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James Conner Feeling Good During Hot Start On Ground

Notes: Collins rebounds from harsh eye injury; Lopez comes back to Arizona

Running back James Conner fights for yards last weekend against the Cowboys.
Running back James Conner fights for yards last weekend against the Cowboys.

James Conner showed up on Week 2's injury report with an calf issue. This week it was his back.

So when the Cardinals running back sat down for his press conference Thursday, the first question, "how are you feeling?" was not a surprise.

"I feel real good," Conner said without missing a beat. "How are you?"

Conner is going to take his share of pounding, but he's made a significant impact over three games. He already has four runs of at least 20 yards this season. His 266 yards are fourth in the NFL, one yard behind Buffalo's James Cook, and he is averaging 5.2 yards a carry.

Keeping up that pace against the staunch 49ers defense will be a test, but the Cardinals will continue lean on the veteran. Keaontay Ingram and Emari Demercado have had limited touches.

"I told you guys the run game's going to go through him and with knowing that it's a 17-game season we've got be smart with that and things like that," coach Jonathan Gannon said. "We want to see those other guys play as well, but I like how it's being deployed right now."

The Cardinals have the most rushing yards through the first three games of the season since 1988.

The consistency of the blocking – Conner not only praised the line but the tight ends and receivers, who have excelled thus far – has made a major difference. Keeping Conner fresh and healthy will be important too, although in his seventh season that's a given.

"You always knew it was a full-time job," Conner said. "Our body is everything in this sport."

Conner said it wasn't getting harder keeping his body fresh even though he's older. He was asked if playing in games felt like getting hit by a bus. Conner had an answer for that too.

"If I got hit by a by a bus … no, it ain't the same," he said. "You're sore for sure but a bus? That's extreme."


Outside linebacker Zaven Collins was poked in the eye during the game against the Cowboys, and he was admittedly worried about it. The way he described it, he should've been.

"I'm not going to lie – after the injury happened it freaked me out quite a bit," said Collins, who has been back practicing fully, albeit wearing a dark visor to protect him and help with light sensitivity. He is expected to play Sunday.

Collins said he had double vision right after the injury, and his right eye had been poked so severely – impacting the muscles around the eye – that his eyeball essentially got stuck looking up.

"You know when you wake up in the morning and brush your teeth and look at yourself in the mirror, you're looking at both of your eyes," Collins said. "That's the only time I've looked in a mirror and seen the back of my eyeball."

Collins wants to believe it was an accident, but he noted the same Dallas player also poked the eye of another Cardinals' player during the game.


Roy Lopez admitted he had to pause when he first answered the phone in getting the news the Cardinals wanted to sign him.

The Tempe native played at Gilbert Mesquite High School and submerged in the prep football life, given that his father – also named Roy – has been a long-time Arizona high school coach.

"Honestly," Lopez said, "I couldn't wait to tell my parents."

Lopez, who was drafted out of the University of Arizona, spent the last two seasons with the Texans before being waived-injured with a hamstring issue after the second preseason game. After an injury settlement, he spent his time rehabbing in Scottsdale and waiting for the phone to ring.

The Cardinals needed him. They have already put defensive linemen L.J. Collier and Carlos Watkins on IR, and another starter, Jonathan Ledbetter, hasn't practiced this week with a finger injury.

"I've got high hopes for him," coach Jonathan Gannon said. "He conceptually understands what's going on. He's playing a little different system than he's played in coming here, but I like his skillset and I like his brain."

Lopez – whose dad currently coaches at Mesa Desert Ridge – said he has always followed the Cardinals, paying attention to their scores and statistics. Yet, "I never really thought about suiting up for them," he admitted.

"My Mom already sent me a picture of her '98' Lopez jersey," he said. "She can't wait. They can't wait."