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No Preseason Game Reps Part Of Plan For Cardinals

Kingsbury confident his starters will be prepared when season starts

Veterans (from left) A.J. Green, Hollywood Brown, Antoine Wesley, Kyler Murray, and DeAndre Hopkins stand not dressed in the team's home preseason game against the Ravens. None played a snap in the preseason.
Veterans (from left) A.J. Green, Hollywood Brown, Antoine Wesley, Kyler Murray, and DeAndre Hopkins stand not dressed in the team's home preseason game against the Ravens. None played a snap in the preseason.

For Isaiah Simmons, this preseason was similar to his rookie experience in 2020: No on-field game action.

The "starbacker" entered the league during the height of Covid, when the NFL canceled the preseason. Two years later, the practice games have returned, but Simmons again did not play in a preseason game after playing a little last year.

"It's a little strange," Simmons said. "I would say up to this year; it's my first time not playing intentionally. It's different. Sometimes I wanted to be out there because they looked like they had too much fun without me."

Simmons never shared the feeling with coach Kliff Kingsbury, but it likely wouldn't have made a difference. It's not as if the Cardinals veterans played a ton last preseason -- quarterback Kyler Murray was famously 1-for-4 passing for two yards in one preseason appearance -- but there was heavy emphasis on starters sitting this year.

Right guard Will Hernandez played a half of one game. Linebacker Zaven Collins played a couple series in each game. Cornerback Marco Wilson -- who looks like he will start with the Antonio Hamilton injury -- played in each game, briefly, as well.

Otherwise? No one played. Murray. DeAndre Hopkins. A.J. Green. Marquise Brown. Rondale Moore. Zach Ertz. D.J. Humphries. Justin Pugh. Kelvin Beachum. J.J. Watt. Zach Allen. Budda Baker. Jalen Thompson. Rodney Hudson. James Conner. Some were nursing injuries, but they likely wouldn't have played otherwise.

"I think it's Year 4 of the same system around the same nucleus of the same guys," Kingsbury said. "We got great work in practice and came out playing really well. You look at the top teams, and that's been their philosophy in this league, and it's paid off for them."

Kingsbury quipped that he blames Rams coach Sean McVay, who hasn't played starters at all in preseason, for the way such things have trended in the NFL.

"It's hard when you look at the success the Rams have had in your division and you ask your guys to go play a bunch of snaps in preseason and they're pointing to (the Rams) and saying, 'They are the Super Bowl champions, it worked out for them,' " Kingsbury said.

Kingsbury has trust in his players to prepare. He points to last year, when there was little preseason work and the Cardinals came out in Week 1 and dominated both sides of the ball at Tennessee.

It's understandable why Kingsbury wants to be cautious with starters like Simmons. Every head coach fears a potential injury during the preseason when bubble players fight to secure roster spots and their NFL futures.

But the lack of field time hasn't stepped Simmons from treating practices as his preseason exhibition. It's about staying ready for when the games matter most. Simmons is not the only expected starter with his mindset, either.

"I know it is for the secondary," Simmons said. "We emphasize, let's make this our game because we don't have a preseason. In Tennessee, we wanted to make that (joint practice) feel as close to it as possible. Just having a whole understanding before we come to Week 1 against the Chiefs."

EXTRA POINTS: Kingsbury said he was hoping that wide receiver Rondale Moore, who has an undisclosed injury, along with linebacker Markus Golden (toe), tight end Zach Ertz (calf) and guard Justin Pugh (stinger) all could ramp up to practice early next week but in terms of their status for the Chiefs in Week 1, "it'll be close."

If Pugh can't go, newcomer Cody Ford will start in his place at left guard. Moore got hurt right before the Ravens preseason game. Ertz and Golden haven't practiced since early in camp; Golden hasn't practiced since Aug. 1.