NFL Nation: Charles Ali

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. -- Thoughts and observations after watching the Arizona Cardinals relocate their Sunday practice indoors to avoid rains at Northern Arizona University:

  • Offensive line coach Russ Grimm's selection to the Hall of Fame raises his profile among Cardinals players who might have known he played without knowing he was one of the great guards. Grimm and Pro Bowl defensive lineman Darnell Dockett spoke for about 15 minutes at one point during practice. Grimm was sharing pointers based on his knowledge of the game and personal experiences. The two shook hands about 10 minutes into the conversation as if they were finished, only to quickly reconvene and continue. I'll have more on this subject another time.
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    AP Photo/Matt YorkRain forced the Cardinals and their defensive line to practice indoors on Sunday.
    Defensive tackle Alan Branch, facing a make-or-break season is obviously lighter. He even led teammates in sideline-to-sideline runs before practice. I caught him stopping about 5 yards short of the sideline on one of the runs, though.
  • It's tough for the offense to function sometimes with Dockett blowing up plays. He drove right guard Reggie Wells into the backfield on one play, sending Wells flying into quarterback Matt Leinart, who hit the FieldTurf surface at the 16,000-seat Walkup Skydome. Dockett expanded his offseason training regimen to include pushing his Cadillac for 30 to 40 feet at a time, with 2-minute breaks between sets (former Seattle Seahawks tackle Walter Jones used to push around a pickup truck as part of his training). Dockett said it's "no sweat" matching up against 340-pound offensive linemen after pushing around a vehicle weighing several thousand pounds.
  • Second-year safety Rashad Johnson might be making a conscious effort to become more physical, something he must do to challenge for playing time. The Cardinals practiced in pads and Johnson took advantage of the opportunity to hit. He tagged receiver Onrea Jones on one play when both met at the ball.
  • Stephen Spach made a one-handed grab to beat new Cardinals safety Kerry Rhodes for a 35-yard touchdown up the left seam.
  • Cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie is not yet full strength following knee surgery, coach Ken Whisenhunt said. It was obvious between plays because Rodgers-Cromartie sometimes moved with a limp. But he was very active and ran well when plays were live. Learning to play through injuries and at less than full strength can be difficult for some young players. I thought that was a challenge for Rodgers-Cromartie late last season.
  • The first-team offensive line, from left to right: Levi Brown, Alan Faneca, Lyle Sendlein, Wells, Brandon Keith.
  • The second-team offensive line, left to right: Jeremy Bridges, Rex Hadnot, Ben Claxton, Deuce Lutui, Herman Johnson.
  • Lutui weighs about 360. I would have guessed 345 to 350. He's a big guy and he can hide weight. He did not appear sloppy to me. The Cardinals would like him to play in the low 340s.
  • Keith looks the part at right tackle. He appears strong. I didn't see the Cardinals hold full-speed pass-rush drills, however. The offensive and defensive lines took a break lasting perhaps 15 minutes at one point during practice.
  • A long-term extension for Dockett remains a possibility this season, Whisenhunt said. The Cardinals want to reward him.
  • The Cardinals think Faneca still has something left even though the Jets ate millions in salary to remove Faneca from their roster. Dockett and Whisenhunt both said they've seen good things from Faneca. "Very athletic," Dockett said.
  • For a minute, I thought the Cardinals had an elite new prospect at safety, but Pro Bowler Adrian Wilson was wearing No. 9 instead of his usual No. 24. He wore No. 9 in high school and recent returned to have his jersey retired.
  • Beanie Wells, Steve Breaston and Charles Ali were among the players I saw drop passes. Breaston couldn't make the grab on what would have been a long touchdown pass.
  • Rookie receiver Max Komar made the best catch of the day, snatching a pass while lying on his back.

I'm looking forward to spending the next few days at Cardinals camp. I'll have more observations Monday.

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