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Calf Strain Sidelines Robert Nkemdiche

Posted Aug 23, 2017

Notes: Nkemdiche out Saturday; Iupati also sits; Bucannon ready to hit

Cardinals defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche suffered a calf strain on Tuesday and won't play in the Cardinals' preseason game on Saturday.

Robert Nkemdiche’s impressive training camp has been put on hold.

The second-year defensive tackle suffered a calf strain in practice on Tuesday and won’t play Saturday against the Falcons.

“He’ll be day-to-day,” coach Bruce Arians said. “We’ll see how long it takes but he will be in a boot for a minute.”

Nkemdiche will also miss next Thursday’s preseason finale against the Broncos, but Arians said he wasn’t expected to play in that one anyway. Given Arians’ timeline, it’s too early to know if Nkemdiche’s availability for the regular-season opener is in jeopardy. The Cardinals play in Detroit Sept. 10.

The former first-round pick didn’t make an impact last season as a rookie but has performed well both in practice and games the past several weeks.

He was at the center of a pair of short-yardage stops against the Raiders and has regularly been in the backfield in each game. Arians said he hasn’t been surprised by Nkemdiche’s growth.

“It’s everything we anticipated him to do, and what we expected of him,” Arians said.

The Cardinals have a big void to fill on the defensive line without perennial Pro Bowler Calais Campbell, and an ankle injury helped derail Nkemdiche’s rookie season. However, Arians downplayed the idea of the calf injury thwarting Nkemdiche’s progress.

“It shouldn’t set him back hardly at all,” Arians said.

IUPATI OUT, WETZEL IN FOR ATLANTA

Guard Mike Iupati (triceps) will also miss the Atlanta game, Arians said. Reserve John Wetzel will start in his place. Wetzel is the team’s jack-of-all-trades backup lineman. He filled in at left tackle, right tackle and right guard a season ago.

Cole Toner saw some first-team work when Iupati went down on Monday, but Wetzel is Arians’ preference.

“Bigger, stronger,” Arians said. “Cole, he’s done a good job at center, but Wetzel has started at tackle and guard. He’s the sixth guy.”

Wetzel would love to be a full-time starter but understands his role.

“Whatever the team needs right now,” Wetzel said. “I’m just working to get better so if something else comes up, that’s good. I’m just trying to do what I can to help the team.”

Wetzel was asked if there is any position on the line he can’t play.

“I don’t know about center,” Wetzel said. “I could try, but I’m 6-7. That could be a little difficult.”

BUCANNON CHAMPING AT THE BIT

Money linebacker Deone Bucannon has missed all of training camp after offseason ankle surgery, but was activated off the physically unable to perform list on Tuesday to go through walk-throughs with the team this week.

Bucannon, a ferocious tackler, is getting itchy for live action.

“He’s ready to hit somebody, that’s for sure,” Arians said. “Hopefully it’s not me.”

Bucannon is not practicing yet, but that could change within the next couple of weeks. Arians told Arizona Sports that the best-case scenario would be to have Bucannon back in the regular season opener against the Lions, with worst-case being Week 3 at home against the Cowboys.

“He’s out there running in the heat, doing everything he needs to do,” Arians said. “Just getting some of that last bit of stiffness out.”

PUNTING COMPETITION STILL CLOSE

Most of the starting spots have been ironed out, but one competition that remains uncertain is at punter. Matt Wile and Richie Leone could go down to the wire battling for the spot. The Cardinals have to pare down their roster after the final preseason game.

“I’d like to see one of them separate themselves,” Arians said.

Arians also said earlier in training camp he could look elsewhere for a punter if the team isn’t satisfied with the current production.

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