The Cardinals, thin at safety, are making sure they have some numbers for this weekend in Carolina.
The team signed veteran T.J. Ward -- who has not played since 2017 -- to the practice squad Thursday, providing an option to pull up to the roster with the new COVID practice squad rules this season. To make room, the Cardinals released offensive lineman Rick Leonard from the practice squad.
(UPDATE: Defensive coordinator Vance Joseph said Ward will not play this weekend, and that Deionte Thompson and Curtis Riley will start.)
The Cards are not expected to have Budda Baker for the game after Baker underwent surgery this week to repair a ligament in his thumb. The Cardinals were already without their other starter, Jalen Thompson, who is on injured reserve with an ankle injury. Top backup Chris Banjo is also dealing with a hamstring problem and could miss the game.
That leaves veteran Curtis Riley and second-year man Deionte Thompson as the top alternatives, while special teams ace Charles Washington is an option. The Cardinals are also expected to at least consider using first-round draft pick Isaiah Simmons, who has been at linebacker, for a safety role.
Ward, a 2010 second-round pick of Denver, appeared in 12 games for the Buccaneers in 2017 but has been out of the league since. The 33-year-old has eight interceptions and 8.5 sacks in his career, during which he made two Pro Bowls while playing for the Broncos, Browns and Bucs.