tight ends such as St. Louis' Jared Cook and San Francisco's Vernon Davis, but it's not necessary, Williamson said.

“I don't think they need that guy,” he said. “He would be great to have, but they also don't grow on trees.”

They do, however, grow in the draft.

Two prospects who Williamson identified as good fits in Arizona are Louisville's Calvin Pryor and Washington State's Deone Bucannon. They're the second- and third-ranked safeties, respectively, in this year's draft class according to ESPN.com. Pryor is listed at 5-11 1/8 while Bucannon is 6-1.

Williamson doesn't think Pryor gets past the first round, in which Arizona picks 20th, and he doesn't think Bucannon falls out of the second.

The Cardinals' needs are minimal, Williamson added, but safety is one position that can be upgraded. However, to Williamson, filling the void left by Bell may not be vital to Arizona's success in 2014.

“I think the rest of the defense is strong enough and will get stronger through the draft that if they open the season with Jefferson and/or Johnson in that role, this team is still a strong contender and should have a top-10 defense either way,” Williamson said.

All Cardinals ready to play vs. 49ers

December, 27, 2013
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TEMPE, Ariz. – If there is one game all season anyone on the Arizona Cardinals’ roster didn’t want to miss, this is it.

Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said “basically” everybody practiced Friday leading up to Sunday’s game against San Francisco. Linebacker John Abraham (groin), guard Daryn Colledge (back) and safety Rashad Johnson (ankle) were all limited Friday and are listed as questionable.

Everyone else practiced in full and is probable, including quarterback Carson Palmer (ankle and elbow), linebacker Daryl Washington (ankle), defensive tackle Darnell Dockett (shoulder) and running back Rashard Mendenhall (finger).

“It looks like we’ll be full-go and ready to play,” Arians said. “It’s a big game. It’s fun to have the last one count. That’s what we wanted all year, for this game to matter and it matters.”
TEMPE, Ariz. – The NFL’s active leader in sacks may be stuck at 133.5 until next season.

Arizona Cardinals linebacker John Abraham will be a game-time decision because of a groin injury that has sidelined him from practice this week, coach Bruce Arians said.

Abraham
“It’s pretty sore,” Arians added.

While Abraham may be out, Arizona could get back safety Rashad Johnson from a high-ankle sprain he suffered against Tennessee. Johnson practiced Thursday for the first time in two weeks and “did very well,” Arians said.

Backup quarterback Drew Stanton practiced in full but was added to the injury list because of a knee issue. Linebacker Daryl Washington was also added to the injury report with an ankle injury.

Guard Daryn Colledge (back), Johnson and Washington were limited.

Defensive tackle Darnell Dockett (shoulder), tight end Rob Housler (groin), running back Rashard Mendenhall (finger), quarterback Carson Palmer (right elbow/ankle), tackle/guard Nate Potter (ribs) and linebacker Matt Shaughnessy (groin) were upgraded from limited to full.
TEMPE, Ariz. – Tony Jefferson’s been standing on the sideline, watching other rookies take the field, patiently biding his time.

He’s been waiting for another chance to rewind the clock to the first half of the season when Jefferson, an undrafted free agent out of Oklahoma, was the rookie safety du jour for the Cardinals. He played 47 snaps in Week 2, and saw 58 and 31 in Weeks 4 and 5, respectively, according to Pro Football Focus.

He’s played a total of seven snaps since.

[+] EnlargeTony Jefferson
Matt Kartozian/USA TODAY SportsDespite his limited playing time, Tony Jefferson has remained sharp by working diligently in the Cardinals' classroom.
That’ll change Sunday when Arizona plays its biggest game of the season, Week 16 in Seattle with a playoff berth still available, but for now, barely out of reach. Safety Rashad Johnson is doubtful for the game with a high ankle sprain, meaning Jefferson is next man up with fellow rookie Tyrann Mathieu out for the season with a knee injury.

