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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.
For more on the Cardinals, visit Revenge of the Birds.
The initial prognosis for rookie running back Ryan Williams' knee injury is a patellar tendon tear, which means he'll almost certainly miss the rest of the season. For a little more detail into the injury, I consulted SportsMD.com (tip of the cap to Kent Somers for the link) and there is some generally good news, though time is not on Williams' side.
Surgical repair, while not an emergency, should be performed soon after the injury occurred. This allows for an easier repair before a significant accumulation of scar tissue. Most surgeons perform a direct repair of the tendon if it is torn in the middle. If the tendon is torn off of the bone, several different techniques can be utilized such as reattaching the tendon to the bone with a combination of sutures and bone tunnels. Regardless of technique, the goal of surgical repair is to re-approximate the tendon ends in a secure fashion to allow it to heal.
The good news is that if this is the route they take with Williams' injury, in most cases full recovery and retention of power and strength can be expected.
If the repair is done acutely (within 3 weeks), most athletes report good or excellent results. Most athletes are able to return to their previous level of competition and do not report residual weakness or discomfort.
One caveat is that as with any injury, there is greater risk or re-injury, loss of mobility/strength, and infection.
Loss of knee motion and quadriceps weakness are the two most common problems after surgery. Whether this is due to the initial injury or the surgical repair is difficult to determine, but likely due to the initial injury. With postoperative physical therapy as discussed above, the goal is to minimize these problems. Less common complications include persistent knee effusion, infection, and re-rupture of the repaired tendon.
This is hardly comforting to Arizona fans at the moment, but there are some serviceable free agent running backs still out there. Clinton Portis, Correll Buckhalter, Brian Westbrook, Laurence Maroney, LenDale White, Dominic Rhodes, Mike Hart ,Chad Simpson, DeShawn Wynn, Kenneth Darby, and Quinton Ganther, to name a few.
Of course we who follow the NFL know that preseason results matter little; it is the individual player and unit performances that matter as far as evaluation and regular-season preparations and deciding on the final 53-man roster and practice squad.
To that end, the Cards got a few such good performances despite the loss. And there were some negatives as well.
Quarterback Kevin Kolb engineered a pair of scoring drives -- and improvement on his performance in the first preseason game -- as Arizona took a 6-0 lead on two Jay Feely field goals. The first unit on offense looked OK, particularly the harder, lower running of running back Beanie Wells and the lead blocking of fullback Reagan Maui'a.
Kolb was looking early and often for star receiver Larry Fitzgerald but the two only connected for one 15-yard completion in the first quarter that set up a field goal.
Kolb played three series (jnto the second quarter) and found rookie tight end Robert Housler twice for double-digit yardage. Kolb was 6 of 11 for 80 yards.
It wasn't a good night for starting left tackle Levi Brown, who was penalized for a hold and two false starts. A screen pass to Wells for 20 yards was nullified by a penalty on WR Early Doucet for an illegal shift in the second quarter.
Arizona committed 11 penalties for the game.
John Skelton finished out the half with little success for the Cardinals, who trailed 14-6 at halftime. Skelton didn't return after hurting an ankle, and Richard Bartel entered the game to start the third quarter after Charles Ali forced a fumble and recovered it on the opening kickoff return of the half.
Running back Ryan Williams was injured on a run early in the third quarter and was removed from the game on a cart. He suffered a right knee injury and didn't return, and it didn't look good.
Bartel finished the drive with seven-yard touchdown pass to Stephen WIlliams, who fought off his defender and created space in the end zone to make the catch.
The Cardinals went up 20-14 on a one-yard TD run for Alfonso Smith, who subbed in for the injured Williams and took advantage of his opportunity. But it was all Packers from that point, as they took a 21-20 lead on a 97-yard pass play in which cornerback Desia Dunn was beaten on the outside edge in one-on-one coverage with no safety help.
Bartel played most of the second half, with Max Hall getting one series of action at QB. Bartel was 13 of 19 for 169 yards with a TD and an interception thrown.
