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Kenyan Drake Healthy, Set To Carry The Load Against 49ers

Notes: Roster cuts stressed out Benjamin; Kingsbury talks Butler release

Arizona Cardinals running back Kenyan Drake during training camp in 2020.
Running back Kenyan Drake said he was only in a walking boot for two days and will be ready to go against San Francisco.

The sight of Kenyan Drake in a walking boot on Aug. 24 led to plenty of outside worry and speculation, but the Cardinals running back never shared those concerns.

While Drake missed more than a week of practice, he returned last Thursday and will be ready to go in the season opener on Sunday against the 49ers.

"To be honest, I was out the boot in like two days," Drake said. "The boot wasn't much of a concern. I guess it was something that wasn't really public, so people didn't know if I had it on or not."

Drake said he would have been back at practice sooner if an illness didn't keep him sidelined.

"I was supposed to practice like Tuesday, Wednesday, but I didn't get to make my grand debut until (Thursday)," Drake said. "That was a little delayed, but other than that, everything else was fine."

For the first time in his NFL career, Drake is poised to enter the season as a clear-cut featured back. He earned it after a scintillating eight-game debut with the Cardinals to end 2019, and this is an important year for him individually as he plays the season on the transition tag.

"When he got here last year, I think he knew this was kind of his chance," coach Kliff Kingsbury said. "Either he was going to play at a high level or not have a ton more opportunities. He took it and ran with it. I'm excited to see what he can do. He has the mindset of one of the top guys (at his position). He thinks he can be that and we're very high on what he can do in this system."

When asked about his long-awaited bellcow role, Drake turned the attention to the Cardinals' 2-11-1 record in September the past four seasons and his desire to help change those early-season fortunes.

"I want to be a part of this turnaround, to help this team continue to reach the goals that they want to reach," Drake said. "It starts with this Sunday against the 49ers. I want to go out there, play up to my ability, help the people around me, handle my 1/11th, obviously, and just continue to play to the standard that I hold myself to."

BENJAMIN SWEATS OUT ROSTER CUTS; 'FRESH START' FOR BUTLER

The Cardinals released sixth-round draft pick Evan Weaver on Saturday, but seventh-rounder Eno Benjamin made the team.

The Arizona State product said it was a stressful afternoon because everything was radio silent -- until he realized that was a good thing.

"At first there was initial worries," said Benjamin, who will slot in as the third-team running back. "I was getting no news. So I guess at the end of the day, when you consider everything, no news is good news. That's kind of the way I found out. After that 1 p.m. cutoff line hit is when I was relieved of some stress."

Wide receiver Hakeem Butler was one of the most notable cuts. The former fourth-round pick missed his rookie season with a finger injury and didn't make enough headway in camp to secure a spot on the roster or the practice squad.

"He's a talented young man," Kingsbury said. "We really like Hakeem. It was just one of those deals where sometimes it's better for both sides to have a fresh start. We felt like that was one of those instances. He still has a tremendous upside and we still feel like he can be a good player. It just wasn't working here."

HOPKINS, FITZGERALD PRACTICE

Drake's health isn't an issue, and wide receivers DeAndre Hopkins and Larry Fitzgerald were also present during the open portion of practice on Monday and should be good to go for the opener.

While several skill players dealt with injuries during camp, they are all back on the field now, as cornerback Robert Alford's season-ending pectoral injury was the only major blow in the run-up to the season.

"We feel fairly healthy for coming out of camp and getting into Week 1," Kingsbury said. "(Tuesday) will be a light day and then we'll get it rolling on Wednesday. We definitely feel blessed to be heading into Week 1 as healthy as we are, and hopefully that continues."

Rookie offensive tackle Josh Jones was the only player not present during practice. The first official injury report will be released on Wednesday.

Images from Monday's practice at the Dignity Healthy Training Center in the lead-up to Sunday's opener, presented by Hyundai.

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