Quarterback Rich Bartel fades back to pass against Green Bay last week.
Rich Bartel has never appeared in the third preseason game of any of the teams he's been on.
The third game is always the most meaningful for any team. To play in that says something about your standing on the depth chart. In Bartel's previous camps (he's been in four before now), he's appeared in the first, and the second and – most importantly for his current situation – the fourth. It was Bartel's showing in the fourth preseason game last year for the Redskins at University of Phoenix Stadium against the Cardinals that first caught the attention of Arizona's coaches and personnel men.
But now, he'll be in a third preseason game, Saturday night in the Cards' preseason home opener against San Diego, backing up Kevin Kolb.
John Skelton, ahead of Bartel on the depth chart, is expected to sit with an ankle sprain. Max Hall, Bartel's main competition coming into camp, was cut after getting injured. Veteran Brodie Croyle was signed, but Bartel should make the team with Skelton.
It would have been hard to imagine after Bartel was signed with a month to go in the 2010 season, and after showing what he could in some of the 2010 finale and then two preseason games – without an offseason to impress the coaches.
"This feels like a culmination of not two weeks but four-and-a-half years," Bartel said. "It's a great opportunity and it's really important in this business to recognize when your opportunity comes. It's not going to look like everybody else's. I can see it, and I'm just trying to seize it."
Bartel doesn't have a résumé that will wow anyone. He's 28. He's from Tarleton State. Undrafted in 2007, he spent time with Dallas, Cleveland, Jacksonville and Washington, along with the UFL, before coming to the Cardinals. He didn't appear in a regular-season game until coach Ken Whisenhunt gave him that chance in January.
Even with a lockout, though, the Cards' coaches came away thinking Bartel could fit on this team.
"Sometimes, at this position, it's about luck – being in the right place at the right time," Whisenhunt said. "He's been in a couple places where he has played well and it's been a numbers thing. That happens sometimes."
Bartel had ties to the Cards before he arrived. Director of pro personnel T.J. McCreight had familiarity with him because of his time in Cleveland, where McCreight worked. Quarterbacks coach Chris Miller had worked alongside Bartel at a number of kids' camps in previous offseasons. And then there was Bartel's 10-for-12 showing for the Redskins in that preseason finale against the Cards.
"You know going into any preseason game, they always say, these are your auditions, this is your résumé," Bartel said. "Whatever you put on film, it will matter. If not here, hopefully it would have worked out somewhere, but I am thankful it was here."
He had a very good game against Green Bay last week, save for one throw. Finishing 13-for-19 for 169 yards, a touchdown and an interception, Bartel was moving the Cards down for a potential game-tying touchdown late in the fourth quarter.
Inside the red zone, Bartel eschewed a dump pass to receiver DeMarco Sampson over the middle, instead throwing to tight end Rob Housler in the end zone and into double coverage. Brandian Ross made the pick.
Whisenhunt wasn't overly concerned – "Guys are going to throw interceptions" – and Bartel wanted to make it a lesson learned.
"I felt like I had a great night," Bartel said. "You know if you are having a good day or not. We were moving the football up and down on them and it felt like we had momentum. And I had about a six-second brain fart, which you cannot do. Chalk it up to a learning experience."
Miller called Bartel "sharp." Added Whisenhunt, "By and large, he has made good decisions."
Skelton is still expected to emerge as Kolb's backup, but Bartel has made it a more difficult decision. He can press the issue even harder against the Chargers. Kolb is expected to play into the third quarter, but Bartel will get his time – and is looking forward to that first chance in a third preseason game.
"It would be frustrating not to get as many reps as I have been able to get, because I know that I know it," Bartel said. "The people who are evaluating, you hope they understand you haven't had an offseason. Three of the four on the roster now haven't had an offseason (in Arizona) so I think that goes into account.
"Then again, there are a lot of guys in our scenario in the entire league. You have to take advantage of what you are given."