Open Mike Session with Cardinals HC Bruce Arians

BY: ED COLE

TEMPE, Ariz. – It was a fairly quiet and subdued day around the Cardinals facility on Sunday, and understandably so. They got back in the wee hours of the morning after their Wild Card loss to the Carolina Panthers, and just like that, their season is over.

The players cleaned out their lockers, got themselves ready for exit interviews along with the coaches and prepared themselves for a long offseason.

Head coach Bruce Arians had his final meeting with the media, and put his focus off the game of football for a little while, because his heart, like many of ours, were/are heavy with the loss of former ESPN anchor and personality Stuart Scott, who passed away Sunday morning after a long bout with cancer.

“Obviously, we are still stinging from the loss, but I think when you come to work you find ways to put things into perspective. We lost a football game, but we lost more this morning. I think one of the best members of the media I’ve ever dealt with, Stuart Scott, passed away. That’s more real than a football game. You guys lost a great ally and a friend – we lost one, too. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family.”

“Our football team this year I thought overachieved because they cared about each other. This was a group of guys that really galvanized early, and it started last year. The guys that came back brought that atmosphere that they would do anything for each other. Now, going forward to next year, obviously there’s always new turnover – players, coaches, everything – but that will come back with us and make us even stronger for next year. Normally, when a season comes to an end, I’m ready for a break. But I can honestly say I can’t wait to start this next one knowing the quality of the people that we have in that room and the team that we can build around them is very excited.”

“I think it should be very exciting for our fans. Again, can’t thank our fans enough. At the stadium this year they were awesome. They took over the game in the fourth quarter every time. We just didn’t give them enough to take over the stadium against Seattle, and I feel bad about that. But, again, I don’t look at ‘what if?’ ‘What if?’ will drive you crazy. I look at what can be, and what can be is a great football team with a few new pieces next year, but the core is here now. With Steve (Keim) and Michael (Bidwill) – you can look at the building – there’s a commitment to winning in this organization that the Valley should be extremely proud of. I know I’m very proud to be a part of it.”

On what weighs heaviest on his mind as he reflects on this season:

“It was more smiles, watching those guys come to work every Wednesday after devastating injuries. The determination in the room was – it started in the first game. We lost Carson (Palmer) in the first game, and we were 9-1. That stretch of games was amazing to be a part of. Now, we didn’t finish it. They kept nicking away with the injuries. But, the accomplishment of that was really special. Coaching staff just did an unbelievable job of preparing our guys, them buying into the game plans every week, and it was fun. I looked forward to coming to work every single day because of the guys and the preparation habits. I’ve been on teams when they lost their quarterbacks or they lost Darnell Dockett, they tanked it. You couldn’t get them to work. They just put in their time. These guys played to win the game every week, all the way to last night.”

On if it’s difficult to fight off thoughts of what may have been when thinking about the opportunity that was laid out for them:

“Maybe in about three weeks they’ll be time to reflect back. Right now it’s still what could have been if we just did what we could’ve done last night. So, yeah, I probably will reflect in a few weeks back.”

On having the team walk 10 yards up the field and not looking at Darnell Dockett after his injury and if that was a sign of getting the players ready to overcome any injury:

“Yeah, but it’s basically the way I was brought up in this business. I’ve been fortunate to have been, as a young coach, around some great coaches. That’s the way you did it. The game’s not going to stop because a guy gets injured. It’s cold, but it’s reality. Yeah, I think that sent a signal to everybody that we have to march on. We addressed it right away after practice.”

On the speculation about Larry Fitzgerald’s situation and where he fits into the Cardinals’ plans for the future:

“He’s right where he’s always been. I don’t control money and caps and all that crap. I just coach the heck out of him and he’s a great kid. I look forward to having him next year.”

On changes being inevitable moving into next year and how he deals with the emotional aspect of that as a coach:

“Well, we won’t be the 2015 Cardinals until the week of the first game. First, we’ll get 90 guys in here that will start fighting for positions, and as I tell them, it’s not ‘we,’ it’s ‘you.’ It’s ‘me’ right now. Get a job. We’ll become ‘we’ when we cut everybody down and we become the Cardinals. But up until then, that’s a fun process watching all that, because there are always those guys who come out of nowhere. Kerwynn Williams and people like that will come out of nowhere. It’s fun watching them grow as you put that team together. But, yeah, change is inevitable in the NFL now.”

On how big of an offseason it is for a guy like Jonathan Cooper to get healthy:

“It’s huge. Coop’s just been bad luck. He was starting to play pretty solid. He should be able to get back into this offseason the healthiest he’s been. All he’s got is a wrist. His leg’s fine. Yeah, I look forward to him growing this year.”

On how good it would be to have Larry Foote back next year:

“Yeah, I would love to have Larry back. He’s at an age where the decision for him is if he wants to continue to carry on, but I think his presence will always be felt here, like Karlos’ (Dansby) was last year. When you bring a pro in that guys rally around – like I said, Larry was only here five or six weeks and he got 15 votes for captain. That speaks for itself.”

On the chances Todd Bowles will be back:

“Well, I’ve got my fingers crossed both ways. I’m pulling for him to get the job, and the right one, not just any one but the right one, and obviously I desperately would like to have him back.”

