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Cardinals Anxious For Preseason Opener

Notes: Games almost here; punter competition; Ellington to play Saturday

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Safety Tyrann Mathieu jars the ball loose from wide receiver Jaron Brown during practice on Wednesday

The Cardinals will look across the line of scrimmage on Saturday and see red and white jerseys again, but finally, they won't be accompanied by familiar faces.

The Kansas City Chiefs will come to town as the preseason kicks off at 6 p.m. at University of Phoenix Stadium, and after a couple weeks of hitting each other, the Cards are more than ready for the jolt to the routine.

"I can't wait to get back," cornerback Patrick Peterson said. "Guys that have been here still have that bitter taste in our mouths (from the Wild Card loss to the Panthers), and we're just ready and excited to see

what type of team coach put together."

The most anticipated return will be that of quarterback Carson Palmer, who missed the final seven games of 2014 with a torn ACL. He's made a speedy recovery and will play one series with the rest of the starters. Backup Drew Stanton will then take over and finish the first quarter. Logan Thomas is expected to play most of the second and third quarters, with undrafted rookie Phillip Sims debuting in the fourth.

New defensive coordinator James Bettcher will move to the sidelines after sitting in a booth last season and this will be his first game calling plays. Arians will make the offensive calls like usual, although offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin could take over for the second half. Goodwin is expected to call plays during two other preseason games.

"I want to get him as much exposure as possible," Arians said.

The established players will be done quickly because keeping them healthy is the main priority, although safety Tyrann Mathieu said "we're going to be in high gear for the few plays we are in there."

This contest is more about the backups fighting for roster spots. Arians pointed to inside linebacker, tight end, wide receiver and defensive line as position groups he's keeping an eye on.

"There are so many battles going on it would be hard to just name one or two," Arians said.

PUNTING COMPETITION 'PRETTY EVEN'

Most assumed Dave Zastudil would be the shoo-in as the Cardinals' punter this season after missing most of last year due to a groin injury, but he's getting pushed by Drew Butler.

Butler filled in for Zastudil last season, and while he only averaged  42.1 yards per punt during the regular season – 31st in the NFL – Butler landed 34 inside the 20, which tied the Eagles' Donnie Jones for most in the league. He had a poor playoff performance against Carolina.

Zastudil averaged 45.7 yards per punt when he was healthy in 2013.

"That's a pretty even battle right now," Arians said.

WELTER FITTING IN SEAMLESSLY

Arians d

id not think the hire of the NFL's first female coach would lead to any issues during training camp, and the addition of Jen Welter has gone even better than he imagined.

"Players have embraced her as a coach," Arians said. "They listen. She's got really good insight. As they call her, 'Dr. J', there's a really good rapport out there right now."

Welter is interning with the inside linebackers, assisting coach Larry Foote.

"I knew obviously she would be qualified with B.A. hiring her, but at the same time, you never really knew," linebacker Kevin Minter said. "But then she came in and was just on us about all this and that. I was like, 'OK, she's the real deal.'"

ELLINGTON IN, DAVID JOHNSON OUT AGAINST KANSAS CITY

Running back Andre Ellington (hamstring) has increased his activity level at practice the past few days and is expected to play Saturday.

"He's real close to being full speed," Arians said.

The players ruled out for the game are running back David Johnson (hamstring), running back Marion Grice (hamstring), wide receiver Michael Floyd (hand), tackle Rob Crisp (knee), cornerback Jonte Green (hamstring), linebacker Darryl Sharpton (hip), linebacker Sean Weatherspoon (hamstring), safety Chris Clemons (groin), linebacker Zack Wagenmann (foot), linebacker Shaq Riddick (hamstring) and cornerback Darren Woodard (groin).

Images from practice on Thursday

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