Quarterbacks John Skelton (19) and Richard Bartel (2) get some work in during Wednesday's practice.
John Skelton and Richard Bartel split the quarterback practice repetitions Wednesday for the Cardinals because, well, there was no one else.
Veteran Derek Anderson remains sidelined with a concussion, having not yet been cleared to practice. Coach Ken Whisenhunt is left with a rookie fifth-round pick whom he has repeatedly said isn't ready and a newly signed backup UFL signal-caller who just signed this week as his QB choices.
It's a big reason why Whisenhunt isn't making a choice yet.
Whisenhunt said he wasn't yet naming a starter for Sunday's game against the Broncos. He wants to see how Skelton and Bartel do in practice all week, and he wants to see where Anderson is physically over the next day or two.
With Anderson ailing and Bartel just showing up, Skelton seems like the obvious decision. He may yet still be too, but it's not necessarily that simple to Whisenhunt.
"There are a lot of guys on this team that are hurting because we haven't won a game," Whisenhunt said. "Our expectations were not anything like what this season was going to be and we want to rectify that as best we can.
"We we talk about (quarterback) for right now, it's not about evaluating or putting guys in there to see things. We're trying to win games."
Both Skelton and Bartel need work, Whisenhunt said, because even if Skelton starts – and Anderson possibly unavailable – Bartel is an injury away from going in.
"I think everybody has to prepare with the idea they could play," Whisenhunt said.
Having a player come in cold to start isn't unheard of, and not even this season. The Carolina Panthers used former Cardinal Brian St. Pierre for a start with one week's practice after signing the previous week to the Carolina practice squad.
Still, most signs point to Skelton getting the nod.
"This is what I've been doing for 13 weeks now," Skelton said. "I guess it'd be nice to be told (I am starting), but at the same time I am going to work whether I am starting or not.
"Who knows if DA's going to practice? (Richard) is fresh from the UFL and he needs to learn this offense as much as I do."
Bartel was hog-hunting in his home of Gonzales, Texas impatiently waiting for a phone call from some NFL team when the Cards finally did. He has ties to quarterbacks coach Chris Miller (they work off-season youth camps together), played with Anderson in Cleveland and caught the eye of the Cards in the preseason finale when he started against Arizona for the Redskins (and completed 10-of-12 passes).
He wore a wristband in practice with the plays as he tried to get up to speed in case he does have to play – "Nobody's waiting on me," he said – but said there is no nervousness even if he does get in a game.
"The fact there are no expectations and you're not expected to do hardly anything, I think everything is kind of cherry on top at this point," Bartel said.
Assuming Anderson doesn't start, the Cardinals will use a third starting quarterback in a season for the sixth time since the franchise moved to Arizona in 1988, although it has only happened once since the Cards' playoff year of 1998. That's when Denny Green, in his first season of 2004, briefly derailed the Josh McCown experiment with two starts for Shaun King and then one for rookie John Navarre before going back to McCown.
The other four times were 1989 (Gary Hogeboom 13 starts, Tom Tupa 2; Timm Rosenbach 1), 1991 (Tupa 11, Stan Gelbaugh 3, Chris Chandler 2), 1994 (Steve Beuerlein 7, Jim McMahon 1, Jay Schroeder 8) and 1997 (Kent Graham 6, Stoney Case 1, Jake Plummer 9).
It makes it a little harder for the opposition to prepare, although the Broncos are dealing with a coaching change themselves to be too worried about seeing someone like Skelton, for instance, have his starting debut.
"The one thing I know is that he is an NFL quarterback," Broncos interim coach Eric Studesville said. "He obviously has the ability to play quarterback in the NFL, the highest level of football, so we're going to afford him the respect he's due."
Skelton called the week "business as usual." Probably not the usual business the Cardinals were hoping for, but certainly the business they've been forced to take on.
"You have to understand that if you put all your eggs in one basket," Whisenhunt said, "it could be one play and you are playing the other guy."
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