Cardinals linebacker Dwight Freeney practices for the first time on Wednesday under the tutelage of linebackers coach Bob Sanders.
WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W. Va. – As Carson Palmer will attest, it can take a quarterback a couple years to feel comfortable with Bruce Arians' playbook.
Outside linebacker is considerably easier, but just a few days? That's the expectation for new addition Dwight Freeney, who wrapped up his first practice with the Cardinals on Wednesday here at The Greenbrier.
Rookie Markus Golden will start against the Steelers on Sunday in place of injured linebacker Alex Okafor (calf), but Freeney could play a significant role less than a week after signing. Arians said Freeney is expected to play 15-to-20 snaps, although it could be more if the Cardinals use their nickel defense regularly.
Arians explained why Freeney may be able to jump in mid-stream.
"He rushes the passer," Arians said. "I don't think you have to teach him that."
Freeney, a seven-time Pro Bowler with 111½ career sacks, said his body felt good after practice but said he was "cramming" to learn the playbook. He said the upshot is that the coaching staff is putting him in situations where he has a narrow responsibility.
"Just go get 'em," Freeney said. "And that's the thing. They didn't have me doing things I'm not used to doing. They have me doing things I actually love to do and should be able to do blindfolded."
Freeney, 35, admitted retirement crossed his mind several times recently as he failed to land on a roster, but is excited to have another shot, especially for a team playing as well as the Cardinals.
"I've been saying I'm only going to wait two more weeks before I retire for about eight weeks," Freeney said. "Come August, OK, great, training camp is done. I don't have to do that. So who is going to call and come pick me up?
"After that, it's like, 'OK, I'm retiring after Week 2. That's it, if no one calls me.' And then Week 2 comes around and my agent says, 'Oh, just hold on a little bit longer.' I'm glad I did. This is a great situation. These guys are ballin' right now."
BIG BEN RETURNS TO PRACTICE
quarterback Ben Roethlisberger practiced in a limited capacity on Wednesday for the first time since spraining his knee in Week 3 against the Rams. He and coach Mike Tomlin were vague about Roethlisberger's availability for the Cardinals game.
The original timeline had him sitting out four to six weeks. It has been 17 days since the injury.
"It's just being smart, knowing once I'm able to protect myself, I think I'll be able to be back out there," Roethlisberger told reporters before practice.
It seems like a longshot for Roethlisberger to return so soon, but Arians said the Cardinals will prepare for both quarterbacks. Vick is more mobile, but the Steelers are clearly more dangerous with Roethlisberger at the helm.
"It's obviously a lot more complex and a lot faster up-tempo when Ben's playing," Arians said.
MATHIEU, JOHN BROWN SIT WITH MINOR INJURIES
Safety Tyrann Mathieu (heel) and wide receiver John Brown (hamstring) missed practice, although Arians expects both back Thursday. Linebacker LaMarr Woodley (chest) also sat out. Cornerback Justin Bethel (foot), tight end Darren Fells (hip), safety Tony Jefferson (neck) and safety Rashad Johnson (hip) were limited.
Safety Chris Clemons (hamstring) was placed on injured reserve earlier Wednesday and cornerback Cariel Brooks was elevated to the active roster from the practice squad. Clemons played an important role on special teams and Brooks said he can fill in there if needed.
"I feel like I can help out big time on punt return, gunner, any role on kickoff," Brooks said. "I played all that in college."
For the Steelers, safety Will Allen (ankle), linebacker Jarvis Jones (hip) and center Doug Legursky (back) did not practice. Cornerback Cortez Allen (knee) and linebacker Ryan Shazier (shoulder) were limited.
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