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Players Think About Next Year

Posted Dec 31, 2012

Notebook: Wells says he'd like to stay; Washington motivated for 2013

Running back LaRod Stephens-Howling cleans out his locker Monday morning.

With the ruffling of garbage bags as background music, the questions came at a flurry.

A day after the Cardinals capped a 5-11 season with a 27-13 loss at San Francisco the topic du jour in the locker room was change. When would it happen? Who would it happen to? What needed to happen?

“This is one of those days where everyone starts worrying about themselves,” guard Daryn Colledge said. “You hope you did enough to contribute and show your worth to the team.”

Soon, there were answers as coach Ken Whisenhunt and general manager Rod Graves were relieved of their duties along with six assistants. For the past month, the players were asked to predict the future of their head coach and they responded with a stock answer: It wasn’t their decision. But what they can decide is whether they’ll remain Cardinals in the near future.

“I don’t know,” said safety Kerry Rhodes, as teammates around him cleaned out their lockers. “This organization has been great to me since I’ve been here. I want to be around this team and help these guys through this situation.

“I’ve been here three years and we haven’t made the playoffs. That’s tough. Just try to keep on going and keep going.”

Rhodes is under contract next season but there are 13 unrestricted free agents heading into the offseason. Their contracts expire March 12, giving them and the Cardinals a little more than three months to determine their future with the team.

For LaRod Stephens-Howling, who finished the season as the Cards leading rusher, the period between the last game and the start of free agency can be tense but he’s looking to return in 2013.

“Yeah, I’m open to that. That would have been best for me,” the running back said. “I feel like I took advantage of the opportunities I was given. We’ll see what happens over the next few months.”

Before he opened a garbage bag Monday, running back Beanie Wells reiterated his stance from Sunday. He wants to stay in Arizona.

Last week, Wells said he was auditioning for 31 other teams and didn’t expect to return to the Cardinals. With a new coach on the way, that could change. But Wells said Monday that his comments on Christmas Eve were just a reflection of what coaches had said in meetings.

“Our coach even said it in the meetings a couple weeks ago when we figured out we weren’t going to the playoffs,” Wells said. “(He said) ‘Guys are going to be watching, teams are going to be watching and you’re going to be going out there working for a job.’ ”

Nearly the entire Cardinals’ secondary have uncertain futures. Among the free agents are cornerback Greg Toler, safety James Sanders, defensive back Michael Adams and safety Rashad Johnson.

“I would love to be back here,” Johnson said. “I’ve been here for four years, had the opportunities to learn the system. Got an opportunity to grow, and I’d like to come back and take on whatever role they have for me. Hopefully it is a role of starter.”

LAST MAN STANDING

Only one offensive lineman saw the 2012 season through from training camp to Week 17. Colledge stayed healthy enough to not miss a game all year. Right tackle Bobby Massie started all 17 weeks but he replaced Levi Brown late in the preseason.

“I did a lot of praying, ate organically as much as I could, stretched, and got lucky,” Colledge said. “Pat’s (McQuistan) injury (Sunday) was a fluke, a guy got pushed into his leg. But that’s how these things work.”

McQuistan suffered an ankle injury when a San Francisco 49er rolled onto his leg.

Colledge played alongside eight other offensive linemen this season because of various injuries and subsequent reshuffling.

“I’ve never been around a hand-grenade explosion, but I assume it’s a lot like that,” Colledge said. “You go down that list and the guys who were injured on the offensive line, and to lose a guy like Pat again last night, it’s like, ‘Where does it stop?’ It’s one of those things where you check yourself at the end of the season and can’t believe you made it through. Hopefully next year we can stay healthy.”

D-WASH AIMS HIGH

After his third NFL season, linebacker Daryl Washington is ready to take on more responsibility in the Cardinals’ locker room.

“It’s time for me to step up and do that more vocally,” Washington said. “Now’s the time. I can’t wait any longer. Next year we will come back bigger, better and stronger.”

Washington led the Cardinals in tackles and was one sack away from tying the team record for a linebacker. In September, he signed a contract extension that will keep him in Arizona until 2017. But Washington is ready to put the last three seasons, during which the Cardinals have gone 18-30, behind him. And he’s not the only one.

“Me and Patrick (Peterson) and Calais (Campbell), we talked about being young guys for this team, not only the defense,” Washington said. “Make sure that we are preparing ourselves to make sure we never have a season like this again.”

FRUSTRATED SKELTON REFLECTS

He began the season as the Cardinals starter. He finished it inactive. John Skelton rode the quarterback roller coaster this season, experiencing every peak and valley along the way.

“There were times when maybe I got the short end of the stick,” Skelton said. “It’s part of the business. When you are losing eight or nine in a row, everyone is going to be grasping at straws. I think there were times we did that here in Arizona. It’s part of the business. You have to take the good with the bad.”

Skelton went winless as a starter this season, but points to the Atlanta game as the toughest among many. He was pulled after the first quarter in favor of rookie Ryan Lindley with the Cardinals leading, 13-3. It was a game after Skelton threw for 306 yards at Green Bay.

“Getting pulled that early, that kind of sucks,” he said. “I haven’t forgotten it, and I don’t think I’ll forget it anytime soon.”

Skelton said change around the organization would probably be good. With three quarterbacks under contract for next season, and the possibility of adding Brian Hoyer to the mix, Skelton will take it all in stride.

“Who knows what is going to happen,” he said. “There is a lot up in the air right now. We’ll see.”

 

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