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For Starters, Lorenzo Alexander Is Healthy

Linebacker finally over foot injury and running with the first unit

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Linebacker Lorenzo Alexander takes part in a position drill during Thursday's final OTA.


When the Cardinals have lined up in their first-string base defense this offseason, Lorenzo Alexander has – somewhat surprisingly – been on the field at outside linebacker.

Maybe it really shouldn't be a surprise, not with the Cardinals still trying to find the right pieces at the position and bringing in youth and dealing with some nagging offseason injuries. And maybe even less of a surprise is the way Alexander is approaching his "starting" spot, which is to say it doesn't even matter to him.

"I want to play for a championship," said the nine-year veteran, who is coming off a foot injury in 2013 that hampered him all the

way through 2014. "If that means starting, cool. If that means rotating in on second- and third-down in whatever package we have, I mean, everyone plays here. With (former defensive coordinator) Todd (Bowles), I know with J.B. (new DC James Bettcher), each week someone new could be depended upon depending on what the matchups might be. I just want to be a part of it."

Coach Bruce Arians said it will be "interesting" to see what the Cardinals do in terms of final roster numbers when it comes to their defensive line/outside linebackers. The team likes its versatility in the front seven, and there will be times when Bettcher will use the 3-4 alignment and times in the nickel when four down linemen are used.

Part of the problem with sorting through those spots this time of year is the lack of pads and contact, a crucial factor in figuring out who can play and who cannot. Kareem Martin is the former defensive end trying to transition to outside linebacker. Markus Golden and Shaq Riddick are mere rookies (and Riddick missed almost all the OTAs with a hamstring issue.) LaMarr Woodley is transitioning back from an injury and time spent at defensive end in Oakland.

That leaves incumbent Alex Okafor on one side and Alexander on the other.

For Alexander, who is going into the final year of the three-year free-agent contract he signed in 2013, he's just happy to be

healthy. He was coming off a shoulder injury when he signed in 2013. Just three games into the season, Alexander – starting in front of John Abraham at the time – suffered a Lis Franc injury.

The foot problem ended his season and he never felt right in 2014, operating at what he said was about 70 percent.

"Last year I was going through the motions, doing what I could do from the experience side and it's not fun knowing how much better you can be when you are healthy," Alexander said. "I'm excited. Everybody can tell the difference."

Arians noted that Alexander's health makes a difference, as does his ability to play all four linebacker spots. Alexander can rush off the edge, Arians said, and is also a "heavy-handed" blitzer up the middle.

"He's so bright and dedicated," Arians said.

That includes passing on knowledge. Golden, the team's second-round pick, was working on the "second field" in OTAs and Alexander said he felt Golden was putting pressure on himself to move up the depth chart quicker than he was.

"You like that passion but you let him know to take one day at a time and continue to get better and make sure the coaches understand they can trust you," Alexander said. "That's the big thing. Everything else will fall in line."

A healthy Alexander has that trust. Which is why he resides with the first unit these days.

"Right now," he said, "I am just working on my trade."

EXTRA POINT

The Cardinals signed G Friday, cutting T Tavon Rooks.

David Johnson took part in the NFLPA Rookie Premiere in LA.



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