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Marlon Mack Gets Fresh Start In Cardinals' Backfield

Veteran running back fighting to find roster spot after signing

New Cardinals running back Marlon Mack breaks off a run during his first practice on Saturday.
New Cardinals running back Marlon Mack breaks off a run during his first practice on Saturday.

Marlon Mack burst through the line in one of his initial carries of 11-on-11 Saturday, his first practice with the Cardinals after the veteran running back signed a one-year contract the day before.

His new teammates had all been through 10 days of camp, and a heavy week. Mack looked like a guy who had yet to tax his body.

"I felt like a deer," Mack said with a smile. "New legs. Just trying to get used to the pads on me. I know these guys have been going at it."

While coach Jonathan Gannon insisted again Saturday no player has yet to earn a starting job, it would be a titanic upset not to see James Conner as the starting running back. Behind him, though, there is a battle, and depth in the running back room is an issue.

Corey Clement has been running second-string, but Keaontay Ingram has missed most of camp with an undisclosed injury, and Ty'Son Williams left for the locker room with an athletic trainer in the early stages of practice Saturday and did not return.

With the preseason opener Friday against the Broncos – for whom Mack played last season – the Cardinals need running backs.

Mack just wanted somewhere to play, even if he was unsure just a few days ago when – if – he would even get a call from a team.

"You have to have the mindset you can still play in this league," Mack said. "That confidence and that swagger that when I get that chance, I'm going to take full advantage of it."

Gannon and Mack know each other from when both were in Indianapolis. Mack said Gannon used to fire him up, challenging him at practice. Gannon called Mack a "phenomenal person, a phenomenal teammate."

"We'll find out," Gannon said. "He's been nicked like a lot of running backs have. But if you ask him, he's got a lot left in the tank."

Conner, who was in the same 2017 draft class as Mack, said he has been a longtime fan of his new teammate.

"We were actually talking about that on the field today, both of us have had some ups and downs (in our career)," Conner said. "We're going to push each other. This whole group will."

Mack isn't making predictions. He was a 1,000-yard rusher in 2019; in the three seasons since he has played in just 14 games with 48 total rushing attempts.

"I've just got to let it play out," Mack said. "Whenever they call on me, I'm just going to go out and do my best. The running back game (in the NFL) is very different right now. I just need to show what I can show and hopefully I can make the team."

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