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Preparing For 13 Straight

If Cards can get rolling, early bye may prove perfect


The Cardinals run sprints at the beginning of Monday's practice.
Ken Whisenhunt?s NFL playing career was split in half.

In the latter part of his time as a tight end, the NFL introduced the bye week to team schedules, time off to recharge and heal up. When Whisenhunt first came into the league in 1985, there was no such thing and football was about grinding out the entire schedule.

Whisenhunt?s Cardinals may have had an early bye this year and will play 13 weeks in a row, but the actual impact may not be a big deal.

?You know you have 13 straight you have to go,? Whisenhunt said Monday, as his team returned to the practice field after the bye weekend. ?But there were many years in this league that it was 16 straight without a break. I think we just have to focus taking them one at a time and worrying about that.?

The bye was introduced to the NFL in 1990. Only one of the players on the current Cardinals can remember life without a break, and that?s only because safety Adrian Wilson was a rookie on the 2001 club that was given the dreaded Week One bye (and then sat a second week because of the 9/11 tragedies, before playing 16 straight games).

The bye has become the norm in the NFL, even if it can be overstated.

?I know guys think when they see the bye early they wish they didn?t,? fullback Dan Kreider said. ?But at that point, you do get to catch your breath and evaluate things before we string a couple losses together. We all could decide, ?Hey, how do we want this season to go??

?You?ve got 13 games straight, but you think, ?We need to get on a roll.? Everybody says that, says they need to take one game at a time. But if we get on a run, you don?t really want to stop.?

Kreider likened the situation to teams sitting back with a playoff bye. In theory, a bye sounds good, but if a team is playing well, a break can be a pitfall. Ask last year?s Titans. Or Giants.

?I?ve been more successful without (the bye),? said Kreider, who played on the 2005 Steelers? Super Bowl winner that, as a Wild Card, won the title playing 16 straight weeks (including playoffs) before the pre-Super Bowl bye.

Assessing the bye can only work in hindsight. Linebacker Karlos Dansby said the Cardinals will have to look at the season differently with 13 straight games but the judgment will come has the bodies get beaten up.

?Being healthy down the stretch will be the key,? Dansby said.

Veteran receiver Sean Morey admitted he thinks the Cardinals needed the bye given their circumstances. But he sees the same upside of 13 straight weeks of football as Kreider, especially if the Cardinals can find that long-missing rhythm.

?I think players thrive on routine,? Morey said. ?You don?t want to disrupt that flow.?


Whisenhunt said he went to a local sports bar on his Sunday off to watch some NFL action and was encouraged by the ?supportive? fans.
?That makes you feel good. You worry about that because you feel you have let our fans down because of losing two at home and playing the way we did, especially the last game,? Whisenhunt said. ?I think we have a lot of games in front of us. If we can come out and play well this week we can go a long way toward helping erase that.? ?

There are still tickets available for Sunday?s game against the Texans. The team has until 1:15 p.m. Thursday to sell out and avoid a local TV blackout for the first time since University of Phoenix Stadium opened in 2006. For tickets, call (800) 745-3000.

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