Cardinals linebacker Kevin Minter takes down Panthers quarterback Cam Newton on a running play during last year's NFC Championship game.
The Cardinals did not see a Russell Wilson who could run last week, not with all his injuries. And Panthers quarterback Cam Newton has been banged up himself, suffering a concussion earlier this season.
Nevertheless, the Cards haven't given one thought to the idea Newton may remain more of a pocket passer Sunday in Carolina.
"Cam Newton is going to run the ball," defensive tackle Calais Campbell said. "I don't know how many times, but he's going to run the ball. We are definitely practicing for it and trying to take it away. We have our hands full
trying to stop him."
Even missing a game, Newton has 31 rushing attempts in five outings this season (for 148 yards and three touchdowns). He is averaging a solid 4.8 yards per attempt. Newton will scramble, but unlike Wilson's read-option running plays, the Panthers often will simply make the 6-foot-5, 245-pound Newton a power running back on a play.
This week, despite talking to Carolina reporters about the seriousness of concussions and how a player like himself dealt with such a scary thing, Newton also made it clear his game wasn't going to change.
"I know everyone is watching, 'How many times is Cam going to run?' 'How many times does the quarterback run?' " Newton said. "(But) that's me. That's who I am. I would prefer to be involved in the game. As the Panthers, that's our edge. … My edge is running the football inside the tackles."
The Cardinals are coming off two great games defensively against the run, allowing just 85 rushing yards in the past nine quarters. The Panthers are averaging 121 rushing yards a game, seventh in the NFL – partly because of Newton, or the threat of Newton.
"Cam Newton is not the average running quarterback," linebacker Chandler Jones said. "He is big and strong and fast, he runs guys over. He's a good player. You can't just say he's not going to run the ball. You have to account for his abilities."
FINALLY FINDING MOMAH
With Michael Floyd hurting and John Brown trying to find a groove, the Cardinals may have a tight end who can help in the passing game – Ifeanyi Momah, in fact, started his NFL career as a wideout.
Momah, who used the NFL Veterans Combine to catch the Cardinals' eye in 2015 and get signed, was on track to
make the team last season before he hurt his knee late in the preseason, landing him on injured reserve. He's taken a while to return to where he feels right, but the journey that kept him out of football in 2012 after hurting his ACL at Boston College and on the NFL fringes for a couple of years ended Sunday.
Momah made two catches for 50 yards, the first two catches of his NFL career. At 6-foot-7, he is an inviting target that has proven in practice he can catch.
"I think you got a glimpse of what he can do," quarterback Carson Palmer said.
Momah, who started the year on the practice squad before being promoted when Troy Niklas hurt his wrist, said he the game against the Seahawks didn't feel any different. It was only after when it sunk in that he made his first two NFL catches. Momah had already made an impact on special teams, forcing and recovering a fumble in San Francisco.
"Wherever the coaches need me, that's where I will go," Momah said.
FLOYD PRACTICES, GAME DAY DECISION
Wide receiver Michael Floyd (hamstring) returned to practice Friday on a limited basis and coach Bruce Arians said Floyd's availability would be determined on game day.
Tight end Darren Fells (ankle), linebacker Alex Okafor (calf) and defensive tackle Ed Stinson (toe) remained sidelined and all are out for this weekend's game.
Safety Tony Jefferson missed practice with the flu but he will be OK, Arians said. He will wear a mask on the flight out to try and protect his teammates from the illness, Arians added. He is officially questionable, along with Floyd, tackle Jared Veldeer (hand) and wide receiver John Brown (hamstring).
For the Panthers, tackle Michael Oher (concussion) and defensive tackle Vernon Butler (ankle) are out. Defensive end Kona Ealy (illness), cornerback James Bradberry (foot), cornerback Robert McClain (hamstring), defensive tackle Paul Soliai (foot) and cornerback Daryl Worley (concussion) are all questionable.