Kevin Kolb optimistic he'll return

TEMPE, Ariz. -- Arizona quarterback Kevin Kolb went through a substantial practice for the first time since his injury three weeks ago and said he is "absolutely" optimistic he will be able to play Sunday at St. Louis.

Kolb, who said he took 35 to 40 percent of the first-team reps in Wednesday's workout along with about half of the scout team reps, has been frustrated by his slow recovery from a right turf toe and bruise on the side of the same foot. He was injured in the Cardinals' 30-27 loss at Baltimore on Oct. 30.

"I'm anxious to get out there tomorrow," he said. "Today is like Christmas."

Backup John Skelton started in wins over St. Louis and Philadelphia, but struggled mightily in Arizona's 23-7 loss at San Francisco last Sunday.

The second-year pro from Fordham completed 6 of 19 passes for 99 yards and was intercepted three times before being benched in the fourth quarter in favor of Rich Bartel, whose 23-yard touchdown pass to Larry Fitzgerald with 2 minutes left was the Cardinals' only score.

"It was just a bad game," Skelton said. "I just chalk it up to that."

As for returning to the backup role, Skelton said, "That's not for me to say."

"I'll take whatever reps I can in practice and we'll see what happens at the end of the week," he said.

Coach Ken Whisenhunt said the decision on whether Kolb starts against the Rams will depend largely, but not entirely, on how his foot responds to the increased practice.

"There's a lot of things you've got to consider into that," Whisenhunt said. "He hasn't played in a couple of weeks so you've got to make sure that he's comfortable with the plan and that he's ready to operate. That's what this week's for."

Kolb had been listed as limited in practice last week but was working on the side with trainers on the injury. Wednesday, he said, marked the first time he was back in the thick of things with his teammates.

"It's good to have him out here today working," Whisenhunt said. "What's really going to be determined is how his foot responds after today. This is the first real work he's gotten, live work. He's done a lot of work on the side trying to get back. So we'll see how the soreness is, how he feels tomorrow. That's going to be part of it."

Kolb said the pain has greatly diminished but not disappeared.

"There's always going to be pain there," he said. "It's just fighting through it at this point. Pushing and planting is not a big deal. The plays everybody has concern about is the plays you don't expect and having to adjust on the fly, you know, 100 mph, which we all know happens during an NFL football game."

Kolb, acquired in a heralded trade with Philadelphia then signed to a big contract, struggled adjusting to the new offense and the team was 1-6 when he was injured. He said his time off gave him a perspective on what has been a difficult season.

"It's a chance to catch my breath a little bit," Kolb said. "I told you, when we got the phone call (that the trade had been made), we were on the plane hours later, up here and rolling into training camp. ... I'm looking forward to just getting back on the field and improving as a player and finishing the year strong."

Asked if there was concern about playing on the artificial turf in St. Louis, Kolb said, "not to me. Maybe to the docs, but not to myself."