“Personally, I feel like I’m going to be ready,” Jefferson said. “I’m made for this type of stuff. I’ve been waiting for an opportunity. I haven’t been on defense as much as I was earlier in the season. I’m back at it.”

He’s spent the past three months working twice as hard in the classroom as his teammates who play on a regular basis. Defensive coordinator Todd Bowles made sure of that.

“We make sure our guys who aren’t starting and playing know twice as much because they don’t get the reps,” Bowles said. “They get mental reps. You can test them and you quiz them and you make sure they’re sharp because you’re gonna need them at some point in the year.

“You never really leave them out in the cold.”

It might’ve been chilly for Jefferson standing on the sideline for the past 11 games but the coaching staff didn't forgot about him, especially after he replaced Johnson last weekend. Jefferson's pressure on Tennessee quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick forced an interception in overtime, which led to Arizona’s game-winning field goal.

Cardinals coach Bruce Arians praised Jefferson’s ability to make plays when he’s given the chance but was quick to point out that Jefferson still doesn’t have enough experience to play an entire game at safety.

“But he’s going to,” Arians said with a chuckle. “That’s how you get experience, you play. He’s fine. He’ll do his job.”

In case he doesn’t, Curtis Taylor is waiting in the wings.

Taylor, who was cut by the Cardinals after training camp and was re-signed to the practice squad a couple days later, earned a spot on the 53-man roster on Dec. 10 when Arizona placed Mathieu on injured reserve. He hasn’t played in a regular-season game since 2010 with San Francisco, but, like Jefferson, whom he’ll back up, Taylor has been waiting for a chance.

“It’s not like it’s my first rodeo dealing with it or whatever,” he said. “It’s the NFL -- somebody goes down, somebody else has to step up.

Even after not seeing the field for so long, Taylor isn’t nervous or anxious or worried about playing.

“When you’ve been playing this game for so long, nerves is not an issue,” he said. “It’s more excitement than anything. I’m looking forward to it. Great opportunity. Great opportunity to get in the playoffs. I have nothing to be nervous about.”

Neither Jefferson nor Taylor have time to be nervous.

They won’t have a chance to ease their way back onto the field. The playoffs are on the line. Sunday is the type of game players strap on their pads for.

Sunday likely won’t go as smoothly as it would’ve had Mathieu or Johnson been healthy, but cornerback Patrick Peterson isn’t concerned that Jefferson won’t come to play.

“He’s a fast, ferocious safety,” Peterson said. “He scans the field, the back end pretty well. As a young guy the most important thing is communication, being a guy that pretty much doesn’t have that feel of the secondary now making the different checks. That’s going to be the hardest part for him.

“It’s not a doubt in my mind he’s going to come out and play a 110 percent.”
TEMPE, Ariz. – Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer watched his two backups run through their drills during the open portion of Arizona’s practice Wednesday without a helmet or shoulder pads.

Palmer
The 33-year-old said his left ankle, which he sprained Sunday at Tennessee, feels good and Palmer expects to be practicing again Thursday and Friday.

“Got a lot of treatment on it and [I will] be ready to roll,” Palmer said.

Palmer isn’t a stranger to not practicing. Heading into the St. Louis game in Week 14, Palmer didn’t take a single snap all week because of a sore elbow. The mental reps, alone, prepared him for the Rams’ defense. A sprained ankle, however, is different because it impacts Palmer’s mobility, which he’ll need against Seattle’s top-ranked defense.

The first-quarter hit on Palmer that sprained his ankle looked worse than it actually was. He stood up holding his legs and limping but after Arizona scored a touchdown on the next play, Palmer went to the sideline and got his ankle wrapped.

“I knew that he got a good shot on me and it probably tweaked my ankle a little bit,” Palmer said. “I didn’t think anything more than that or less than that.”

Besides Palmer, wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, tight end Rob Housler and safety Rashad Johnson did not practice Wednesday.

Fitzgerald is still following protocol, Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said. The next step is for Fitzgerald to begin exercising.

“He’s fine so far with what he’s been doing,” Arians said.

