New running back Marion Grice is greeted by head coach Bruce Arians Tuesday at the outset of practice Tuesday, as running backs coach Stump Mitchell (right) looks on.
Marion Grice was lifting weights at the San Diego Chargers' facility when the phone call came from the Cardinals, telling the rookie running back they wanted to sign him off the Chargers' practice squad.
Grice thought he might be staying in San Diego after a rash of injuries shredded the running back roster, but at that point, it was only teammates saying they expected Grice to get promoted. He hadn't heard from the team itself, so Grice did the only thing he could and head to the airport and Arizona.
The Arizona State product signed a two-year contract with the Cardinals Tuesday, getting in his first practice.
"I just wanted to play," Grice said.
Grice fits into a backfield that at least at the moment includes four others: starter Andre Ellington, Stepfan Taylor, Robert Hughes and Jalen Parmele. Offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin said he sees the 6-foot, 207-pound Grice in the Ellington mold.
"We had to replace Jonathan (Dwyer)," Goodwin said. "(Grice) had a great preseason in San Diego, he can
catch the ball and can do the things we wanted to do."
Grice, the Chargers' sixth-round pick out of Arizona State, scored 20 touchdowns for the Sun Devils last season in 11 games before a foot injury ended his college career. Grice said his foot has been healthy since February.
Goodwin said running backs coach Stump Mitchell had come away impressed with Grice at ASU's March pro day and "was a guy we'd like to get but didn't, obviously." The Cardinals did see Grice in the preseason, as he gained 79 yards on 17 carries in the preseason finale between the Cards and Chargers.
"I think that (game) meant a lot," Grice said.
Grice was cut and put on the practice squad. He must remain on the Cardinals' 53-man roster for at least three weeks, but he seems probable to last much longer with the team. Goodwin came away impressed at the end of Tuesday's practice when Grice went out on a wheel route and hauled in a pass one-handed.
"He's going to bring a lot to the table," Goodwin said. "We are fortunate enough we have a lot of good backs."
STAYING WITH SAME FIVE ON O-LINE MEANS COOPER WAITS
Goodwin, the team's de facto offensive line coach, said he does not believe in rotating players on the offensive line. The subject came up in a line of questioning about the progress of Jonathan Cooper, the 2013 No. 1 draft pick who remains behind left guard Ted Larsen on the depth chart.
"The same five guys every game the better we will be," Goodwin said. "The longer they play together the
better. We start rotating guys in and out, communication gets screwed up and all of a sudden somethings happens bad."
Cooper has improved, Goodwin said. Goodwin isn't worried about Cooper's work, saying the scout team battles he gets in practice against "one of the best defenses in the league" helps, and he also got almost all the work in Tuesday's practice as the Cards try to work the bench guys this week.
Cooper's turf toe injury and lingering issues from last year's broken leg are basically gone.
"As I watch Coop, there was always a little hint of a limp and that's started to go away," Goodwin said. "I think he's getting more confidence every day on that leg.
"Coop can play. He just has to make the decision the past is the past in terms of the injury and not let it bother him mentally, he'll be fine."
WORK FOR LOGAN THOMAS
Carson Palmer wasn't throwing in the open portion of Cardinals' practice Tuesday, but it didn't matter much anyway – Logan Thomas said he took every rep as the Cards had a short bye week workout.
"I needed it," the rookie third-stringer said. "Did some good things, did some bad things, but it was just nice to be out there doing our offense."
Thomas said he "understands the process," which right now means very little work other than some scout team action. That'll drop off when Palmer is healthy again.
"In my opinion he's got a future, as long as he stays in the game and stays focused and listens to Carson and Drew (Stanton)," Goodwin said.
Thomas briefly thought he might get into the game Sunday when Stanton took a big hit, and even took a couple of practice snaps on the sideline before Stanton got up.
"I was excited to get a chance if it came to that, but extremely proud of Drew," Thomas said. "He showed he was a warrior."
STANTON'S GOOD LUCK TEXT
From one backup to another: Stanton, who has come in to pilot the Cardinals after Palmer was hurt, texted Arizona State backup quarterback Mike Bercovici to wish him luck in Bercovici's first start Thursday against UCLA after starter Taylor Kelly got hurt.
Stanton told Bercovici he had been in Bercovici's shoes before, and good luck.
"I was so ecstatic he would take the time to do that," Bercovici said.
In the bye week there are no injury reports, and there are often players sitting out that wouldn't be if it were a normal week. Regardless, the Cardinals had a host of players not practicing during the open portion of Tuesday's workout: TE Rob Housler, CB Antonio Cromartie, RB Andre Ellington, TE Troy Niklas, G Paul Fanaika, LB Matt Shaughnessy, DT Ed Stinson, DE Frostee Rucker and S Deone Bucannon.
Images of the Cardinals cheerleaders during the game against the 49ers