Safety Aaron Francisco (47) was among the Cardinals' final cuts Friday, while undrafted rookie linebacker Reggie Walker (55) made the team.
The night before the Cardinals' final preseason game, coach Ken Whisenhunt lamented all the players he was going to have to cut a couple of days later, noting that some of them had played in the Super Bowl for him.
Friday, Whisenhunt delivered the bad news to the 21 players he needed to shave off the roster to get down to the 53-man limit, including a couple who had been on the field in Tampa for the Cards' near-win.
The complete list of Cardinals'cuts Friday:
Safety Aaron Francisco, one of the Cardinals' special-teams captains from a year ago and one of a trio of defensive backs who couldn't quite knock down the Steelers' game-winning touchdown pass in the Super Bowl, was one of the players released. So too was tight end Leonard Pope, the team's 2006 third-round draft choice who never managed to translate his raw talent to the field.
"We are still looking at a number of positions," coach Ken Whisenhunt said. "I don't think this is necessarily our final 53-man roster.
"There could be some corrections over the weekend," Whisenhunt added, noting the real possibility the Cards will bring in a player or two cut from other teams. As for cutting Francisco and Pope, "That's unfortunately what this business is about."
There were a couple of surprises to make the team. Making the final cut – at least for now – is wide receiver Lance Long, meaning the Cards kept seven receivers. Also making the team was undrafted rookie inside linebacker Reggie Walker, who parlayed a strong preseason into a spot over veteran Victor Hobson, who was released.
Long had struggled late in preseason and Whisenhunt said he was "worn down a bit."
"I think that affected a little bit of his play, especially last night (in Denver), with a couple of catches that had he not had so many plays, he would have made," Whisenhunt said. "But I saw progress with Lance."
Walker, Whisenhunt said, merely won a job with a good preseason, although it does help when the team is developing young players for the future.
"I don't think we will ever lose sight of keeping the best 53 players or playing the best players," Whisenhunt said. "But you certainly have to give player like Reggie Walker credit for playing well in the games. It was worthy of a roster spot."
The Cardinals save one other roster spot because tight end Ben Patrick, who is serving a four-game suspension for violating the league's steroids and related substances policy, will not count against the roster until his suspension ends.
Pope was the only tight end cut. Dominique Byrd, a long shot when he signed in the offseason, joins Anthony Becht and Stephen Spach as the available tight ends in Week One.
Besides Francisco, Pope and Hobson, the cut list included quarterback Tyler Palko; receivers Steve Sanders, Ed Gant and Onrea Jones; running backs Chris Vincent, Tim Castille and Reagan Maui'a; offensive linemen Oliver Ross, Carlton Medder, Trevor Canfield and Melvin Fowler; defensive linemen Keilen Dykes, Rodney Leisle and Alex Field; linebackers Chase Bullock and David Holloway; and cornerbacks Wilrey Fontenot and Jameel Dowling.
The Cards are heavy not only at receiver but tailback (four, with rookie LaRod Stephens-Howling sticking). Dan Kreider is the lone fullback. Cornerback Michael Adams, at 5-foot-7, also made the team.
The cuts aren't completely a surprise. It probably didn't help Francisco that he was scheduled to make $1.25 million in salary this season, about double what fellow veteran safety and special-teamer Matt Ware is scheduled to make. Pope was scheduled to make more than $1 million, the most of any tight end.
Whisenhunt, though, said salary was not a main reason for any of the decisions. He pointed out that, once the team drafted safety Rashad Johnson, it left three veterans – Ware, Francisco and the previously-cut Keith Lewis – fighting for one roster spot.
"Matt just fit better with what we're doing defensively," Whisenhunt said.
Players like Davis and Walker will have to step up and fill the void Francisco's absence will leave on special teams, Whisenhunt added.
Whisenhunt said none of the injuries suffered by the Cards Thursday night were serious. CB Bryant McFadden (shoulder), WR Jerheme Urban (knee) and LB Will Davis (foot) should be ready for practice Monday, Whisenhunt said.