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A Healthy Optimism

Posted Dec 22, 2009

Cards have avoid injury during back-to-back division titles

 Despite being on the cover of the Madden video game, Larry Fitzgerald (right) continues to show up week after week for the Cards.
 
 
EA Sports put Larry Fitzgerald on the cover of “Madden 2010” and a fan base collectively gasped.

The “Madden Curse” had frequently meant injury to the video game’s cover boy. Then again, maybe the curse hadn’t come up against the Cards’ run of good luck when it comes to health.

In nearly two full seasons, the Cardinals still haven’t placed a starter on injured reserve – although tackle Mike Gandy could end up there after surgery to repair a sports hernia.

That doesn’t mean injuries haven’t hit the Cards, of course. Last season, the Cards lost linebacker Clark Haggans late in the season with a foot injury, and wide receiver Anquan Boldin missed four games (and 1½ in the playoffs) with various ailments. This season, quarterback Kurt Warner missed a game-and-a-half with his concussion and reserve safety Matt Ware is done with a knee problem.

The Cards did lose second-round pick Cody Brown in the preseason, but his impact was never felt in part because he never had a chance to show what he could do.

But almost all the key players remain in place.

(And before I get a rash of e-mails, no, I don’t believe in jinxes.)

Luck is involved, without question. Many players point out the work strength and conditioning coach John Lott has done (just ask Larry Fitzgerald or Darnell Dockett about Lott sometime) as preventative medicine.

That doesn’t fully explain the good fortune. Until Gandy succumbed to his hernia before the Minnesota game, the offensive line had started as a unit 31 straight games including the playoffs. Warner has missed just one start – Tennessee – since last season. Fitzgerald has long been remarkably durable, and even with the maladies through which Boldin has suffered, he’s never been affected long-term.

On defense, Dockett is working on a consecutive games streak of 94 straight and cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie successfully battled through a broken finger.

Coach Ken Whisenhunt said earlier this week one of the reasons he wasn’t worried about his passing game being out of sync was because of the experience all the pieces had playing together. That doesn’t happen unless those parts stay on the field.

Maybe the Madden Curse is real, and Steelers safety Troy Polomalu – who shared the cover with Fitzgerald this season – simply absorbed all the bad parts of the gig. Polomalu has been hurt much of the season.

Fitzgerald? He suffered what looked like a scary knee injury two weeks ago in San Francisco, and not only did it turn out OK, Fitzgerald went back into the game. He showed no effects of the issue in Detroit, either.

Five months into an NFL season, most players are beat up.

But not every team can stay as relatively healthy as the Cardinals have – a big reason they are in position to make another postseason run.

HIGHSMITH CUT

The Cardinals cut linebacker Ali Highsmith Tuesday and added veteran safety Hamzah Abdullah to replace Ware. I’d expect a move to bring in another linebacker now that the Cards are short at the position, but the team felt it needed another body in the secondary.

The Cards also got another tackle in, signing Cliff Louis to the practice squad and releasing fullback Brandon Renkart.

SOME NUMBERS

The Cardinals are 5-0 after a loss this season and if they win Sunday, they will avoid back-to-back losses for the first time since 1975.

The Cardinals are 8-0 under Whisenhunt when they have a 100-yard rusher, and have won 15 straight games under such a scenario.

If the Cards win Sunday for their 10th win, it will only be the sixth time – in 90 seasons since the current NFL came into existence – the Cards have posted double-digit wins.
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