When Antonio Hamilton played in Oakland, he saw starting running back Marshawn Lynch make the effort to bring out a couple of his young backups when Lynch was announced as a starter at a game and ran out of the tunnel.
The Cardinals cornerback had the moment seared into his brain. So Monday, as Hamilton was about to make his own sprint out of the tunnel as a defensive starter, he turned to rookie cornerback Christian Matthew.
"I caught him off guard," Hamilton said, but it was in a very good way.
"He's just been a good mentor to me, a good friend," Matthew said. "It was a cool experience. He said some guys never get that chance to run out with the starting lineup and I am forever fortunate, for real."
Interestingly, Matthew may have another reason to be announced with the starters this week, with Byron Murphy out with a back injury and Hamilton questionable with his own back malady. Regardless, after the release of Trayvon Mullen earlier this week, Matthew is primed to play more these last four games.
"He's doing nothing but ascending," Hamilton said. "He's the typical corner you want to have now in this league. He's over 6-foot, he's fast, and he can play ball. He's smart. The sky is the limit for him."
Matthew said if he is ever a veteran in the tunnel, he wants to keep up Hamilton's idea. That's the kind of thing Hamilton can get behind.
"It took me seven years to get that chance to be introduced," Hamilton said. "So I said I'm not going to make it just about me. I'll give someone else the chance to have that light shined on them as well."
-- It's been a hell of a week, for sure. The Broncos won't have Russell Wilson Sunday either. This game could be … fascinating.
-- Rookie tight end Trey McBride is playing at home Sunday. He attended his share of Broncos' games growing up, including Tim Tebow's famous playoff win over the Steelers in the 2011 postseason. (No word if he attended the Cardinals’ last game there, when Peyton Manning threw for a career-high 479 yards and current Washington tight end Logan Thomas threw an 81-yard TD bomb as his lone completion.)
"It's very surreal," McBride said. "It's something you dream of your whole life. Growing up, going to Broncos games as a fan, and now to be on the opposite side and be playing against the Broncos is something I am fortunate to do."
McBride is playing better. His time was rough at first, but being force-fed playing time with the Zach Ertz injury matters. Maxx Williams still has a role, as does Steven Anderson, but McBride has clearly been the No. 1.
"I'm honored to be able to play as much as I have, but I also feel a huge responsibility to take over how Zach did," McBride said.
-- I'd think McBride's trip home is prime "Hard Knocks" fodder.
-- With Zach Allen sidelined, I'm hoping we see more of rookie linebacker Cameron Thomas, who has flashed more and more. The Cardinals have said all along Thomas is a guy who needs that first full offseason to build up his body, but he has done some nice things already in his limited time.
-- The Cardinals have played the Broncos 11 times in the regular season. They have won once – the Jay Feely game in 2010.
-- During this three-game losing streak, the Cardinals are a minus-5 in the turnover battle (after having three potential takeaways taken away.) They have been outscored on points off turnovers, 28-3 in that time. In their first 10 games, they were a plus-5 and had outscored opponents 62-23 in points off turnovers. So yeah, it matters greatly.
-- The Cardinals will wear white jerseys with red pants Sunday, for those who like to know such things.
-- James Conner has gained 205 yards rushing on 40 carries the past two games. The running game has been good.
-- The last word comes from Vance Joseph, who heads back to Denver for the first time since the Broncos fired him as their head coach after the 2018 season. One of his wins in that last season was in Arizona, a 45-10 Broncos domination (and the last time these teams played) that got Cardinals offensive coordinator Mike McCoy fired the next day.
As for Joseph seeing the Broncos, there isn't much emotion.
"I am over it," Joseph said. "It was never a sore spot. That was a great opportunity to be a head coach in the NFL. It didn't work out. I wasn't the first guy and I won't be the last. There were never any ill feelings. It was just a job and it didn't get done. You move on. I don't re-live it at all."