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Eno Benjamin Gets Kick Out of Emergency Duty Against Panthers

Notes: Practice window opens for IR players Wesley, McCoy, Hamilton

Running back Eno Benjamin kicks off during the Cardinals' win in Carolina on Sunday, after kicker Matt Prater got hurt.
Running back Eno Benjamin kicks off during the Cardinals' win in Carolina on Sunday, after kicker Matt Prater got hurt.

Kliff Kingsbury knew running back Eno Benjamin needed to kick off Sunday, because kicker Matt Prater was hurting. But he didn't see Benjamin race down the field after kicking it and tackle the return man.

So how did the Cardinals coach find out?

"I heard him," Kingsbury deadpanned during his day-after press conference Monday. "He said, 'They're not blocking the kicker!' So I knew it was him."

Benjamin, the one-time soccer player and current soccer junkie, had been told by special teams coordinator Jeff Rodgers to essentially be a safety after booting the ball. That's what kickers do, protecting in case the return man finds a hole.

There was a hole, as it turned out. And Benjamin decided it would be better for him to use it instead.

"A void opened up and I was like, 'I gotta take it,' " Benjamin said. "It ended up working out.

"It wasn't the greatest hit. The defense was a little more fired up. Markus Golden was hugging me and jumping with me, which got me going as well."

The two kickoffs were cool for Benjamin, but the reality is Prater's bad right hip is a problem.

The Cardinals will bring in multiple kickers for workouts, likely signing one to at least the practice squad to hedge against Prater's situation, Kingsbury said. (ESPN reported that ex-Colts kicker Rodrigo Blankenship was among the candidates.) Prater did boot two field goals (from 33 and 39 yards) and two extra points before the Cardinals brought Benjamin in for kickoffs and tried a two-point conversion after their final touchdown.

Prater is "a little sore," Kingsbury said. "Eno did what he could."

The last time the Cardinals needed an emergency kickoff, it came back in 2001. Bill Gramatica made a field goal in the first half, leaped to celebrate as was his custom, and when he landed he blew out the ACL in his plant leg.

Pat Tillman ended up kicking off for the Cardinals that day, just a few months removed and a few miles away from the 9/11 attacks in New York.

Benjamin, who played soccer – he was a striker – through his sophomore year of high school, "won" a kicking competition with guard Will Hernandez in camp to be the emergency kicker. That's what Benjamin thinks, although he admitted that since his kickoffs came after Hernandez was ejected on Sunday, "he could've still be the No. 2."

Was it true Hernandez was close to beating out Eno, Kliff? "Ummmm," Kingsbury said, pausing for a moment. "Not that close."


The Cardinals opened the practice window for three players to return from Injured Reserve: cornerback Antonio Hamilton (feet), wide receiver Antoine Wesley (groin) and quarterback Colt McCoy (hamstring).

While the three can now practice, it does not guarantee they will be available for Sunday's game against the Eagles. The Cardinals have 21 days to move them back on to the active roster, which would mean a corresponding move.

"With the wideouts being banged up, getting Tweezy (Wesley) back will be really good," Kingsbury said. "Colt has played at a high level when he had his opportunities so that will make us all feel better, and Hamilton was playing as well as any DB we had. We'll have to get him back into football shape, up to speed, all those things."

Kingsbury said there was hope the trio could be ready for the Eagles game Sunday, with the caveat none had done any football activity for at least a month. Offensive lineman Cody Ford (ankle), who is also on IR, is still "another couple of weeks" away from getting into the practice window.

Guard Justin Pugh, who reaggravated his elbow injury, is day-to-day, Kingsbury said.


Following up on J.J. Watt's return to play Sunday after getting his heart shocked back into rhythm last week, Kingsbury said the Cardinals were careful will their due diligence before letting him go on the field.

"I think our organization did a good job of vetting everything we needed to." Kingsbury said. "Our medical staff does a tremendous job and J.J. was on top of things as he is. We felt like we were in a good place with it."