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For Now, Graham Back With Cards

Posted Oct 5, 2011

Notebook: P Zastudil among injury list; McNabb stays Vikings' starter

New/old punter Ben Graham (5), who was re-signed Wednesday, talks with kicker Jay Feely (middle) and punter Dave Zastudil during training camp in Flagstaff.

Ben Graham was at SeaWorld in San Diego with his family when the Cardinals called, celebrating his daughter’s 12th birthday.

She wasn’t thrilled the day was cut short at first. “Now she is saying it could be the greatest birthday (because) Dad is back playing with the Cardinals,” the punter said Wednesday.

How long Graham is back remains the question. Dave Zastudil, the punter the Cards decided to keep instead of Graham at the end of training camp, had his right knee get sore Sunday against the Giants. Zastudil, who missed a chunk of 2009 and all of 2010 because of right knee surgery and the resulting rehab, is still the Cards’ punter.

But Graham is here “as an insurance policy,” coach Ken Whisenhunt said, and Graham understands that.

“He’s obviously the starting punter who is a bit banged up,” Graham said. “I am just here to help out as long as they need.”

Graham insisted there are no hard feelings. But he also admitted it “took me a little while to get over” getting released, after punting for the Cards since late in the 2008 season and then signing a new two-year contract this offseason.

“They wanted to go in a different direction,” Graham said. “It’s tough when you sign a two-year deal and you plan for the future and it ends abruptly like that, but as I said, I know the business inside and out since 2008.”

Graham’s family had gone back to Australia – their current visit was coincidental, because it is a school break – but Graham said he had stayed in the United States waiting for the phone to ring for a job. He spent a couple of weeks at the house of former Chargers punter Darren Bennett, the pioneer for Australian Rules Football players coming to the NFL.

Calling it a “refuge for Aussie punters,” Graham joked about the plentiful  Australian beer and the short walk to the beach. But Bennett, who coaches special teams for a local high school, is the mentor for Graham and fellow NFL Aussies Mat McBriar and Sav Rocca.

“When you go out punting every second day with him, it’s all about the punting,” Graham said. “Nothing else matters.”

That’s why Graham feels prepared now that he finally got a job offer, one he wasn’t about to pass up even after being cut. For now, Zastudil hasn’t been ruled out this week, but Graham is ready to punt in Minnesota.

“We’ll see how it goes,” Whisenhunt said.

A LONG INJURY LIST

Zastudil is one of 11 Cardinals on the injury list this week, which included seven players who were limited: running back Beanie Wells (hamstring), center Lyle Sendlein (elbow), linebacker Joey Porter (knee), cornerback A.J. Jefferson (ankle), tight end Todd Heap (hamstring), cornerback Michael Adams (wrist) and wide receiver Early Doucet (hamstring).

Zastudil and tight end Jim Dray (pectoral) were the only ones held completely out of practice.

Tackle Brandon Keith (knee) and wide receiver Chansi Stuckey (hamstring) were listed as returning to full practice. Whisenhunt said Keith was still “a little sore” but if he is “OK and healthy” by Sunday, he would likely play. Otherwise, the Cards would start Jeremy Bridges at right tackle.

MCNABB KEEPS HIS JOB

The Vikings are keeping veteran Donovan McNabb as their starting quarterback against the Cardinals Sunday even after an 0-4 start and first-round pick Christian Ponder waiting in the wings.

“When I look at our team in its totality, it’s not just the quarterback position,” Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said. “If we can get other parts of our team to play well, it’s going to help the quarterback position also. If I thought we were doing so well at every position and the quarterback position was the only reason we are where we are, you may look at things differently. But that’s not the case.”

McNabb’s statistics – save for his season-opening 39-yard performance against the Chargers – hasn’t been terrible. He has only two interceptions and four touchdown passes and he has completed 60 percent of his passes the last three games. But he hasn’t made many big plays and the Vikings are losing.

“I don’t get caught up in that whole deal,” he said. “Everyone loves for something else to happen. The way to change it is to go out and win.”


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