Fitzgerald saw the doctor assigned to the Cardinals on Monday and then went for a second, independent opinion on Tuesday. He has to pass the NFL’s mandatory concussion protocol before he’ll be allowed to play.

Housler and Johnson were on the stationary bike for the open portion of practice.

New rotation slows Cards' secondary

December, 15, 2013
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- They looked confused at times and frustrated throughout. Something was off all game.

Unlike the secondary that was running like a well-oiled machine until the third quarter last weekend, the Cardinals’ back-end didn’t play like itself in Sunday’s 37-34 overtime victory against the Tennessee Titans. Three days of practice with a new rotation, implemented to replace rookie free safety Tyrann Mathieu, whose season ended last Sunday because of a knee injury, wasn’t enough.

Mathieu’s loss meant the Cardinals had to insert a new starter at free safety (Rashad Johnson), a new nickel slot back (Jerraud Powers) and a new nickel corner (Antone Cason). Johnson and Powers had experience playing together all season, even after Mathieu took over as the starting free safety in Week 4, but Cason was the wild card. He only saw sporadic action this year until he replaced Mathieu in nickel against the Rams.

The cohesion, however, wasn’t automatic. Coverages were busted all afternoon against the Titans, and receivers roamed free. Tennessee quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick threw a career-high 402 yards against a defense that had not allowed more than 319 yards in a game this season -- and that was to Drew Brees.

But cornerback Patrick Peterson believes all the kinks got worked out Sunday.

“I think it takes a game,” he said. “I thought we did OK. I thought the quarterback made some good throws today, putting them in some tight spots. Just got to communicate better and overall, I thought we did play well just the communication part wasn’t there.

“Now that we got a feel for one another, it’s just time to go play.”

This week will be spent learning how to play with each other in new roles. Cason felt like the unit embraced him this week and that support helped him get two interceptions.

Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said there was no question the Cardinals would have liked to have Mathieu, but there’s no looking back. All eyes are on the players who can help the Cards.

And to do that, the communication must improve.

Peterson said the nickel corners need to improve their communication with the nickel backs. The safeties need to do a better job of relaying the audibles. The secondary, as a whole, needs to work on making sure the linebackers know where to be when receivers go under.

“I don’t want to say the game was moving fast,” Peterson said, “it’s just everybody wasn’t on the same page.”

Rapid Reaction: Arizona Cardinals

December, 15, 2013
12/15/13
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- A few thoughts on the Arizona Cardinals' 37-34 overtime victory against the Tennessee Titans.

What it means: It hasn't happened often this season, but the Cardinals' defense had an off day and it nearly cost them. The late collapse can't be blamed on the offense this week. Despite the poor coverage and stupid penalties, the offense made the plays when it needed to. It was the defense that let Arizona down, but it was also the defense that saved the Cards. Antoine Cason stepped into a more prominent role and had two interceptions Sunday, the second of which led to Jay Feely's winning, 41-yard field goal in overtime. The pass rush wasn't up to its usual snuff but, unlike last season when the defense had a bad game and eliminated any chance of the Cards winning, this season, the offense put together some nice drives that resulted in touchdowns.

Stock watch: Andre Ellington had been quiet for a few weeks but he returned with a bang. His 71 rushing yards were his second most of the season and his 87 receiving yards set a new career high. He showed again how formidable the one-two punch of himself and Rashard Mendenhall could be. Ellington's athleticism was on display from the onset in both facets, receiving and rushing. He caught two passes threaded through the secondary from Carson Palmer, showing his value in the passing game, and he made a couple Chris Johnson-esque runs in front of the star back's home crowd.

Missing Mathieu: One of the primary concerns when rookie safety Tyrann Mathieu went down with a season-ending knee injury was how the secondary was going to be reshuffled. Mathieu played three positions: free safety, cornerback and nickel back. His versatility allowed the Cardinals to not substitute; however, on Sunday, the secondary looked confused and out of sorts throughout the game. Coverages were mishandled, allowing Titans receivers to be left open in the middle of the field, and linebackers, at times, were matched up on running backs and receivers. The first week will most likely be the hardest, but now the Cards can re-evaluate their substitution patterns and coverages and make the necessary changes.

