Coach Bruce Arians (right) talks with linebacker Larry Foote as practice begins for the Cardinals Thursday.
Shock was the reaction for players and coaches when police showed up at the Cardinals' Tempe facility Wednesday to arrest running back Jonathan Dwyer on charges stemming from domestic violence incidents in the summer, and that had barely faded Thursday.
As a swarm of media collected post-practice, Bruce Arians – who normally is unavailable Thursdays – noted his wife had worked with abused and neglected kids for 18 years and said "our family is extremely sensitive to this."
But Arians is also the coach of a team getting ready to play an important game Sunday against San Francisco, and that too is a message he tried to drive home to his players after the stunning news at the outset of Wednesday's practice.
"We move on," Arians said. "It's not a distraction and it will not be a distraction. Our team has kind of gotten used to what everybody else would consider a distraction."
Dwyer, whose charges include suspicion of aggravated assault on both his wife and his 1-year-old son, had been immediately
deactivated Wednesday. Thursday, the Cardinals put him on the reserve/non-football injury list. Dwyer's placement on the NFI list means he cannot play for the Cardinals again in 2014. After signing a one-year contract in March, Dwyer will be an unrestricted free agent after the season.
He was replaced on the roster by running back Jalen Parmele, who was with the team through the preseason.
Arians was clear on his stance with Dwyer.
"Until he is exonerated, he will not be a member of this football team," Arians said. "If and when he is exonerated, I will gladly take him back."
But, Arians added, domestic violence cannot be tolerated. "Anyone who touches a woman or a child, in my opinion, needs to go to jail for a long time," he said.
Arians said he didn't know anything about Dwyer's trouble until about 11 a.m. Wednesday. Given the other incidents around the NFL with Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson, "it was like the worst nightmare a coach could have right now."
After the media left the open portion of Wednesday's practice, Arians gathered the team to inform them what was happening.
"I think we were like everyone else, caught off guard," wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald said. "Just … blindsided."
Veteran linebacker Larry Foote, who played with Dwyer in Pittsburgh, said he and his wife had spent time at Christian retreats
with Dwyer and his wife. Foote repeatedly said he was "just sad for the family."
Foote said he fielded "a thousand phone calls" from people back in Pittsburgh wondering what had happened.
"Everyone plays those games, 'If you had to guess it would be somebody,' " Foote said. "Jonathan would be last on the list."
"From the outside," Foote added, "it looked like everything was smooth."
All the Cardinals, from Arians to the players, cautioned that Dwyer deserved his due process. But under the umbrella of the bigger domestic violence issue, the players understand the need for change. Linebacker Lorenzo Alexander spoke about the need to educate players. Safety Tyrann Mathieu, who has had his own personal issues, spoke about needing to seek help for whatever problem you might have.
"Hopefully he'll do that," Mathieu said. "At the end of the day, we all need it and some of us need it more."
Still, Arians will try and steer the players back toward Sunday's game. Fitzgerald was asked about what the NFL can do to combat the domestic violence issue, and he deferred to those in higher positions, saying the players want to focus on getting a win despite the "tumultuous week in terms of things going on in the league."
Stepfan Taylor figures to slide into Dwyer's role as the No. 2 back behind Andre Ellington. Taylor had
started training camp ahead of Dwyer on the depth chart before Dwyer surpassed him.
Ellington was limited in practice Thursday but has played the last two games with a bad foot and that shouldn't change heading into the 49ers game. That's what he was trying to think about Thursday rather than Dwyer's situation.
"Me, personally, I don't get into it," Ellington said. "I'm not for anything like (domestic violence), but I just try to stay away from it. My job is to focus on my task to get my foot right. Get ready for these games."
The players to a man say they are equipped to deal with losing Dwyer on the field. It's something to which they had already become accustomed, from the losses of Darnell Dockett and John Abraham and Carson Palmer in one way or another.
As for the team dealing with the sudden spotlight of Dwyer's incident and domestic violence, Arians said it's possible some good could come out of the bad.
"To me it's America," Arians said. "It's not the NFL. There's something going on (with domestic violence) every day in different parts of neighborhoods that people don't care about. They only care about the NFL and we're only reporting the NFL but it's a national problem."
"If this bad scar on the NFL right now makes the rest of the world aware of what's going on," Arians added, "it's damn good."
The Cardinals also released running back Chris Rainey from the practice squad, signing Kerwynn Williams to take his place. Rainey had a domestic violence incident in his background, but Arians said his release was football-related. Rainey had been signed as insurance if Ellington couldn't play, but now that Ellington has been OK, the Cards were moving on.
"It really had nothing to with those things I'm sure people will expect and write that's the case but that was really not the case," Arians said. …
Arians was also asked about the Cardinals and linebacker Daryl Washington, who pled guilty to an assault of the mother of his child.
"Totally different set of circumstances," Arians said.