Carolina's Julius Peppers tears up Kurt Warner's elbow during the Panthers-Cardinals game last season in Glendale.
Seeing the Cardinals was one of Julius Peppers' lone highlights last season.
The Panthers' perennial Pro Bowl defensive end suffered through a miserable 2007 season save for the havoc he thrust upon the Cards in the teams' meeting at University of Phoenix Stadium. Peppers had 1½ sacks that day, including the one on Kurt Warner that tore up Warner's left elbow. He led a defense that allowed ancient (and just signed three days prior) quarterback Vinny Testaverde to steal a road win.
Peppers had just one sack the rest of the year and this week Carolina coach John Fox blamed it on the Panthers' quarterback troubles and the inability to get leads in games – so that Peppers could go after the quarterback.
That isn't a problem this year, with Peppers already with four sacks and playing well. Keeping Warner upright and Peppers away will be a test for both Cardinals tackles. Peppers officially moved from the left to right side this season, making him Mike Gandy's usual problem, but he will move at times and line up against Levi Brown.
"You can't leave (a guy) isolated on him all the time," Cardinals offensive line coach Russ Grimm said. "You have to mix it up. That's the biggest thing.
"One time you might be sliding to him, one time you might be chipping him with a back. We may have a tight end in there. On the same principal, they move him around too. You set it up where you think he will be on one side and he ends up on the other side. It's a little bit of a chess match."
Warner was hit many times against Dallas with the Cowboys' solid pass rush, but the Cardinals have gone to a quicker passing game much of the time to avoid too much pressure. Meanwhile, Grimm said he was satisfied with the progress of his line but isn't giving the group huge compliments either.
"I always tell them it goes with the record," Grimm said. "We are 4-2, so I tell them we are a little bit above average and we need to get better."
The Cardinals will be without tight end Leonard Pope in Carolina, with Pope listed as out for the game after missing a third straight practice with his bad right ankle. Fellow tight end Ben Patrick (knee) was limited and will be listed as questionable.
DE/LB Travis LaBoy (groin) also got in some limited work and will also be limited as questionable. Safety Aaron Francisco (thigh) practiced fully, but he will be listed as questionable as well.
THE POWER OF Q
While no determination has officially been made whether wide receiver Anquan Boldin will play Sunday, he did practice limited again Friday and is expected to go. Coach Ken Whisenhunt said Boldin's status will likely be determined Saturday afternoon.
No matter what Boldin accomplishes on the field, however, his mere presence should help his teammates.
"He's a leader," running back Tim Hightower said. "He makes plays, but as far as being a presence in the huddle, the receiving corps looks up to him and the team as a whole responds to him.
"He is a tough guy, he is a competitor and he wants to win. If you have a guy who plays with a lot of emotion and a lot of heart, whether he makes one catch or 10 catches, he will rub off on someone else. And at some point in the game, he's going to make a play that will help us win."
Warner said Boldin's return is "just a huge comfort level" for the Cardinals.
"He's going to take us with him wherever he wants to go," Warner said. "He is a great leader who will throw us on his back, and it's a luxury to have him in the huddle."
TO PLAY OR NOT?
Whisenhunt called making the decision on whether an injured player was ready to return "an important part" of his job, but added it ultimately comes down to the player and the medical staff.
"Each player reacts differently to injuries and what they can and cannot play with," Whisenhunt said, bringing up Warner's ability to play with torn left elbow ligaments last season. "A lot of guys wouldn't have done. He obviously has a high-pain tolerance.
"I don't think by any stretch of the imagination this organization wants to put a player at risk and I think we are very sensitive to that. But when you have guys who are excited about having success, they want to play. Because it is fun. That's what this game is all about – it's playing on Sunday, it's not coming out and practicing Wednesday, Thursday and Friday."
Contact Darren Urban at email@example.com. Posted 10/24/08.