Penalties add up: Although the Cardinals had just nine penalties for 69 yards, it was the stupidity of the penalties that will irk Bruce Arians. On one drive in the third quarter, Marcus Benard was called for roughing the passer on a senseless hit. Then on the next play, Rashad Johnson was flagged for a questionable unnecessary roughness penalty for hitting a defenseless receiver. In the fourth, linebacker Daryl Washington was flagged for taunting and Dan Williams received a late unnecessary roughness. All penalties that could've -- and should've -- been avoided.

What's next: The Cardinals head to Seattle for their second-to-last game of the season against the Seahawks at 4:05 p.m. ET Sunday at CenturyLink Field.
TEMPE, Ariz. -- To Arizona Cardinals safety Rashad Johnson, trap games don't exist.

They're a figment of the media's imagination, another story line with another headline.

It doesn't matter to Johnson or anyone else in the Cardinals' locker room that the Jacksonville Jaguars are 1-8, finally getting their first win just a few days ago. If they're getting paid to play, there's a chance they can win, Johnson said.

[+] EnlargeDansby
AP Photo/John Cordes"It's not a trap," Karlos Dansby said, "when you know what's coming."
“We all respect one another,” Johnson said. “If we don't show up, we can get beat.

“If you don't prepare and you don't take that team seriously, then you're going to get beat because they have players on that team who are getting paid just like you are.”

All week, the refrain has been the same.

The Jags don't look like a 1-8 team on film. They play hard. Their defense is tough up front. They play all 60 minutes.

These are the types of games in which teams can easily go through the motions. Johnson looked to the Indianapolis Colts' 38-8 loss to the then-three-win St. Louis Rams last weekend as proof. But Arizona knows what happens if it looks past teams like Jacksonville, regardless of their record or stats.

The Jags are ranked last in the league in defending the run, but running back Rashard Mendenhall won't hear any of it. The game isn't played on paper, he said. He's seen it too many times: a team ranked low in the stats comes out and plays well in that area.

“The margin of winning and losing is so slight, I can't imagine any team in this league taking anybody lightly,” Mendenhall said.

If the Cardinals decide to take the Jags lightly, safety Yeremiah Bell said Jacksonville is good enough to take advantage of it, especially because they're playing with nothing to lose.

“They're more dangerous,” Bell said. “They're more apt to take chances, especially defensively (or) trick plays, flee-flickers, anything, onside kicks. So you always have to stay on your toes.”

While it might sound outrageous, if the Jags can win seven straight and finish 8-8, a wild-card berth could be in play. But a win by the Cardinals on Sunday at EverBank Field could derail those optimistic hopes quickly.

Arizona is in the midst of the NFC playoff hunt, sitting one game outside the wild card and wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald said the Cardinals can't afford to lose a game, so they must treat Sunday like it's a make-or-break game.

“This is a playoff game for us,” Fitzgerald said. “We're sitting at 5-4 right now. You look at the teams right now that are in the hunt for a playoff spot, it's tight. It's a tight race. We can't afford to give up any game.”

Cardinals coach Bruce Arians started the week praising the Jaguars and their defense. He was quick to talk about their 1-8 record not being an accurate indicator of what kind of team Gus Bradley is coaching, especially after watching the film.

Any given Sunday has become a cliché around football, but to the players it holds true.

On any given Sunday, a team that's 1-8 can beat a team that's 5-4. That's where the parity comes into play, linebacker Karlos Dansby said. He's also not a believer in trap games. Not in the NFL. Not against the Jaguars.

“It's not a trap,” he said, “when you know what's coming.”

Cards D pressures Ryan into turnovers

October, 27, 2013
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GLENDALE, Ariz. -- It looked all too familiar to the Arizona Cardinals.

