The Cardinals could afford to do some dancing after beating the Lions because it meant they would get Christmas off.
Last Christmas, the Cardinals were practicing in full pads in a miserable cold rain, the by-product of a terrible performance the weekend before in New England and their angry coach.
Perhaps that's why Ken Whisenhunt gave the Cardinals a carrot before last weekend's game in Detroit, telling the team they could have Christmas off if they beat the Lions. Whisenhunt was true to his word.
"They fulfilled their end of the bargain," Whisenhunt said.
Maybe it's a Christmas miracle.
"In 13 years, I've never seen it," linebacker Bertrand Berry said.
The Cardinals will forego a normal Friday practice. Thursday was the Cards' final full practice of the week. The team will practice Saturday, but it is scheduled to go shorter than a normal Friday workout.
"I believe it's the time of year that's important to your family," Whisenhunt said. "It's always tough to come in on Christmas day and work."
It doesn't hurt that the Cardinals have already clinched the NFC West title with two games left, or that they have won eight of 11 since a 1-2 start. Whisenhunt was also impressed with his team against the Lions. He knows his team wasn't particularly sharp, but he was happy the Cards – coming off a Monday night game on the road in San Francisco – flew to a road game in the Eastern time zone for a 1 p.m. start and got a victory.
"That to me is progress," Whisenhunt said. "It's not easy to do, no matter who you are playing."
The Cards have also made progress since that day last Christmas, when both the weather and the mood was ugly after two straight bad losses to Minnesota and New England.
"There was a lot of negativity," Whisenhunt said. "It's a different team now."
DISTRIBUTION BETWEEN HIGHTOWER, BEANIE
Over the past two games, running back Beanie Wells has 32 carries compared to eight for Tim Hightower, a significant change in the near 50/50 split the two had been getting of late. Some of that has been the way games have gone, Whisenhunt said (including Hightower's fumbling issues). Hightower's lingering sore thumb also has played a role, as has Wells' performance when he gets the ball.
"The way I look at it, Tim will get his carries as well as Beanie," Whisenhunt said. "It's play driven, package driven. They can go in and out on a play-by-play basis. It's really not a conscious effort as much as it is a game-plan-type thing."
Whisenhunt said it was "difficult" to put tackle Mike Gandy on injured reserve after surgery to repair a sports hernia. In the end, Gandy likely couldn't have returned until the NFC championship game, which Whisenhunt felt wouldn't work.
"Mike and I had a long talk about it, and it was tough because of his sacrifice and what he's done for our program," Whisenhunt said. "Mike understood and I respect that."
If something were to happen to replacement Jeremy Bridges, right tackle Levi Brown would move to the left side and Brandon Keith would take over at right tackle.
Linebacker Will Davis (knee) remains on track to return this weekend, a good sign coming off knee surgery. There is much left in the air about tight end Ben Patrick and wide receiver Sean Morey, each of whom are suffering from concussions.
Morey already had a concussion earlier this year, although Whisenhunt said he hasn't put a lot of thought into Morey's history.
"I draw comfort in the fact the NFL has a policy in place that protects the players," Whisenhunt said. "I am not predisposed one way or the other in terms of a number of times (of concussions)."
RAMS GAME SELLS OUT
The Cardinals have sold out for the 41st consecutive time, now that the Rams game Sunday reached such status. The game will be aired on local TV and it all but assures the Cards a regular-season sellout, given that the Packers' finale next week is expected to sell out.
PRACTICE SQUAD MOVE
The Cardinals signed guard/tackle Tom Pestock to the practice squad. Pestock, an undrafted rookie, was with the Colts in the preseason.
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