Wide receiver J.J. Nelson believes the Cardinals can rebound despite the long odds facing the team moving forward.
Wide receiver J.J. Nelson doesn't speak with bravado, but he spouted with steeled resolve on Tuesday afternoon.
The Cardinals are up against it the rest of this season, with a 3-4 record and their two most important offensive pieces possibly done for the year. Plenty outside the organization have thrown in the towel, searching for tanking terms that rhyme with "Darnold" or "Mayfield" or "Rosen" or any other top college quarterback prospects.
While pessimism reigns, Nelson and his teammates scoff at the notion of giving up hope.
"The energy is still here right now," Nelson said. "We're still in it. We're ready to fight."
While it looks like an uphill battle to remain in playoff contention, the players remain focused on achieving that goal. General Manager Steve Keim's duty is to worry about the future of the franchise. Their job is to beat the 49ers on Sunday.
"I mean, it's not really hard (to keep the belief)," money linebacker Deone Bucannon said. "We're football players. That's what we do. Everybody's a grown man here. Nobody's moping around. … We're not in a bad position. We're still in this fight. It's not the end of the season. We still have (nine) more games to go, and we're going to fight until the end."
Even though Carson Palmer is shelved for at least eight weeks with a broken arm, there is internal faith in backup quarterback Drew Stanton. The Cardinals have won six of the nine games Stanton has started over the past four years, and even though the wins have plenty to do with fine defensive showings, the trust has been built up.
Stanton said the belief from his teammates "means everything."
"That's why I put the time and effort in, to try and gain the respect to step into this role and have people feel confident we can go out there and be successful," Stanton said. "Yes, it's going to be different than when Carson does it. Like I said before, I can't be Carson Palmer."
Coach Bruce Arians feels comfortable with Stanton because he knows the offensive playbook inside and out. While his numbers are rarely gaudy, Arians believes Stanton avoids putting his team in bad spots.
"He makes plays to win games, and he doesn't beat you," Arians said. "Some people call that a game manager. I call that a pretty good quarterback."
Stanton's career statistics are underwhelming, but he has no idea because he's never looked at them. He decided long ago to focus on the scoreboard and not how he performed individually.
"You start looking at that and you start worrying about that, and I feel like you're worried about the wrong thing," Stanton said. "My main focus, when I realized I wasn't going to get the chance to be a long-term starting quarterback, was to try and win football games. And that mentality transitioned into, 'OK, worry about winning a football game. Don't worry about what your completion percentage was, or your touchdown-to-interception ratio, or your quarterback rating.'
"I don't even know how to compute a quarterback rating, so why does it matter? Those are all things I stopped worrying about. I couldn't even tell you my career record. I just know that my determination to win when I get out there is as high as anybody else."
Whether they come in traditional or unorthodox fashion, the Cardinals have to string together some wins with Stanton to avoid the destiny that so many believe is fait accompli. The bandwagon is sparse right now, but the players aren't giving up hope.
"Aww, man, it's not the end of the world," safety Antoine Bethea said of the team's current situation. "It's football. We've got nine more games left. We'll take it one game at a time, play the type of football we know we're capable of playing, and … when it's all said and done, we'll look back and see where we're at."
Images of the Cardinals who have registered sacks through seven games