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Practice Makes Perfect For Michael Floyd

Wide receiver's biggest NFL game comes as he battles through shoulder injury


Wide receiver Michael Floyd sprints away from Jacksonville defenders en route to his 91-yard touchdown Sunday.

It was not a threat or an expression of displeasure. In the black-and-white world of coach Bruce Arians, it was simply the truth.

Michael Floyd was unsure if he could practice last Thursday, as he was still healing from the sprained shoulder that knocked him from the Nov. 10 game against the Texans. Arians knew his second-year receiver was still hurt, but he also knew it was the pivotal day if Floyd wanted to play that Sunday against the Jaguars.

"It was just a matter of fact," Arians said. "If you don't practice, you're not playing… If you're not out there Wednesday and

Thursday as a young player, it's hard for me to put you in front of the quarterback after he's practiced with somebody else, because everybody's a little different. Their gait isn't the same. They don't run their routes the same. (Quarterback Carson Palmer) has to see the guys on Wednesday and Thursday -- at this stage in our career on offense -- that he's going to see on Sunday."

Floyd could have hesitated. The shoulder was sore, and the opponent was lowly Jacksonville. With or without him, the Cardinals were going to be favored to win.

Instead, after a conversation with Arians following the team's walkthrough, he suited up and joined his teammates.

"No-brainer," Floyd said. "Coach had to see me on the field and where I was going to be (physically) on Thursday. I practiced and it worked out well."

Over the next two days, Arians watched as an unmistakable chemistry developed between Floyd and Palmer, and he could sense a big game brewing. The coach had already lamented Floyd's injury costing him a big performance against the Texans the previous week.

On Sunday it came to fruition, as Floyd torched the Jaguars for six catches, 193 yards and a score. His 91-yard touchdown is the longest reception in the NFL this season.

"When you see it unfold on the practice field, it doesn't surprise you when it happens in a game," Arians said. "When balls are bouncing all over the place and guys are looking at each other sideways, you know they don't have it. Last week, for the first time on the practice field in all three practices, I saw confidence."

The Cardinals have looked for a complementary wide receiver to Larry Fitzgerald since Anquan Boldin was traded to the Ravens in 2010. They drafted Floyd with the No. 13 overall pick in the 2012 draft after he set five school records at Notre Dame, but his rookie season was pedestrian (45 catches, 562 yards, two touchdowns).

Those numbers were torpedoed in part by the Cardinals' quarterback shuffle in which Floyd caught passes from four different

signal-callers. But after an offseason of growth, Floyd is showing signs of being a go-to guy. After Sunday's mammoth performance, Floyd leads the team in receiving yards with 657 and is second behind Fitzgerald in receptions with 42.

Floyd is six years younger than Fitzgerald, but they've been friends for more than a half-decade, both growing up in the Twin Cities of St. Paul and Minneapolis, Minn. Fitzgerald said it was special to see Floyd overcome the pain last week.

"He very easily could have sat out Thursday and Friday but chose to be out there with a bad shoulder," Fitzgerald said. "Didn't make excuses, didn't complain about it, he just prepared and practiced and it paid off."

The Cardinals face the Colts this week, and Chuck Pagano can be counted among those impressed with Floyd's emergence. The Indianapolis coach watched tape of Floyd's brilliant game against Jacksonville and said he's lost sleep thinking of ways to slow him down on Sunday.

"Big, athletic, talented guy," Pagano said. "The guy's got game-wrecker ability."

The shoulder sprain is still a nuisance, as Floyd has seen limited repetitions in practice the past two days. It's an injury which is hard to treat.

"It doesn't get loosened up," Floyd said. "It stays sore until Sundays."

Floyd, though, continues to practice through it. He said it's important to strengthen his connection with Palmer and prepare for critical situations like third downs and red zone opportunities.

That must be music to Arians' ears.

"I just watch him grow every day," Arians said. "He has great fortitude to want to be good. It's just showing him the way. He has everything it takes to be really good."

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