Former Arizona State receiver Kerry Taylor caught a touchdown pass for the Packers and got his chance to perform a Lambeau Leap into the crowd. For the Cardinals, O'Brien Schofield registered a sack and showed some skill off the edge on the pass rush. Housler, who looks like he could be a factor in Arizona's offense sooner or later, caught a team high five passes for 68 yards, and Wells ran for 44 yards on 11 carries.
The Arizona Cardinals suffered a big blow on Friday night during their second game of the preseason which came against the Green Bay Packers. Second-round draft pick Ryan Williams from Virginia Tech had showed a lot of promise in training camp and in his first preseason game but now it looks like he's out for the season.
Arizona Republic beat writer Kent Somers is reporting that Williams has ruptured his patella tendon and will miss the rest of the season. Coach Ken Whisenhunt informed the media of the preliminary diagnosis after the game. The injury status isn't official, but the locker room is dejected.
Williams was carted off the field early in the third quarter after a Packer apparently landed awkwardly on his leg. The rookie running back out of Virginia Tech was expected to carry a pretty big load for the Cardinals in 2011 so this comes as a blow to a team hoping to reclaim the NFC West crown. The Cards are left with Beanie Wells, LaRod Stephens-Howling, and Alfonso Smith in the backfield. Per Somers, the team will now look for help in free agency or pick up a player when teams start roster cutdowns.
It looks like the Cardinals decision to trade Tim Hightower came about three weeks too early in this case.
In the preseason, probably the most important thing for a team to achieve is maintain its health. Other than Adrian Wilson's bicep tear, the Arizona Cardinals have been pretty fortunate. But during the third quarter of their preseason game against the Green Bay Packers, Ryan Williams suffered an injury that hopefully is not serious.
After carrying the ball for six yards in the third quarter, he was pulled down from behind and the Green Bay defender's knee came down on Williams' right calf. He stayed on the ground and had to be carted off.
As he left, things looked bad. As the cart left the field, Williams held his head in his hands.
Later during the game, his agent, Malik Shareef, tweeted (and it was subsequently deleted) that it was, per Williams' mother, a knee injury but not an injury to the ACL.
The deletion could be one of two things. It could mean that the injury may be more serious or simply that his agent decided it would be better to not share anything until there was something more definitive after the knee has been examined.
As the Cardinals traded Tim Hightower at the start of training camp, if Williams has to miss any extended time, the running back depth will be a concern. It will put even more pressure on Beanie Wells to have a big season.
As with many Cardinals fans, our thoughts go out to Ryan Williams and his family hoping for the best outcome.
Kevin Kolb's second start was not amazing, but he did do something that he did not accomplish last week against the Oakland Raiders. In his three series manning the Arizona Cardinals offense against the starting defense of the Green Bay Packers, he led the team to two scores. They were field goals, but they were points.
Kolb finished the night 6-11 passing for 80 yards. He did not turn the ball over.
He was not spectacular, as he had a couple of bad throws and he lost 11 yards on a sack that never should have happened.
However, overall, there was more balance offensively with success running the ball with Beanie Wells. The offense, when not getting penalized, moved the ball effectively down the field and used the clock, something that was almost unheard of a year ago.
For me, while he was not super sharp, he showed me what I wanted to see. He made some plays, he moved the ball and the team put points on the board.
What we should want to see next week from Kolb and first-team offense is at least one touchdown drive.
The Arizona Cardinals will face the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field soon this evening. However, they will do so without two of their tight ends. Todd Heap and Stephen Spach will both sit out the game. Heap sprained his thumb is last week's contest against the Oakland Raiders. Spach is out with a calf injury he suffered in practice.
Neither injury is serious. In fact, Heap would play if this were a regular season game.
What this does is open the door to rookie Robert Housler to show off what he can do. It also will give second-year tight end Jim Dray more looks.
The Cardinals are using the tight end much more in their offensive sets, so it goes to figure that three tight ends are a lock to make the roster. With the possibility of four, that leaves the veteran Spach and the young Dray looking at a bubble situation.
In particular, Dray needs to take advantage of the extra opportunities. Housler, on the other hand, will just be able to show what he can offer. We saw him score a touchdown last week and line up as a wide receiver in four-wide sets. His speed and height are sure to cause matchup problems if he shows enough consistency to make it onto the field.