A team went down early, couldn’t catch up on the ground and was forced to throw the ball. But the more they threw, the more they were sacked and intercepted.

There was one exception Sunday. It wasn’t the Cardinals who were in that situation for a change. Arizona got on top of the Atlanta Falcons early Sunday and forced them to play catch up from the shot gun. It allowed the Cardinals to do what so many teams have done to them: attack fast and in waves.

Arizona sacked Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan four times and had as many interceptions in a 27-13 win at University of Phoenix Stadium.

“We know they like to throw the ball a lot, so anytime you get [61] attempts throwing the ball, you have to get your hands on some of them,” linebacker Daryl Washington said. “I thought we did a good job up front getting pressure on Matt Ryan.”

Sunday’s performance by the defense, which Washington said was Arizona’s best this season, was a step-by-step process aided by the offense getting a lead early in the second quarter that the Cardinals didn’t relent.

First, it was stopping the run. The Cardinals stuffed Steven Jackson, limiting him to six yards on 11 carries in his first game back from injury. Ryan, in fact, was the Falcons’ leading rusher with 13 yards on a single carry.

Second, it was pressuring Ryan. Arizona’s four sacks were one more than Atlanta had allowed in any game this season. As the Cardinals have learned, when a team is in passing situations, the pocket tends to close quicker than usual. Atlanta found that out.

“When you get pressure on him like that you have to throw the ball the ball quick,” defensive end Calais Campbell said. “Throwing the ball usually leads to interceptions.”

Indeed it does.

Third, it was taking advantage of pressuring Ryan into quick decisions. The Cards had four interceptions, all in the second half. Washington came down with one and rookie safety Tyrann Mathieu came down with another. But safety Rashad Johnson, who didn’t start, had two.

“It was just the same, the preparation that I take week-in and week-out going into games,” Johnson said. “In this football game, [there’s] so many plays that everybody’s going to get an opportunity to make plays throughout the year. I just wanted to continue not to press because I hadn’t had any picks earlier in the season and I knew they would come.”
TEMPE, Ariz. -- Cardinals coach Bruce Arians was short with his answers Friday, about 15 hours after Arizona lost 34-22 to the Seattle Seahawks. The poor play of the offensive line dominated his day-after press conference, but that's been the topic du jour for a few weeks running:
  • Arians said Daryn Colledge left the game after twisting his back, which popped out his S1 vertebrae. It was fixed on the sideline but gave him spasms the rest of the game. He expects Colledge to return by Wednesday.
  • Arians is hopeful WR Brittan Golden can return next week. He missed Thurdsay's game with a hamstring injury.
  • Patrick Peterson suffered a jammed finger and could be seen on the broadcast with fingers taped together on his left hand.
  • Arians didn't see any hesitation in DE Calais Campbell, who returned to the field four days after being carted off the field in San Francisco after suffering a bruised spine. "He had a great game," Arians said.
  • Arians said he doesn't usually praise players after a loss but that Campbell and LB John Abraham, who had two sacks, had outstanding games.
  • C Lyle Sendlein was the highest-graded offensive lineman.
  • S Rashad Johnson isn't playing tentative, Arians said, despite playing with essentially eight fingers because his left middle finger is taped to another finger during games.
  • Arians said Thursday was the first time in 20 years he didn't come out of a game with an "explosive" play, meaning 20 yards or longer. The Cardinals' biggest play was 19 yards.
TEMPE, Ariz. -- When Arizona coach Bruce Arians saw the Cardinals’ schedule back in April, he had a one-word response. But it wasn’t for the reasons one would expect.

“I went, ‘Wow,’” Arians said Tuesday night on SiriusXM NFL Radio. “To go to San Francisco, probably [one of] the two more physical teams that we’ll play all season and then come back in the short week to play the team [Seattle] that’s favored. I can’t remember … it’s never happened to me in 21 years.”

