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Beanie And A Dark Heart

Penalty sparks rookie to best day -- and a glimpse of what's to come


Rookie running back Beanie Wells looks to punish Seattle defensive back Josh Wilson during the Cardinals' 31-20 victory Sunday.
Ron Wolfley, the Cardinals analyst and former Pro Bowl special teamer, uses the phrase "a painted face and a dark heart."

The reference is to a man ready for battle -- think "Braveheart" – without regard for the enemy. Wolfley was the man with a dark heart himself during his playing days.

And Wolfley sees it in Beanie Wells.

Now, it's important to remember the Cardinals' rookie running back is almost always smiling. He smiles in the locker room, he smiles on the practice field, he smiles on the sidelines. But during a game – during Sunday's 31-20 win over Seattle -- Beanie morphs.

He changes into the beast that people saw, once upon a time, as the best running back in college early in 2008, before Knowshon Moreno and Donald Brown moved past him in the draft and before people wondered about his durability. He changes into the No. 1 draft pick who already delivers one of the best stiff arms in the NFL and who rumbled for two key touchdowns against the Seahawks.

Maybe it was the dark heart that caused Wells to get that 15-yard personal foul penalty Sunday that seemed to spark his game.

"That was terrible," Beanie said after the game, the smile back on his face. "That's was the first time I lost my composure like that playing football since I was about 8 years old."

A post-play skirmish between Beanie and Seahawks safety Deon Grant escalated into some swings from both sides, the last of which was Wells' hand whacking Grant's facemask right in front of the referee. At the time, it looked like it would cost the Cards, who were trailing, 17-10, and would have had a first down at the Seattle 4-yard line.

Beanie could have been the goat. But four plays later, it was Wells bouncing outside a tightly compacted line on fourth-and-1 for a 10-yard touchdown. He finished it with an angry spike of the ball.

From there, a glimpse of the future. And of the dark heart's consequences.

Wells had 85 yards rushing, two touchdowns and 32 yards receiving on two catches Sunday. Everything but 16 of the rushing yards came after his penalty as Wells ran with a purpose.
"I'd say he redeemed himself a little bit," coach Ken Whisenhunt said.

His 13-yard touchdown run – ultimately the game-winning points – was the signature play. Up the middle, Wells got past linebacker David Hawthorne, who just bounced off him. Spinning, Wells plowed through Grant – coincidental payback – before batting back safety Justin Babineaux for the score.

"They don't want to hit him straight on, because honestly he's breaking guys' facemasks when he runs through them," wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald said. "He's 230 pounds running a 4.4, that's pretty rough. I get the heck out of the way."

Beanie topped it off with a 23-yard reception and a 29-yard run on the Cards' next possession, the key plays of the game-sealing touchdown drive.

Quarterback Kurt Warner was impressed. He heard someone compare Beanie – perhaps somewhat jokingly – to former MVP Marshall Faulk, and while Warner wasn't going there, he did say Wells was, like Faulk, a home-run hitter.

"We're seeing the real Beanie Wells," Warner said. "It's fun to watch him."

It's much too early to compare Beanie to anyone, to be honest. His 85 yards, and the 16 carries, were career-highs but relatively modest. He's still sharing time with Tim Hightower. But it's not lost that Wells' biggest game to start the second half of the season mirrors 2008 No. 1 draft choice, cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, who also began to break out just about midseason last year.

"Beanie adds another dimension to this offense," wide receiver Anquan Boldin said.

Wolfley attached his phrase to Wells during the Chicago game, when a TV close-up of Beanie's eyes showed a man with serious intent as he broke a 26-yard run. The moniker is used with reverence, and in some ways elevates Wells to mythical status.

A little hyperbole never hurts.

But as long as he produces like he has, the Cardinals won't care what makes Beanie Beanie  -- whether it's his (normally) perpetual smile, or a dark heart.

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