Tackle Herman Johnson (left) and guard Deuce Lutui are close to reaching their target weights.
FLAGSTAFF – Deuce Lutui and Herman Johnson were among the last players on the practice field Monday afternoon getting in a little extra conditioning, when Lutui backhanded Johnson in the chest WWE-style.
Johnson fell back a bit, feigning pain and yelling out, much to the delight of the fans still watching from the stands. Johnson, at 6-foot-7 and 365 pounds, and Lutui, 6-foot-4 and around 350 pounds, could definitely pass for wrestlers. But they are offensive linemen who share in another bond – they were the two guys on the roster who didn't hit their target weight when they came to training camp.
A little more than two weeks into camp, both are close to the weights set by the coaching staff. That's important, because Lutui has already shown he can be an important part of the Cards' current and future offensive line, and Johnson could be in the future.
Coach Ken Whisenhunt said Lutui, a long-time starter, has been performing well. Lutui said he was not surprised he has been effective, extra pounds or not. Had he not missed the offseason waiting to sign his contract tender, he'd likely be in the starting lineup at right guard.
"I have some starts under my belt and that second-guessing is out of here," Lutui said. "As far as the other stuff … I am out here proving it and that's the focus this year, getting better each day. To show this isn't the same old Deuce."
Whisenhunt said Lutui's weight is the only thing from keeping him from playing more, because the extra pounds prevents Lutui from moving well enough on certain plays.
"Our expectation for Deuce is a higher level, and I think he will attain that if he continues to drop his weight," Whisenhunt said.
Lutui said he is "around the corner" from reaching the weight coaches wanted, which is in the low 340s. Lutui was at 360 pounds when he arrived at camp.
Johnson needs to get to 360 pounds. But he was at 380 when camp started. Johnson, unlike Lutui (who was unsigned), was around for the entire offseason program. But then he went home to Louisiana and ate poorly by eating a lot of his mom's home cooking, he acknowledged.
"(Coaches) were pretty upset, but they have kind of backed off," Johnson said. "I just got to do what they want me to do, which is lose weight.
"When I first reported up here it was a huge pressure. Now it's not bothering me as much."
Whisenhunt said Johnson's weight issue "infuriates me" and it was easy to see it affecting Johnson's lateral movement. "If he gets to the weight he needs to be, he can be a pretty good player," Whisenhunt added.
There is no timetable for the return of wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, who is out with an MCL sprain in his right knee. Whisenhunt reiterated the Cards will be conservative with the injury, which could mean Fitzgerald missing the remainder of the preseason games. Whisenhunt said Fitzgerald is expected to return for the start of the regular season.
Fitzgerald said he just wants to return to practice, and missing it doesn't help the team.
"I'm playing a position that's predicated on timing," Fitzgerald said. "You know we have a new quarterback. I need to be out there with him every day, not just on Sunday. I need to be out there Monday through Saturday working with him every single day to build our continuity. So any time you miss as a receiver is not good."
Quarterback Matt Leinart admitted "there is nothing good that can happen with Larry being out."
But, Leinart added, "it does allow these younger kids to step up and get a chance which will be good to see."
PATIENCE WITH WASHINGTON
Rookie linebacker Daryl Washington had an eye-opening debut with 13 tackles, and Whisenhunt joked that the Cards will "probably have to put a chain around his ankle and lock him off to keep him off the field."
Realistically, though, Whisenhunt said, "he was in on a lot of plays and we will see if he can sustain that."
Whisenhunt said the Cardinals are running defenses in practice that are "a lot more complex" than what the Cards are running in games.
"Some of the adjustments and things he is seeing in practice, he isn't as proficient," Whisenhunt said. "That's what you expect out of a rookie. What I need to see out of Daryl, as we continue to expand what we are doing defensively, is that he continue the production."
PRACTICES IN THE ASU BUBBLE
Whisenhunt said the Cardinals are in the "final stages" of working out possible practices at Arizona State inside the university's air-conditioned practice bubble
Whisenhunt called it an "outstanding facility" and that it would be a "great help for the team" keeping them out of the heat of the early season. Whisenhunt said the plan is for the Cardinals to practice in the bubble in the last week of preseason, and if it worked out, "we will have a more structured schedule of what we will do."
If the Cards work out there for an extended period, Whisenhunt said it would be on Wednesdays and Thursdays – the heaviest practices of the week – with the team staying at the Tempe facility Fridays.
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