Larry Fitzgerald
Fitzgerald
Arians
Arians
The NFL didn’t do the Cardinals any favors scheduling their two biggest NFC West games of the season within 96 hours of each other. If Arians didn’t like playing on Thursday then, and now that he's in the middle of the most crucial week of the season for Arizona, he likes it even less.

“I don’t think it’s really fair to the players, especially the veteran players,” Arians said. “This is really, really hard on them. There are so many [times] over the course of the last 10 years I’ve seen guys that could not play on Thursday but could play on Sunday. And that’s really hard on a football team.”

The Cardinals have two players who are questionable, Arians said, but he didn't say who.

“I’m more concerned, as the head coach, if they tell me they’re ready to go, are they really ready to go?” Arians said.

Arians said Monday he began game planning for the Seahawks last summer. He began breaking down tape of last year's team as soon as he could.

But the real preparation began in earnest last Wednesday and Thursday, Arians said. Offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin said he began working on Seattle last Friday night and early Saturday morning.

Arians said working last week allowed the Cardinals to begin this abbreviated week ready to practice. Eliminated were Monday’s film day and Tuesday’s off day. Instead, Monday was like a Wednesday, Tuesday like a Thursday and Wednesday will be like a Friday and Saturday.

“We’ll do our Friday practice [on Wednesday] morning and we’ll go to the hotel like a Saturday night,” Arians said.

Veteran center Lyle Sendlein said his body usually starts feeling sore from the previous week’s game on Tuesday, just two days before Arizona has to play again. While readying their bodies is one part of playing on a short week, preparing their minds is an entirely different philosophy.

Safety Rashad Johnson said getting ready for a Thursday night game is easy, but different.

“You got to spend more time on your own outside of the building because you don’t have Thursday, Friday, Saturday before the game. Just got to do extra prep on your own and be a professional. That’s what we’re here to do.”

Cardinals receiver Larry Fitzgerald also isn’t a fan of Thursday night games, but he took solace in the fact that the Seahawks are also playing on a short week and they have to travel.

“Thursday night games, not particularly are the funnest,” Fitzgerald said. “But any time you get a chance to play in front of a national stage and let the world see what your team is all about it’s a great opportunity.”
TEMPE, Ariz. -- To some Arizona Cardinals, Candlestick Park will forever hold a few select memories that helped shape their football careers.

To another group, Candlestick Park was just another stop on the schedule, another metal and concrete structure that came to life for a few hours on Sundays.

And to others, if they never saw Candlestick Park again, life would be just the same.

[+] EnlargeLarry Fitzgerald
Cary Edmondson/USA TODAY SportsArizona WR Larry Fitzgerald has had his share of bright moments while playing in San Francisco's Candlestick Park.
All three will diverge to the bay Sunday when Arizona makes its last regular-season trip to Candlestick. The emotions will run the gamut. The stadium, originally built for the baseball Giants, holds a special place to wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald and quarterback Carson Palmer.

Fitzgerald’s first NFL touchdown came in Candlestick during his 2004 rookie season off the hand of former Cards quarterback Josh McCown. It was against defensive back Ahmed Plummer in the end zone away from the locker room on the right side. After Fitzgerald scored, he landed in the arms of former Cardinals left guard Reggie Wells.

Those are the details Fitzgerald remembered this week. Those are the details that come to mind whenever he thinks of Candlestick Park.

“Candlestick is probably one of my favorite places to play aside from Lambeau Field, if you think of the history, not only football history but baseball history, in that stadium,” Fitzgerald said. “Just the great plays … Dwight Clark’s big catch in the back of the end zone, the countless championships 49ers teams that played there.

“The greatest receiver of all time played on that field for 15, 16 years. It’s a lot of great memories.”

For Palmer, its where football all but began for him.

It was either in 1992 or 1994, Palmer couldn’t remember which, when he was in the stands for a 49ers-Dallas Cowboys playoff game, his first NFL game.

“I do have an affection for it because growing up in California, you saw a lot of games on TV at Candlestick,” Palmer said. “I’m excited to play there.”