On if Todd Bowles has any interviews scheduled:

“I know that the paperwork has come in officially now from Atlanta and Chicago, I believe. No, and the Jets, those three. I think everyone will interview him.”

On if he anticipates any other coaching changes:

“No. Not right now.”

On if Todd Bowles does take a job if there are any limitations on how many people he could take from the staff:

“None.”

On if he thinks this team can count on Daryl Washington moving forward:

“That’s something that Michael (Bidwill) and Steve (Keim) and I will sit down and talk about, his future. He still has a lot of protocols to pass to get reinstated. Obviously, the football player, we would love to have back.”

On if they have the flexibility to bring back all their expiring free agents they want to with the contracts of Larry Fitzgerald and Darnell Dockett:

“I think Steve (Keim) would answer that question better, but I think we’re in really good shape in that department.”

On if he saw the kind of progress out of Logan Thomas that makes him confident going forward:

“Oh yeah. I think he’s still got a great future. That was one of the reasons there was no way I was going to put him out there and go through growing pains. This team didn’t need any growing pains at this point in time. Ryan (Lindley) was a lot further along in that phase, but I think talent-wise, he’s everything we thought he was and he’s got a really good future.”

On how Michael Floyd played this season:

“I thought Mike had a good year. His opportunities, at times, were not there. He got tackled about four times going deep last night, not called again. But, he grew as a player. He was huge coming down the stretch for us.”

On if Floyd’s numbers were sometimes due to trying to spread the ball around:

“Yeah, there were times he’s double covered and there are other times where the middle of the field is open. So, you’ve just got to pick and choose your spots. We designed some things for him, as we did for Larry (Fitzgerald). John Brown disappeared a little bit in the month of December, which is normal for a rookie.”

On what he learned about Carson Palmer this year:

“He’s as resilient as ever. He’s tough as nails. He’s the guy you want leading your football team and your franchise.”

On if he worries about Palmer’s rehab from the knee injury:

“No, because he’s in such great health. It was a freaky knee injury, but knee injuries are easy to overcome. The rest of it, his arm strength and everything else, is great. He takes great care of himself, so I don’t see why he couldn’t play for two or three more years.”

On Drew Stanton’s injury outlook:

“He’ll be fine in a matter of months. Obviously, with the CBA, I don’t think these guys can even come back until around April 16. I’m not sure that’s the date. It’s really hard on a second-year player who wants to come back and improve his game, because he can’t talk to his coaches about it.”

On Tyrann Mathieu needing the offseason to get healthy again:

“Yeah, he’s got to get his left side rebuilt.”

On if Antonio Cromartie is a guy he definitely wants to bring back:

“I’d definitely love to have ‘Cro’ (Antonio Cromartie) back, yes.”

On what the team gained this year after saying last year they gained a belief they could win games:

“They know they can. They know they can compete at any level, any place, any time.”

On the task of having to get past Seattle in the division:

“That was the thing this year. We thought we got by them last year. I’d like to play them with a first-string quarterback. We beat them with our first-string quarterback. We didn’t get the chance to play them this year with our first-string quarterback, and they had theirs. That was the difference in the game.”

On if Patrick Peterson met the bar this year after it was set higher with his contract extension:

“Yes, I think he was in a little slump early in the year, but once he got rolling, he was as good as ever.”

On if he feels they need to add a veteran QB considering the injuries they had this year:

“No, they cost too much. We got about 15, 18 million in that room. I don’t think we can put another one in there. You’d like to bring a young one. You don’t ever anticipate playing with your third. We’ve got a great two. We’ve got a really good one and we’ve got a nice project at three.”

On if he can imagine a team going deep into the playoffs with a third-string QB:

“No. I know there have been a lot of twos. (Jeff) Hostetler, Earl Morrall, he did it twice; about two of us can remember him. (Tom) Brady. There have been a bunch of twos, but not many threes.”

On how Deone Bucannon will be helped next year by the playing time he got this season:

“He’s got so much more experience at a position he’s never played. He’ll get the whole offseason back at safety, where he’s natural. He gives us so much flexibility now that he has played linebacker for so long.”

On if he can see Bucannon still playing at both spots next year or if he would rather he just plays safety:

“We’ll wait and see what the roster has. It was a necessity to have that speed on the field with him to learn how to play linebacker. We were very fortunate that he was able to do that.”

On his feelings on Lyle Sendlein and the center position:

“I think Lyle’s another solid player that’s got great leadership skills. I don’t see any diminish in his play.”

On if he sees Darnell Dockett being with the team next year:

“Oh yeah. Yeah.”

On if Jonathan Cooper is past the turf toe issue or if he will need surgery to correct it:

“Oh no that’s long over with. It’s just his wrist now.”

On if there are any surgeries coming up for guys:

“We’ll see what happens with Drew (Stanton). They’ll be a bunch of cleanups. The only serious injury out of last night, Jaron Brown fractured his scapula. Jaron will be probably four to six months before he can go.”

On when it goes from disappointment over yesterday to excitement about the future:

“On the way home. You get pissed off for about a half hour and you dream about next year for a half hour, two hours.”

On what the next three days will be like:

“I’ll meet with every player individually, every coach individually, and I’ll probably leave town Wednesday.”