When Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury saw Christian Kirk get bent backward at the end of Sunday's loss to the Seahawks, he feared a season-ending injury.
While the second-year receiver is not expected to play this week against the Bengals, the ankle injury won't keep him out for a significant stretch. Kirk could be in the mix to return as soon as Week 6 against the Falcons, Kingsbury said.
"After looking at that play, it could have been a lot worse," Kingsbury said. "We're all very pleased that it wasn't."
The Cardinals will have to shuffle some things in the short-term, as both Kirk and Damiere Byrd (hamstring) are expected to be absent from the wide receiver corps against Cincinnati.
Pharoh Cooper was signed on Tuesday after spending the offseason with the team and seems in line to play the second inside receiver role in place of Kirk when the Cardinals use four-wide personnel. He could also return kicks and punts.
"He was a guy that was right there on the cusp (of making the team)," Kingsbury said. "We like what he did. I think he's a really good fit for our system, what we do offensively and special teams-wise. We were really happy to have an opportunity to bring him back."
Cooper said he's prepared to have an immediate role if needed.
"I know the whole offense, so it wouldn't be a surprise if I got right back plugged in," he said.
Rookie Andy Isabella, who has played mostly slot receiver since being drafted in the second round in April, is moving to the outside for the time being, Kingsbury said. Isabella looked explosive on a jet sweep against the Seahawks but has yet to catch a pass in limited playing time. He is expected to back up KeeSean Johnson and Trent Sherfield on Sunday.
"We're going to continue to try to get him comfortable at one spot," Kingsbury said. "I think that's the biggest thing that has kind of slowed his development, is we've moved him around so much. But he's coming on, and I expect him to continue to get more time. It's not for lack of effort or talent or anything like that."
Larry Fitzgerald will continue to lead the group, but others will need to step up without Kirk, who leads the team with 24 receptions and is second behind Fitzgerald with 242 receiving yards.
"We pride ourselves on being ready and staying ready," said Fitzgerald, who believes Kirk has a chance to play Sunday. "Everybody in our room can play different positions. We've been shuffling the last few weeks with guys getting hurt, guys being brought in and guys leaving. I think we'll be ready if (Kirk not playing) unfortunately happens."
Kirk was injured in the waning moments of a game that was already decided, but Kingsbury isn't second-guessing his decision to leave his starters in and remain aggressive.
"We're a work in progress as a unit offensively," Kingsbury said. "We need all the reps we can get, particularly with that rookie quarterback (Kyler Murray). So those guys are going to play and play it out, try to gain as much experience as we can as a group."
While having one of his most dynamic threats out for any length of time is not ideal, Kingsbury is thankful Kirk will be back sooner rather than later.
"I thought it was bad," Kingsbury said. "He got rolled up pretty bad. He's a tough kid. If he's limping around and in that type of pain, you know something's wrong. But luckily it's not as bad as we thought."
JUSTIN PUGH DOESN'T PRACTICE
Left guard Justin Pugh (shoulder) was among nine Cardinals players who didn't practice on Wednesday. The others were Kirk, Byrd, Fitzgerald (not injury related), defensive lineman Zach Allen (neck), linebacker Dennis Gardeck (ankle), defensive tackle Corey Peters (not injury related), punter Andy Lee (hip) and safety Charles Washington (shoulder).
Those limited were safety Budda Baker (thigh), cornerback Tramaine Brock (back), tight end Charles Clay (not injury related), tackle Jordan Mills (knee) and linebacker Ezekiel Turner (hand/hamstring).
The Bengals placed wide receiver John Ross (shoulder) on injured reserve Wednesday. Fellow wide receiver A.J. Green (ankle) is not expected to play against the Cardinals. He missed practice, as did tackle Cordy Glenn (concussion).
Go inside Christian Kirk's home for a glimpse into his life off the field.