Cardinals running back Elijhaa Penny hopes to grab one of the final roster spots.
Bruce Arians is not afraid to tear his players to shreds on the practice field when they make a mistake, but he values those relationships off it.
That's why Saturday is so hard.
The Cardinals coach must convene with General Manager Steve Keim and whittle the roster down to 53 players by a 1 p.m. deadline. On paper, some of the cuts are simply procedural, but it's never easy passing along the news.
"It's the worst day of the year," Arians said. "It really can be equated to a death in the family sometimes. You get so close to these guys, work so hard with them, and you know it's a dream. Hopefully it's not ending – it might continue with another team – but a lot of them, it's ending. So, yeah, it's a very hard day, and if it's a guy that's been in the organization for a while, I do it personally."
Arians has said there are a few spots still up for grabs as the team heads into its final preseason game on Thursday against the Broncos. Richie Leone and Matt Wile are battling for the starting punting job. It might come down to Harlan Miller or Rudy Ford if the team keeps a fifth safety. Scooby Wright is trying to punch his ticket at inside linebacker.
While Brittan Golden seems like the favorite for the sixth wide receiver spot, Aaron Dobson is attempting to join the discussion following a lengthy layoff due to a hamstring injury. Few veterans will play in Denver but Dobson wants another chance to prove his worth.
"I definitely think I can take the top off a defense," Dobson said. "I can do the intermediate routes. I feel like I can bring a little bit of everything to the Cardinals."
The running back room is particularly intriguing. Andre Ellington and Chris Johnson have notable resumes, but they don't play special teams. If Elijhaa Penny makes it because of his prowess there, one of the veterans could get cut.
Penny spent last season on the practice squad, and while he would be buried on the depth chart on offense – "We've already got David (Johnson)," he said – Penny is willing to do anything to increase his chances for a spot.
"I didn't do any special teams in college before I got here," Penny said. "Didn't do it in high school, didn't do it in college. Here was the first time I actually did it. It's actually pretty fun. I like it."
KNIGHT TO PLAY MOST OF PRESEASON FINALE
Arians said third-string quarterback Blaine Gabbert will play sparingly in starting the last game of the preseason, and undrafted free agent Trevor Knight will go the rest of the way.
The Cardinals haven't used Knight much the past three games as Carson Palmer, Drew Stanton and Gabbert needed action to prepare for the regular season.
IUPATI ON COMEBACK TRAIL
Left guard Mike Iupati missed Saturday's game against the Falcons with a triceps injury, but Arians doesn't seem concerned about his availability for the regular season. Arians said Iupati did some running during practice on Tuesday.
"He's doing fine," Arians said.
Arians also said defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche is progressing in his recovery from a calf strain. The Cardinals hope to have him back for the opener in Detroit.
Image of the junior cheerleaders performing alongside the Cardinals cheerleaders in the preseason