Cardinals wide receiver Chris Hubert catches a touchdown pass at a recent training camp practice.
There are plenty of reasons to dismiss Chris Hubert's chances of making the Cardinals' final roster.
The rookie wide receiver went undrafted out of Division II Fayetteville State and needed a tryout to get signed. At 5-foot-9 and 155 pounds, he is the second-shortest player on the team and the lightest. He's also trying to lock down a spot within a position group that's among the deepest in the NFL.
Hubert is still a relative unknown, as it took quarterback Carson Palmer a second to connect the dots when asked about him after practice on Thursday. But once Palmer realized the subject of the inquiry, he perked up.
"Oh, Little Smoke?" Palmer said. "He's doing great. He's had a great camp."
Hubert didn't get his nickname because he plays like John "Smokey" Brown – Hubert's dad, Wayne, a long-time equipment manager at North Carolina State, is also nicknamed Smoke – but has nonetheless made an impression.
With injuries to Brown and J.J. Nelson combined with a veteran's day off for Larry Fitzgerald, the Cardinals needed another wide receiver to join veterans Michael Floyd, Brittan Golden and Jaron Brown in some first-team work Thursday. There were several options, but it was Hubert who received the nod.
He made the most of that opportunity, catching a 57-yard touchdown pass from Palmer and coming up with several other receptions.
"That's what it's all about as a young guy," Fitzgerald said. "You're not going to get a lot of reps, but the opportunity you do get, you've got to make the best of it. He's done a lot of that so far this year."
Coach Bruce Arians called Hubert a "very, very pleasant" surprise.
"Every day he's got a long touchdown catch," Arians said. "How many, eight practices? He's got at least eight (scores)."
Hubert has a believer in former Rams star receiver Torry Holt, who is friends with Wayne Hubert from their days together at N.C. State. When Holt learned of Hubert's recent practice exploits on Twitter, he chimed in.
"Better keep your eye on Chris Hubert," Holt tweeted. "Young man can play."
Hubert had 71 catches for 862 yards and 13 touchdowns last season at Fayetteville State, setting school records in receptions and touchdowns.
"I knew I would get an opportunity somewhere," Hubert said. "I had faith in God throughout the whole process. I knew that when I got a chance, I just had to make the best of it."
SOCIAL MEDIA BEEF DOESN'T RATTLE ARIANS
Peterson has been in the news lately for taking a swipe at the cover skills of Josh Norman after watching a highlight of the Washington cornerback in a training camp practice. Norman responded by pointing out Peterson is only the fourth-rated cornerback in EA Sports' Madden video game.
When asked about his players' use of social media, Arians answered with the equivalent of an eye-roll emoji.
"I don't give a crap," Arians said. "That's their business. It doesn't affect us one way or another as a team."
ALAN BALL GETS HIS SHOT
Arians said the team plans to work out four-to-five free agents per week throughout training camp in search of "a diamond in the rough." Cornerback Alan Ball will get the first crack at shining after the team signed him Thursday.
"He'll come in and give us great competition," Arians said. "He's a really bright guy. A pro. He's got length, kind of fits what we like to do. He had a great workout."
The nine-year veteran battled injuries a season ago but still started three games for the Bears. He is another option at a position of uncertainty behind Peterson.
"At this point, you get into training camp, and teams see what they need, see how they want to adjust and do things," Ball said. "As a vet and as a pro, I know how the situation goes. Me and my agent made sure we were just patient. The right opportunity came up."
RED & WHITE PRACTICE ON SATURDAY
The Cardinals will hold their annual Red & White practice on Saturday from 2-4:30 p.m. Parking and admission are free, with Arians and team president Michael Bidwill addressing the crowd before practice. The format will be similar to the other training camp practices, except there will be a goal-line drill with live hitting.
As has become tradition, the team's reigning Pro Bowlers – Palmer, Peterson, Fitzgerald, safety Tyrann Mathieu, defensive tackle Calais Campbell, guard Mike Iupati and special teamer Justin Bethel – will be presented their jerseys.
The entire roster will sign autographs along the lower field wall for a limited time after practice.
ED STINSON RETURNS TO PRACTICE
Defensive tackle Ed Stinson (calf) practiced fully with the team on Friday. Center Taylor Boggs (calf) was injured Thursday and missed practice, as did linebacker Tristan Okpalaugo. Cornerback Asa Jackson left early on.
Still out are wide receiver J.J. Nelson (groin), cornerback Justin Bethel (foot), linebacker Alani Fua (knee), nose tackle Corey Peters (foot), wide receiver John Brown (head), cornerback Mike Jenkins (hand), cornerback Elie Bouka (hamstring) and defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche (ankle).
Images from the sixth practice of training camp