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Anxious Times For The Bubble Boys

Game against Redskins last chance for players to show skills


Rookie quarterback John Skelton is waiting to see if he makes the final roster.

John Skelton smiled.

NFL teams have to trim their rosters from 75 players to 53 by Saturday, and of that fact, the rookie quarterback acknowledged, "I am well aware."

The Cardinals finish out the preseason Thursday night against the Redskins at University of Phoenix Stadium, and then the coaching staff must do the inevitable – decide who stays and who goes.

Many of those decisions, while not yet public, have been made. That doesn't mean the players know what will happen, though. So Skelton, who has impressed coaches, waits to see if he makes the 53-man roster. Cornerback Marshay Green, undrafted, does the same, wondering if he can beat out veteran Trumaine McBride. Linebackers like Stevie Baggs and Cody Brown and Monty Beisel wait to see their fates, with how they play against Washington possibly impacting choices that remain on the fence.

"There are a couple of positions where we have four or five guys fighting for one or two spots," coach Ken Whisenhunt said. "This is where you get a chance to see theme, whether it is specific positions or special teams, you get a little more information.

"I told the veterans who know they are on the squad, it's their job to help the young guys. This is a team sport. Let's face facts, there are guys who are fighting for their jobs and it is our responsibility, whether you are (a veteran) or not, to do your job to better enable those guys to show their best side."

The festering frenzy around the quarterback spot – and more specifically, the future of Matt Leinart – has added a curveball to any evaluation. Leinart probably won't play a lot, but Skelton and fellow rookie QB Max Hall should get plenty of work.

It makes for an odd dynamic in the locker room this week. Many veterans – or top draft picks – know their roster spots are locked up. They just want to get through the Redskins' game unscathed. The rest of the roster is on edge, trying to have a place to work.

"I'm going through some high emotions," Green admitted. "Honestly, I won't be satisfied until I am on the 53-man roster and I am helping this team win a game every week. That's my goal."

Whisenhunt stood up in front of his team and made the point to the veterans and those assured of spots that it was their duty to play hard and well for however long they are in there, because they can't let down the guys who need a good performance to stay.

"This is the final audition," veteran wide receiver Steve Breaston said. "You want everyone playing their best. You want to make it hard for the coaches (to make decisions)."

Making the roster this weekend doesn't mean a player is safe. The Cards could make the final cuts and then pick up a player or two on waivers, meaning the roster could again change before the team gets to its first practice next week.

There will be hard choices. The biggest will be the aforementioned quarterback spot. Is Leinart traded or cut? Does he stay as a backup? That directly impacts Skelton, who has been mulling what his place on the team will look like.

"Every time I call my dad that's what he says, 'Don't worry you'll have a job somewhere,' " Skelton said. "But I say, you know what, Arizona went and got me, I like it here, I like the coaching staff, this is where I want to be. He can hear in my voice I want to be in Arizona, but he can also tell I am nervous and am thinking a lot about it. Ideally, I'd like to stay here, but who's to say what will happen."

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