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Bubble Boys Prep For Finale

Posted Aug 29, 2012

Game one last chance for players vying for roster spot to impress

Wide receiver Stephen Williams is hoping he's made enough plays to find his way back on to the roster.

Stephen Williams was once on the other side of this.

The wide receiver was the surprise of training camp back in 2010, an undrafted rookie who played so well during the offseason and training camp that by the time final cuts arrived, the buzz was all about Williams’ shot at making the 53-man roster. Which Williams did.

A couple of years later, Williams has turned 180 degrees. He’s still looking to make the kind of impact everyone has been waiting for, while an undrafted wide receiver – this time, LaRon Byrd – has made inroads to snare himself a spot on the roster. If Byrd did make it, it would likely be at the expense of Williams.

“I don’t want to make it bigger than what it is,” said Williams, with final roster cutdowns coming Friday afternoon. “I just want to continue to put good film out there.”

The Cardinals close out the preseason Thursday night (with an 8 p.m. kick, trying to avoid a TV conflict with the Republican National Convention) with a visit from the Denver Broncos. The roster has yet to be set, although coaches and front office executives probably have a good idea already of at least 45 to 50 of the players that will be sticking around.

There are still minds that can be changed, coach Ken Whisenhunt said. That’s what those playing against the Broncos are hoping for.

“When you are talking about potential spots, there are a couple of spots where it has come down to two or three guys,” Whisenhunt said. “It comes down to how they play in this game.”

The game is different than others. Whisenhunt hasn’t named his regular-season starting quarterback yet, but both candidates – Kevin Kolb and John Skelton – won’t play against Denver, assuming injuries don’t crop up. Rookie Ryan Lindley will start, with Rich Bartel playing quarterback in relief.

Most starters don’t figure to play long, if at all.  Safety Adrian Wilson, for instance, has been dealing with a minor calf injury and is unlikely to play. But that opens the door for someone like Crezdon Butler, a cornerback who has been working some at safety and is trying to find a way on to the roster.

“You can’t think about (being on the bubble),” Butler said. “Once it gets in your head, you start messing up on the field. You have to think you don’t have the decision. You control what you can control. It’s a process and a business.

“(This last game) is really a time to show what you’ve got. And that’s it, really.”

The secondary – where players like Butler, Michael Adams, Greg Toler, A.J. Jefferson, Rashad Johnson and James Sanders are battling for what figures to be only three or perhaps four spots – is a main area up for grabs. So too is a running back spot that figures to go to either William Powell or Alfonso Smith.

Whisenhunt said it’s never been more difficult for him to trim the roster down to 75 players like it was last week. “So, basing it off of that, getting 22 more (cuts) to get to 53 is going to be really hard,” Whisenhunt said. “That’s what you want.”

The theory, of course, is that more difficult decisions means the talent level is solid. That’s the hope.

Williams just wants to stick around. He hurt his Achilles in practice this week, which could preclude him from playing in the finale and possibly rob him of a final chance to give a lasting impression.

But he insisted he is prepared for Friday morning. He’s been a bubble boy before.

“My rookie year I might have been losing my mind, maybe even last year,” Williams said. “This year I am calmer, more at peace with everything. I understand how the business works. I won’t be surprised at all no matter what happens.”


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