Michael Crabtree will make his Cardinals debut Sunday in Baltimore.
That the wide receiver played last season with the Ravens – totaling 54 catches for 607 yards and three touchdowns – before joining the Cards as a free agent in late August is notable. But it is secondary to him returning to the field, period.
“I haven’t been playing, I haven’t been here,” Crabtree said Wednesday. “Now I’m here, now it’s time to go.”
Coach Kliff Kingsbury said he doesn’t know yet what role Crabtree will play, only that he will play.
“He brings a lot of experience, a lot of savvy, a lot catches, a lot of physicality and I know he’ll be excited for this one,” Kingsbury said. “I’m excited to watch him work this week and see where he’s at.”
The Cardinals used primarily Larry Fitzgerald, Christian Kirk, Damiere Byrd and KeeSean Johnson at receiver against the Lions. Johnson would seem the most likely to see snaps reduced with Crabtree’s inclusion.
Crabtree’s single season in Baltimore started strong – he had 41 receptions in his first nine games with Joe Flacco as starting quarterback. When Lamar Jackson, then a rookie, took over, the Ravens’ passing game wasn’t used nearly as much, and Crabtree had just 13 catches over the final seven games.
This offseason, the Ravens looked to get younger at wide receiver – their first-round pick was Kyler Murray’s college teammate, Marquise Brown – and cut Crabtree a season into what had been a three-year contract.
“I’m a big Michael Crabtree guy,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said, noting how close Crabtree had gotten with the Harbaugh family during Crabtree’s tenure with he 49ers when brother Jim Harbaugh was coach. “I really enjoyed having him here. I really like him as a person and a player. I think he’s got a lot left. I thought it was really smart of Arizona (to sign him). He’s definitely on our radar defensively.”
Going into this weekend, Crabtree isn’t thinking about family or former teams.
“We’re going there to win the game,” Crabtree said. “See what I’m saying?”
WITH GILBERT OUT, CARDINALS TURN TO MURRAY, AND MAYBE MILLS
Kingsbury confirmed the season-ending right ACL tear of tackle Marcus Gilbert, saying it was a non-contact injury, and said Gilbert had gone through a great camp. Signing veteran Jordan Mills provides more depth, Kingsbury added, but Justin Murray will remain the starter at right tackle this week.
“We didn’t know the whole time until after the game that that was (Murray’s) first (NFL) start,” left tackle D.J. Humphries said. “We were like, ‘What? You never started, bro?’ You think you know a guy. That’s what happens when a new guy you don’t know gets thrown in there in the beginning of the week. I told him, ‘You seem like a cool dude, but I just don’t know you yet.’ But he’s been adjusting well and he’s taking all the coaching. He’s learning fast.”
Kingsbury said the Cardinals want to see where Mills – who has started 82 NFL games – is at physically and mentally before making any long-term decisions on the right tackle starter.
“The last two days I’ve been in my hotel room, my eyes buried in the iPad learning the offense,” Mills said, adding that he does think his experience will help. “You’ve basically seen everything. People say it’s a new offense, but it’s the same thing, just different terminology.”
BULLARD SITS OUT BUT CARDINALS PRETTY HEALTHY
Kingsbury said the Cardinals came out of Sunday’s game basically unscathed and Wednesday’s injury report backed that up. Only one new name sat out practice with an injury: Defensive lineman Jonathan Bullard (hamstring). Offensive lineman Lamont Gaillard (knee) remained sidelined, while tight end Charles Clay and wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald had a vets day off.
For the Ravens, cornerbacks Jimmy Smith (knee), Marlon Humphrey (back) and Brandon Carr (not injury related) sat out. Wide receiver Marquise Brown (hip), running back Mark Ingram (shoulder) and wide receiver Chris Moore (illness) were all limited.
Images of the Cardinals cheerleaders during the regular season opener on Sunday