Arizona Cardinals head coach Ken Whisenhunt took questions Saturday afternoon about the team's second preseason game. He and the team arrived from Green Bay about 2:00 a.m. in the morning. The first and obvious topic of conversation was the injury status of rookie running back Ryan Williams.
Whisenhunt confirmed that Williams suffered from a ruptured patella tendon and would miss the entire season. He's tentatively scheduled to have surgery early next week and based on experience with this type of injury is expected to make a full recovery and be ready for training camp next summer.
"We were very excited about Ryan," Whisenhunt said. "We think he's a fabulous young player and we're looking forward to having him with our team as we go forward. It's unfortunate. But whenever an opportunity ends for a player like that than an opportunity opens for another one."
The opportunity, in this case, falls first on Alfonso Smith.
Smith, 23, went undrafted in 2010 after playing in Kentucky where he amassed 712 total yards. In 2007, he averaged 7.1 yards per carry on 21 attempts. In 2008 he carried the ball 74 times for a total of 313 yards. In 2009 he racked up 245 yards on 60 carries while dealing with injuries to his foot and thumb.
Smith impressed the Cardinals late in preseason last year with a good game against the Washington Redskins. Whisenhunt feels he's grown as a player since and brings good size and speed as well as an ability to understand the offense and his role in protection. He's considered a physical back who runs hard and can "pound it in there".
The team will likely look immediately for a "body" who can take reps in training camp but they are going to keep their options open when it comes to finding a veteran who might come available.
"I don't want to hit the panic button because I've been please with what I've seen out of Alfonso. That's what this game's all about. That's what building a team's all about. You have to have players step up and fit into a role when they get that opportunity," Whiz said.
Anyone the team looks at will have to be the right fit from both a talent and role perspective but also fit with the team chemistry. The Cardinals' coach thinks the team is in a much better position this year to have other players step up.
"I think our chemistry is one that's building such that we'll rally around each other and that's a big positive for us."
The Cardinals return to Flagstaff for their last week of training camp on Monday. We'll be there for the final four days of practice.
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