Adam Snyder (68) took his first turn at center last weekend, the fourth center used by the Cards this season.
Last week, while he was preparing to become the Cardinals' fourth center in as many games, Adam Snyder looked down during practice and couldn't believe what he saw.
"What the heck am I doing?" Snyder asked himself.
It's likely he wasn't the only one asking that question.
He was the Cardinals' back up to the back up at center, an option only used in extreme emergencies, like last week. After Rich Ohrnberger, who was already replacing Lyle Sendlein, went down in Seattle, coach Ken Whisenhunt inserted rookie Scott Wedige for the rest of the game. With no options left, Snyder was next in line.
It's been like that all season for the offensive line. The next-man-up mentality doesn't apply anymore. It's about the man-after-the-next-man-up these days.
The offensive line that will take the field Sunday against the Chicago Bears at University of Phoenix Stadium is a shell of the one that started training camp in July. Tackles Levi Brown and Jeremy Bridges were replaced by rookie Bobby Massie and D'Anthony Batiste – who was eventually replaced by rookie Nate Potter. The only stability has been at tackle, with Daryn Colledge and Snyder anchoring the center of the day, but even that was reshuffled last week when Pat McQuistan replaced Snyder at guard.
"Me, Nate and Bobby always joke about this is all we know," rookie quarterback Ryan Lindley said. "I assume this doesn't happen every year. I think, considering everything, I think they've done a pretty good job. In the last four, five weeks, they've really jelled.
"It's been a crazy ride."
But nothing a few drinks and wings can't fix.
Every Monday night, the offensive line watches "Monday Night Football" together. Every other week, their wives and children are invited. It's just one way the line has built a trust among each other that's as more than just teammates.
"That's part of getting the relationship off the field and getting to know each other's families and their kids," Snyder said. "It helps. When you got a guy next to you, you want to play just a little bit harder for that guy."
Laughing and joking together is half of the process to building a cohesiveness that's withstood the constant turnover. The other half comes during practice, both on the field and in meetings. From Snyder to Massie, the line agreed that whatever continuity this year's offensive line has built started in front of a projection screen and continued in between the hash marks.
"Everybody gets along," McQuistan said. "There are no egos. Everybody's buddies. You call each other to do stuff. That helps. You spend a lot of time together, a lot time in meetings. It makes a difference."
Even for Lindley.
Before he was thrust onto the field in Atlanta, Lindley spent the first 10 weeks running the Cardinals' scout team, which included Potter and McQuistan. His familiarity with them has made one aspect of his transition to the Cardinals' starting quarterback easier. But, as with any position, anytime a new face shows up in the lineup there are bound to be challenges to overcome, Potter said. During the last four weeks those challenges hinged on who was at center. Sendlein, Ohrnberger, Wedige and Snyder have their own ways of snapping the ball and calling out various coverages but the Cardinals survived the influx of centers to allow just 11 sacks in the past five weeks, a fraction of the 41 they surrendered in their first nine games.
"To lose a guy like (Lyle), that was pretty crushing," Potter said. "But the guys have stepped in and done a phenomenal job.
"It's just unfortunate when you have that many injuries especially to key guys. We all enjoy being around each other and trust each other."
In all, eight different Cardinals have played across the offensive line this season and with two games left, there's no promise that won't increase. But nobody has yet to look next to them and ask, "Who is that?"
"It seems like there's always somebody new," Massie said. "But it's cool. They do just as good of a job as the guy who was there before him. Nothing different."