Rookie tackle Bobby Massie locks up a defender during a minicamp practice.
He stands 6-foot-6, and Bobby Massie would seem to fit well into what is perceived to be a gaping hole at right tackle for the Arizona Cardinals.
It isn't that simple.
Rarely are positions as wide open in an offseason like it is at right tackle for the Cards. Starter Brandon Keith, plagued by injuries, is a free agent yet to return and is unlikely to do so. Veteran Jeremy Bridges, who started in place of Keith, is tops on the depth chart as of now and clearly would like a chance to stay there. Massie was taken in the fourth round of the draft to start – the question is how soon.
"I am coming in humble," Massie said. "There are a lot of things I have to learn. I'm not going to come in Day One as a starting tackle. I just want to learn from the guys and compete every day in practice. If I get the spot, I get the spot."
With the Cards in the middle of rookie minicamp, Massie is just now learning the basics. Once the veterans get on-field work with their new teammates, the learning curve will get steeper.
Coach Ken Whisenhunt, never one to rush a rookie into the lineup nor talk one up before his time, isn't changing his approach when it comes to Massie.
"At this point we have a lot of guys who haven't played snap for us," Whisenhunt said. "We have to get them ready to compete. That's the biggest thing."
Bridges has been a full-time starter a couple a years in his career, back in 2006 and 2007 with the Panthers, and took over for Mike Gandy down the stretch in 2009 at left tackle. Heading into his 10th year, the good-natured Bridges believes his experience means something in the current equation.
"That means I know how to whoop a man eight different ways compared to the one way you know when you are a rookie," Bridges said, laughing.
Bridges, however, is confident in what he can be.
"I just roll with the punches. That's what I do," Bridges said. "That's what being an athlete is all about. They draft a kid to look to the future – obviously – but what about the present? We have games to win, we are trying to win a championship. Upstairs they make their decisions and it is what it is, but 10 years later, I am proven, that's all."
Whisenhunt and offensive line coach Russ Grimm already said during the draft they expect Massie to be in the mix to start. The Cardinals haven't started a rookie on the offensive line that wasn't an injury replacement since Levi Brown was drafted in 2007, although there were only three offensive linemen drafted between Brown and Massie this year -- Keith in 2008, and guards Trevor Canfield and Herman Johnson in 2009.
Massie's athletic build plays into his strength as a pass protector first. He wasn't thrilled when he was taken in the fourth round after speculation had him going in the second -- "I have a chip on my shoulder," Massie said. "When it is time to hit, you'll notice" – but that doesn't change his thought process on getting into the lineup or making any bold pronouncements.
"I just want to be a part of team," Massie said. "You want your teammates to like you. I like to joke around, have fun. But when it is time to put on the helmet and hit somebody, that's what I will do."
Massie understands he has to learn. Bridges remembers those days.
"I don't exert nearly as much energy as I did when I was a rookie lineman," Bridges said. "You know which way a guy is going to try and go by you because of how his stance is, you watch film, you know what will happen before it happens. The game is just a whole lot easier. That's what they mean when they say, 'The game coming to you." The game came to me about six years ago.
"Just like any other year, wherever they want to use me, however they want to use me, I am here."
Certainly, there could be a scenario where Bridges gets the nod early and Massie comes in as the season goes along. It will depend on Massie's progress, which Whisenhunt will be sure to remind everyone as the situation moves along.
Massie isn't making predictions. But he's ready to get started.
"I'm not nervous," Massie said. "Football, I've been playing it my whole life. This is just a new stage."