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Cardinals Head Into Bye Looking For Late-Season Rest

Team has four games left once they sit out weekend

Coach Jonathan Gannon addresses the team after Sunday's win in Pittsburgh.
Coach Jonathan Gannon addresses the team after Sunday's win in Pittsburgh.

More than 130 days have passed since the Cardinals ventured to State Farm Stadium to begin training camp for the 2023 season.

Finally, the team has reached its bye week and its first time off.

"We're grateful to finally have some time off," defensive lineman Kevin Strong Jr. said. "We have to get some guys back, get through some injuries and stuff like that. It'll be a good thing to take the bye off and then come back feeling good and finish the season off."

The Cardinals and Commanders are the final two organizations in the NFL to have their bye week, the latest a team could have in a season. The last time that the Cardinals had a bye during Week 14 was in 1991.

Strong, who stuffed Steelers running back Najee Harris at the 1-yard line on fourth down Sunday to kickstart the Cardinals' win, said he's never had a bye this late in the season throughout his five years in the league. He'll spend the week in Houston with his family.

That's exactly how coach Jonathan Gannon hopes the people in the locker room spend their time.

"I actually want them to put it down for a little bit here, coaches included a little bit, but they won't," Gannon said. "I think the players, you need a mental break, I really do believe in that. I don't really want them studying a lot right now. I don't want them looking at different things. Just relax for a couple of days and get back into it."

It does help that the week off comes after the 24-10 Cardinals victory over the Steelers. Two weather delays later, it also became the longest game in Cardinals history, clocking in at four hours and 18 minutes.

Having played 13 straight games and three preseason games -- including a week of preseason practice spent in Minnesota -- the players will get to unwind and recharge a bit.

The Cardinals have been challenged all season long on the injury front, losing key players like linebacker Kyzir White and defensive lineman L.J. Collier and Carlos Watkins for the season. Offensive lineman Elijah Wilkinson had his 21-day practice window opened last week. Wide receiver Hollywood Brown has been nursing a heel injury that forced him to exit Sunday's game early and Michael Wilson has missed four of the last five games.

"I think they do need a little bit of a reset and some rest," Gannon said. "We've been going at it a pretty long time here now and I think that's going to afford us to get some guys back and get healthy. Once we get back in here, we'll be back to business."

Business will pick up right away against one of the NFL's top teams and an NFC West foe in the 49ers. That game will be on Dec. 17 at State Farm Stadium. It's also the only game Gannon has his eyes set on.

"We'll get back here and put all of our effort and energy into San Francisco one day at a time."

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