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Family Reunion For Ben Niemann At Cardinals-Chargers

Linebacker has carved out role on Vance Joseph's defense

Linebacker Ben Niemann has quietly become an important part of the Cardinals' defense.
Linebacker Ben Niemann has quietly become an important part of the Cardinals' defense.

It's a family kind of weekend with Thanksgiving and all, so it makes sense Ben Niemann will have a chance to see his brother.

Then again, not every family will have a reunion on an NFL field, when Niemann, a linebacker for the Cardinals, will help play host to linebacker Nick Niemann and the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday – which just happens to be their dad's birthday.

"In the past it's split shirts or make it work apparel-wise so you aren't favoring one side too much over the other," Niemann said of his family's rooting interest. "Last year at the games we had about 20 family members and this year have some people coming in so it'll be fun."

Last year Ben Niemann was playing for the Chiefs, with he and his brother splitting the two AFC West matchups.

This year, Niemann signed in June as a free agent with the Cardinals, ostensibly to help on special teams and perhaps give some inside linebacker depth. But when Nick Vigil went on IR, Niemann became an integral part of the defense – he has averaged 28 defensive snaps a game since Week 4 – and a trusted one as well.

"Ben is a guy who from Day One who has been exact in his assignments," defensive coordinator Vance Joseph said. "When you are playing with a lot of young guys with talent, you need guys like Ben to be exact. He is a part of the machine. And you can count on Ben to always do his part. He's played in big games, he's played on good teams, and he's a good example of every day of how to be a good pro.

"For Zaven (Collins) and Isaiah (Simmons) to be around him and watch him work, he's a defensive favorite because he's a guy who does it right."

Niemann excels in coverage, Joseph said, and has compiled an above-average Pro Football Focus grade of 65.3, the best of his five-year career.

Niemann's dad, Jay, is an assistant coach at Iowa, where the Niemann brothers attended, and that, he believes, is a reason why he is, as Joseph said, so exact.

Also, "playing at Iowa is a very detail-oriented, NFL-style program," Niemann said. "That was what was demanded of me since I started playing. That's part of it. And it is also the understanding that everyone has to do their 1/11th, do their piece to make the whole defense fit together."

Niemann had to find his way in the league, spending four years with the Chiefs (and winning a Super Bowl) as an undrafted rookie. Young brother Nick was a sixth-round pick of the Chargers in 2021, spending all his time on special teams this season.

Ben Niemann is about the team – "It's a guy we trust," Joseph said – but on this holiday weekend, it's personal too.

"I'm hoping to get the win so I can have bragging rights," Niemann said with a smile.

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