Dennis Gardeck's fairytale season met its antagonist on Sunday, when the Cardinals' outside linebacker was carted to the locker room with a knee injury late in the contest.
While there are only two games left in the regular season, there is hope for a happy ending.
Gardeck wouldn't have participated if the Cardinals practiced on Tuesday, but coach Kliff Kingsbury said there is a chance he will be available on Saturday against the 49ers.
"It will be a game-time decision to see how he feels," Kingsbury said. "We'll get him out there, move him around this week and take it from there."
It has been an incredible season for Gardeck, whose two sacks against the Eagles lifted him to seven on the year in only 93 defensive snaps. That is more sacks than big names like Cameron Jordan (6.5), DeMarcus Lawrence (5.5), Chase Young (5.5) and J.J. Watt (5.0).
Gardeck went undrafted out of college and made the Cardinals' roster in 2018 as a special teams ace. He got his first chance on defense this year after outside linebacker Chandler Jones went down with a season-ending biceps injury in Week 5.
The undersized pass-rusher hasn't let up since.
"He is such a remarkable story," Kingsbury said. "Watching him last year, how hard he practiced when he was on scout team. I saw a guy who would make plays every day on scout team. We had a hard time blocking him and I thought, 'Yeah, but it won't translate to Sundays.' Sure enough, it has. He's been tremendous."
Gardeck has become something of a cult figure on the Cardinals. Fans love him, as do his teammates. Quarterback Kyler Murray cheered giddily after Gardeck's first sack on Jalen Hurts.
"You can't have enough Dennises on your team," Murray said. "People may look at him, and he may not pass the eye test to a lot of people, but he's a great football player and you can't have enough of those guys. He does everything right. He does everything for the team. Accountable. Responsible. There's a reason why he's a captain on this team. I'm glad he's finally getting a chance to prove his play on the field."
The injury ended an impressive day for Gardeck against the Eagles. Not only did he have two sacks, but he had another pressure which resulted in a sack for defensive tackle Leki Fotu, and made a tackle on a bubble screen which had Kingsbury amazed by his pursuit.
"That was one I'll take and show my kids when I'm telling them how to play football," Kingsbury said. "He gets thrown to the ground, gets up, chases the guy down 30 yards and makes the tackle on a wide receiver. He plays the game the way it's meant to be played."
BEATHARD WILL START FOR 49ERS AGAINST CARDINALS
Quarterback C.J. Beathard will get the starting nod for San Francisco on Saturday. Nick Mullens has played the majority of the time in place of injured starter Jimmy Garoppolo, but Mullens suffered an elbow injury last week that requires surgery.
Coach Kyle Shanahan said the plan was for Beathard to start the final two games anyway, but now Mullens won't be an option available if Beathard struggles. Garoppolo, who is on injured reserve with an ankle injury, had his activation window opened on Tuesday, but won't play this week, Shanahan said.
San Francisco practice squad quarterback Josh Johnson was placed on the COVID-19 reserve list, so the 49ers reportedly signed former Cardinals quarterback Josh Rosen to back up Beathard.
FITZGERALD ON INJURY REPORT
If the Cardinals had practiced on Tuesday, wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald would have sat out with a groin issue. Others who would have missed practice were outside linebacker Haason Reddick (shoulder), tight end Darrell Daniels (hamstring), cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick (hamstring/calf), tight end Maxx Williams (ankle) and running back Chase Edmonds (ankle/knee).
Guard Justin Pugh, who missed Sunday's game with a calf injury, would have been limited. Kingsbury said he's unsure if Pugh will return to the lineup this week or in the season finale against the Rams. Safety Jalen Thompson (ankle) and outside linebacker Kylie Fitts (hamstring) also would have been limited at practice after missing the game against Philadelphia.
For the 49ers, Mullens, cornerback Richard Sherman (calf), defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw (knee), defensive end Dion Jordan (knee), wide receiver Deebo Samuel (hamstring), safety Jimmie Ward (concussion), running back Raheem Mostert (ankle) and safety Tarvarius Moore (knee) did not practice.
Those limited were center Hroniss Grasu (knee) and wide receiver Richie James (ankle). Shanahan told the San Francisco media that he's hoping tight end George Kittle can return this week from a foot injury. Kittle is currently on injured reserve.
CARDINALS MAKE PRACTICE SQUAD MOVES
The Cardinals released defensive lineman P.J. Johnson from the practice squad and placed wide receiver A.J. Richardson (groin) on the practice squad injured list.