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Quietly, Robert Nkemdiche Making Strides

Posted Jul 27, 2017

Notes: Bucannon's timeline; Cardinals sign Christian and Wheeler

Cardinals defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche just wants to be the "best Robert" in his second season.

All offseason, Robert Nkemdiche preferred to keep a low profile.

The 2016 No. 1 draft pick didn’t want to talk much about his lost rookie season. The defensive tackle wanted to just come to training camp and do his work on the field and let that speak for itself.

After a practice Thursday in which Nkemdiche looked the part of a top pick, he wasn’t making any bold predictions. He wouldn’t say he could replace departed Pro Bowler Calais Campbell, reiterating only that he was going to work on his own game.

“They are looking for the best Robert,” Nkemdiche said.

Last season, Nkemdiche played in just five games, totaling just two tackles, and he called it a “learning lesson,” he said.

“It was for me just to see how the ropes go as an NFL pro,” Nkemdiche added.

Earlier in the week, coach Bruce Arians was blunt – as he had been for a while about Nkemdiche – saying Nkemdiche had to learn for the first time in his career he couldn’t be successful just by showing up.
“It doesn’t work here,” Arians said. “Especially when you’ve got guys (you’re going against) who’ve got children, are paying bills.”

Nkemdiche evolved, something teammates and coaches noticed in the offseason. In many ways, Nkemdiche is making the jump from first year to second year many players have made.

“For me, it’s understanding the plays and not being hesitant in what I want to do,” Nkemdiche said. “It’s better when you can play understanding what you do and how the defense actually works. Football is a game of inches. One inch can put you behind the play.”

Arians has praised Nkemdiche consistently through the offseason and the beginning of camp. Nkemdiche insisted he isn’t paying attention to any compliments.

“There are a lot of things I’ve done on tape that aren’t my standard,” Nkemdiche said. “I just want to keep getting better.”

BUCANNON’S RETURN STILL UNKNOWN

Arians said money linebacker Deone Bucannon, who is on the physically-unable-to-perform list after ankle surgery, is running outside and “getting close.”

Arians added that Bucannon needs some practice time to be considered for playing in the regular-season opener Sept. 10.

“At least a week, if not 10 days where he can get into football shape,” Arians said. “It’s one thing to be out there running around, it’s another thing to hold off 300-pound linemen on that leg and run and chase backs.”

Linebacker Alani Fua (knee) is out 2-4 weeks, Arians said. Safety Ironhead Gallon (knee) could be back soon, Arians said, and linebacker Jarvis Jones (NFI-quad) could return as early as Friday. Wide receiver Aaron Dobson left Thursday’s practice early after pulling up after a play with a left leg issue.

ROLLE RELEASED, CHRISTIAN RETURNS, WHEELER SIGNS

The Cardinals made the first of what Arians said could be many roster moves Thursday, including releasing cornerback Jumal Rolle with an injury settlement. Rolle had hurt his hamstring during OTAs, and then did it again as camp opened. Tight end Gerald Christian, a 2015 seventh-round pick (and that year’s Mr. Irrelevant), was brought back on a one-year contract, and the team also added veteran linebacker Philip Wheeler.

Tight end Steven Wroblewski was released. The Cards also released linebacker Tevin Floyd (hamstring) with an injury settlement.

PALMER RESTS AGAIN, “ALL IN” ON RECOVERY

Quarterback Carson Palmer sat out practice Thursday, the second time in five practices he rested. It’s all part of the plan to have Palmer ready for the regular season, and while Palmer said he’d rather practice, he puts his trust in the professionals.

Palmer also pointed out the bigger picture of the team making sure players are rested and recovered, noting that starting with the last two preseason games, the Cardinals have four straight road trips.

“(The team) has invested heavily in recovery mechanisms and Michael (Bidwill) has done a ton of stuff for us because he thinks it might give us an edge,” Palmer said. “There’s technology behind it, there’s research, there are things he’s put behind us.

“I’m all in on that stuff.”

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