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Camaraderie Benefits Cardinals

Posted Nov 28, 2013

Tight-knit group helping in win column; Ellington added to injury report

The Cardinals have grown close this season as a team.

As noise in the locker room gets louder, the smile on Bruce Arians’ face grows wider.

The first-year coach knew it would be a task to assimilate so many new faces after he was hired in January. He liked what he saw in the team’s held-over core, but also realized “when you add a bunch of new players, it’s hard to really start caring about each other.”

Back then, rookie running back Andre Ellington said, felt different than it does now.

“When I first got here, the guys were a little distant,” Ellington said. “Moreso the older guys from the younger guys. I feel like that happened because a lot of the younger guys hadn’t proven themselves yet, so the older guys didn’t feel like they had to talk to them.”

Lately, though, players and coaches can’t stop gushing about the team’s chemistry.

On Friday, Arians did an interview from inside the locker room and talked about the decibel level. He had a good feeling about the Colts game two days later because the players were in a jovial mood, laughing and joking with one another.

Then the team went out and played its most complete game of the year, dismantling the Colts, 40-11, to improve to 7-4 and stay in the thick of the NFC wild card race.

It’s been a common sight recently, as the team camaraderie has built up in tandem with the four-game winning streak.

“The 53 men that we go to work with every day, we really do care about each other,” wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald said. “We’re a close-knit group. There are no cliques. We all genuinely want to see each other do well.”

Guard Daryn Colledge said developing that camaraderie goes beyond the work day. It’s not enough to enjoy each other’s company during mandated time periods.

“You need to be the team that has dinner with each other outside the facilities,” he said. “You need to know each other’s families.”

Once that’s established, it can buoy the communication and standard of play on the field.

“You can have the best defense in the world,” defensive end Darnell Dockett said, “but if none of them are sacrificing for one goal and you aren’t close like brothers on the field, the chances of you winning are slim to none.”

While the top players tend to set the standard in the locker room, chemistry can be easily affected by malcontents. Only 11 players start on each side of the ball and there are only so many snaps to go around.

Every player on the team has been a superstar growing up, and taking a lesser role can be a tough pill to swallow.

It is for cornerback Antoine Cason, the former All-American at the University of Arizona and first-round draft pick of the Chargers.  He’s been relegated to primarily special teams work after starting in San Diego, but Cason said the overall goal of winning trumps his individual feelings.

“For me you just say, ‘Hey, do what you need to do,’” Cason said. “How willing are you to make plays any way possible? I can go down there (on the coverage units) and make tackles. I can help spring a guy with a block. I’m in the flow now of getting done what I need to get done. I’m excited about every opportunity I get out there.”

Said Colledge: “If your role is to play six plays a game, you play those six plays the best damn way you can and you wait for your opportunity.”

The team is winning, which makes it much easier for players to get along. Arians, though, believes the camaraderie is at the root of the success. 

“The guys we brought in are great locker room guys and fit in so well with the group that was already here,” he said. “They’ve (all) embraced the rookies and they know how important the rookies are to us, so when you have a team who cares about each other, then you have accountability. When you don’t, guys will not be accountable for each other, and that’s what it takes to win.”

ELLINGTON ADDED TO INJURY REPORT

Running back Andre Ellington was added to the injury report as limited Thursday with a knee injury. It is something that bears watching Friday given the importance of Ellington to the offense. Safety Yeremiah Bell (knee) was upgraded to full practice, while wide receiver Michael Floyd (shoulder) and safety Rashad Johnson (ribs) remained limited.

For the Eagles, only safety Earl Wolff (knee) remained as a DNP, and no player was limited.

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