It was also where Jay Feely made his NFL debut with the Atlanta Falcons in 2001, hitting two field goals and an extra point two days before the 9/11 attacks.

Nose tackle Dan Williams won’t miss Candlestick but he won’t ever forget it. It was where he broke his arm in 2011, trying to tackle San Francisco running back Kendall Hunter.

But Williams appreciates the history within those walls. From the great Niners teams of the 1980s and 1990s to the great players, like Joe Montana, Jerry Rice and Steve Young, Williams understands the legacies left in the stadium.

To others, however, that’s all blocked out.

Candlestick is just another stop, just another stadium for linebackers Daryl Washington and John Abraham. But that’s just how it is for some players.

Safety Rashad Johnson doesn’t have any special ties to Candlestick and when the Cardinals go to San Francisco next time, they’ll be playing the same old 49ers, just in a different venue, he said.

The general consensus around the Cardinals is that not many will miss Candlestick, as run down and decrepit as it is, including the team’s head coach.

“No,” coach Bruce Arians said. “Not in the least.”
TEMPE, Ariz. -- Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald is questionable for Sunday's game at San Francisco with a hamstring injury, head coach Bruce Arians said Friday.

Larry Fitzgerald
Fitzgerald
Arians said it's the same left hamstring Fitzgerald tweaked Sept. 11, but the injury is in a different spot.

"We'll wait and see by game time," Arians said.

Fitzgerald was limited Wednesday and Thursday but practiced in full Friday. After seeing how the hamstring hampered him during the Lions game, Fitzgerald will be cautious Sunday.

This is just the latest setback for Fitzgerald, who has 24 receptions. That's fewest through the first five games of a season since 2004, his rookie year, when he had 22, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

Fitzgerald hasn't lived him to his Hall of Fame standards in his last 21 games. He has just two games with at least 100 receiving yards during that span and has a total of 1,086 yards, far less than the 1,411 yards he had in 2011.

Other injury news"

Rookie LB Kenny Demens (hamstring) was also listed as questionable.

Listed as probable were LB John Abraham (shoulder), LB Jasper Brinkley (groin), G Daryn Colledge (shin), DT Darnell Dockett (groin), S Rashad Johnson (finger), LB Kevin Minter (hamstring), DE Ronald Talley (wrist), LB Daryl Washington (knee).
TEMPE, Ariz. -- Maybe the third time is the charm for Arizona Cardinals safety Rashad Johnson.

He’s tried twice to play without the tip of his left middle finger, which essentially snapped off during a first-half play on Sept. 22 in New Orleans. But each time, coach Bruce Arians or a team doctor vetoed Johnson getting back on the field.

Johnson
With his cast down to a splint and the stitches out, Johnson is optimistic he can play Sunday in San Francisco.

“Everything’s looking good, healing well,” Johnson said. “We got some things we’re going to try this week. Really good chance to be back this week.”

Arians said the same during his Monday news conference, and then reiterated it on his weekly segment on SiriusXM NFL Radio on Tuesday night.

The stitches were removed Sunday, all but eliminating the chance for an infection.

Johnson was notified by Arians and defensive coordinator Todd Bowles that he wasn’t playing Sunday, and instead of a helmet and pads he donned a radio earpiece and coached his teammates from the sideline.

“They thought it was a better idea for me to just take another week for the health and safety precautions,” Johnson said. “I think it’s going to work out in the end. Sit the game now and not have to worry about it later on down the road.”

Cardinals' Rashad Johnson inactive

October, 6, 2013
10/06/13
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GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Arizona safety Rashad Johnson is inactive for Sunday’s game against the Carolina Panthers at University of Phoenix Stadium.

Johnson was cleared to play Thursday by team doctors after losing the tip of his left middle finger Sept. 22 against the New Orleans Saints, but he was listed as questionable on Friday’s injury report. Johnson did not practice Wednesday or Thursday and was limited on Friday.

This is the second straight game he’s missed because of the finger. Rookie Tyrann Mathieu will start in his place.

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