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Cardinals’ No. 1 Decision: No Rest, No Rust

Posted Dec 28, 2015

Not wanting to set "precedent," Arians said approach to Seahawks will be same as every week

Linebacker Kareem Martin (96) and defensive tackle Cory Redding (90) celebrate with cornerback Justin Bethel (28) after Bethel's interception Sunday.

Bruce Arians didn’t even wait for the question.

The Cardinals already have a bye locked up, and all they could achieve further in Sunday’s finale against the Seahawks is the No. 1 seed – and that’s only with a win and an improbable Panthers loss to Tampa Bay in Carolina. Resting players, and perhaps more specifically, keeping key guys out of harm’s way, was a consideration.

But Arians said Monday, it wasn’t considered very long.

“We will approach this game as if it were Game 1 of the season,” Arians said. “We don’t want to set a pattern of different behavior.”

Arians insisted his decision is what he believes in anyway – so the chance at the No. 1 seed is not the reason for playing it out. He also said he doesn’t plan on pulling guys out after a half, either.

“We are playing so well right now,” Arians said. “I don’t want to change any way we prepare. We know we will get a week to rest anyway. We’ll get plenty of rest.”

Players were already lobbying to go following Sunday’s win over the Packers, although Arians said he was already planning it that way. The Cardinals already have set a franchise record with 13 victories, although a 14th – especially against a division rival who the Cards could play again in the postseason – would be embraced.

“We’re here to play,” defensive tackle Cory Redding said. “We signed up for 16 games at the beginning of the season. We didn’t sign up for 15, sign up for 12. We signed up for 16.”

Said wide receiver Michael Floyd, “Nothing’s really going to change for me. I don’t know who is going to play, who is not going to play. I see it as another statement game, because we could potentially see them again. It’s a game to get more momentum.”

The Cardinals have never been in this position. In 2009, the team went into their finale with some choices to make, although circumstances were slightly different. To begin with, the Cardinals were playing the Packers in the last game knowing Green Bay would likely return a week later for a Wild Card playoff game.

There was a chance going into the finale that the Cardinals, with a win and Minnesota loss, would capture the No. 2 seed and a bye. But the Vikings played early in the day, and by the time the Cardinals took the field, they knew the Vikings had won and clinched the bye. That isn’t an option this week, since the NFL flexed the Panthers-Buccaneers kickoff to the same time as the Cardinals-Seahawks.

Then-coach Ken Whisenhunt, responding to the Vikings result, pulled out key players and went vanilla with the game plan – yet starting cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie still suffered a knee injury that hurt his play in the postseason.

There are no guarantees. And because the Cardinals already have a bye, sitting someone would mean keeping him out from now through Jan. 16 or 17 – when the Cards would open the postseason – which is an eternity.

“Some guys get very stale quickly,” Arians said.

For a team that has blitzed its last two opponents by a combined score of 78-25, taking the foot off the gas doesn’t make sense. It certainly doesn’t fall in line with how Arians has operated with his team.

“Things are flowing right now,” defensive tackle Calais Campbell said. “We have a lot of momentum. You want to keep it going.”

Besides, the chance at the No. 1 seed – even if it were to mean a playoff rematch with the Seahawks in the divisional round, which isn’t likely to happen if the Cardinals are the No. 2 seed – is the ultimate goal. Everything would go through University of Phoenix Stadium, and the Cardinals wouldn’t have to get on a plane again unless they reached Super Bowl 50.

“If everything comes through Arizona in the playoffs, it would make it a lot easier,” Floyd said. “The fans would be on our side, not having to travel. Having it in Arizona is what we would want.”

For a coach who lives by the belief of “no risk it, no biscuit,” sitting back doesn’t really fit the profile anyway.

“I’m never going to line up to lose,” Arians said. “If we rested three starters, I would expect to win no matter who they were. So why rest them?”


Arians said the Cardinals did not come out of the game with any serious injuries. Safety Rashad Johnson (ankle) was close to returning and should be available this week. Defensive tackle Josh Mauro (calf) probably will remain sidelined.

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