Hopefully these young players can have a positive impact in a game that is more meaningful for them than it is for the entire team.
Catch more Cardinals coverage and commentary over at Revenge of the Birds.
Kevin Kolb, Larry Fitzgerald and the Arizona Cardinals have made the trip to Green Bay, Wisconsin to face the Packers in a preseason game that really has no importance. That is, no importance in the grand scheme of the NFL. However, the game is important to lots of players and also to the coaching staff of the Cardinals. The Cards want to see how they match up with the world champions.
I can't imagine, though, that they will look too much into how things go, considering that it is the preseason and most of the game ends up being played by the people fighting to land a job on the team, but guys whose names you may not ever hear again.
Even still, here is what to look for during the game for the Cardinals:
The Cardinals offense scoring points with Kevin Kolb behind center:
In the preseason opener against the Raiders, Kolb didn't look bad at all. However, even with a trip down into the red zone, the offense did not score a point. If for anything else, it would serve as the symbolic beginning of the Kolb era. Yes, it is not the complete playbook and teams are unwilling to allow a ton of access, but the fans need to see the first team offense put points on the board to even begin to have any comfort for the coming regular season.
Beanie Wells running harder and lower:
One criticism Wells has had is running too high, making it easier for him to go down. Not coincidentally, Arizona had some of the worst stats in the league in 2010 when dealing with running backs and breaking tackles. As Wells desires tobe that featured back in the offense, he needs to show this.
Will the defense get any pressure at all on Aaron Rodgers?
The pass rush aspect of the Ray Horton defense has not yet been seen. The team is hoping to see O'Brien Schofield, Will Davis or any other of the defensive players on the squad to step up and get to the QB.
The young cornerback corp matching up against the Green Bay passing attack:
As Rodgers is one of the best passers in the league, Greg Toler, A.J. Jefferson, Patrick Peterson and Richard Marshall will be tested. Jefferson made some very good plays. Peterson has not shown much, but it looks like the plan is to bring him along slowly. Who will make plays tonight?
The positional battle between Rich Bartel and Max Hall for No.3 QB:
Bartel has seemed to be the favorite in camp, but Hall has done some really good things in the preseason both last year and this one. Fans love Hall, but Bartel has looked much better. When it comes to the number three guys, in the end it won't matter. If they end up playing this season, then the season will have been a disaster.
Broadcast schedule for the preseason game between the Arizona Cardinals and Green Bay Packers
The Arizona Cardinals will face the Green Bay Packers for the 21st time in the preseason. The game starts at 5:00 p.m. AZT on ABC 15 TV.
Rookie running back Ryan Williams (second round, Virginia Tech) got a boost in his profile Sunday when the Arizona Cardinals cleared out one guy on the depth chart ahead of him. With Tim Hightower traded to the Washington Redskins, the Cardinals are sending Williams a message that he's heard loud and clear.
"They opened the pathway for me," Williams said after practice on Monday morning. "If I don't perform and if don't do what I need to do to get on the field than I'm going to look bad and it's going to make them look bad too. I don't want nobody looking bad."
Hightower's departure also cleared another roadblock for Williams. He can now wear number 34 which for a running back is the ultimate sign of greatness.
Williams was a fan of Walter Payton since he was a kid and even emulates his running style a bit on Sweetness' distinctive high-step, "I have a little something, it's not quite like his but our styles favor but different in a couple of ways."
The young rookie is totally focused on his job, which right now means learning the playbook. He has no TV or computer in his dorm room and has no desire to go out on the town and sample some of the Flagstaff restaurants.
Williams' has his head buried in the play book and is even more motivated by being on the same field as some of his football heroes.
"I feel like a little kid out here seeing Larry Fitzgerald, (Darnell) Dockett, I mean guys like that I was watching them, playing them on games and now I'm with these guys. It feels good. It feels good that I made and now I've got to work as hard as these guys."
Williams might have one path opened to him with the Hightower trade, but coach Ken Whisenhunt made it clear that Beanie Wells is "the guy" and will get the the opportunity to "run with it".
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