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Robert Nkemdiche Hopes Time Is Soon

Notes: Wetzel ready to step in at guard; Fells returns to practice


Cardinals defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche has been inactive since appearing in the season opener.

Robert Nkemdiche finished up a little extra work on the practice field Thursday with a couple of teammates and then walked off in a conversation with pass rush coach Tom Pratt.

The defensive tackle is doing what he can to get on the field. Monday night may just be that opportunity.

Coach Bruce Arians said Nkemdiche is in the middle of a good week of practice and could "see some time." Nkemdiche, meanwhile, was feeling the same kind of optimism after remaining inactive the past four games.

"I think I should be rolling this Monday," Nkemdiche said.

The team's No. 1 draft pick suffered a high-ankle sprain in the days before training camp and it left him sidelined for a chunk of prep time. "Mentally I tried to stay into it," Nkemdiche said, but he also clearly missed those physical reps.

He played 10 snaps in the opener against the Patriots still not fully healed. Arians said at the time Nkemdiche didn't play well, and he hasn't been active since.

"He's more than physically capable," Arians said. "It's a matter of knowing your assignments and staying onside."

Arians added that Nkemdiche's development is about where it would be expected after missing so much time, noting "had he had all of training camp, I'd be really disappointed." The depth in the defensive line room has not helped Nkemdiche's chances to play, and there have been games when the Cardinals only have active five of the nine defensive linemen on the roster. Nkemdiche said he continues to work on understanding formations and his comfort within the defense.

Even with his sideline time thus far, he does not seem to be trending the same as 2015's No. 1 pick, D.J. Humphries, who "redshirted" his entire rookie season, inactive for every game. Nkemdiche is expected to play at some point – and the game against the Jets may be the beginning.

"The mental mindset is outstanding," Nkemdiche said. "I'm positive."


Starting left guard Mike Iupati didn't practice because of his ankle sprain, although Arians said he was out of his walking boot and moving around decently. The coach wouldn't rule out Iupati making what would figure to be an unexpected start against the Jets.

If Iupati can't go, however, the role will fall to John Wetzel, the backup tackle who now finds himself on the interior for the time being. Arians said Wetzel was "doing as well as he can." Arians added that Wetzel is "more mature and more ready" than rookie Cole Toner.

Wetzel originally came into the league with the Raiders in 2013 and has spent time with the Cowboys and Colts. He practiced guard in preseason but barely had any snaps there since the regular season practices began before going into to play against the 49ers.

"There is less space inside," Wetzel said. "Inside you have to get your hands on people faster. It was good I worked it a little bit before.

"Once you go out there, you just have to get out and play."


Arians acknowledged Wednesday that the Cardinals' first practice since their game against the 49ers almost a week prior was "raggedy." Thursday, the Cardinals showed their coach much more.

"It was a damn good practice," Arians said. "Pleased with intensity and the work."

"When you put pads on it is a little easier to get the tempo up," Arians added.


Defensive tackle Ed Stinson joined Iupati as the only Cardinals to sit out practice. Tight end Darren Fells (shoulder) returned, joining cornerback Justin Bethel (foot) as limited. Everyone else for the Cards practiced fully, including quarterback Carson Palmer in his second workout since suffering a concussion.

The Jets have their own injury issues. Already without wide receiver Eric Decker (injured reserve), the Jets were had three key players sitting out Thursday: cornerback Darrelle Revis (hamstring), linebacker David Harris (hamstring) and center Nick Mangold (knee). Revis did run on the side and reported it went well. Tackle Braeden Bowman (knee), tackle Ryan Clady (shoulder), tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins (ankle), defensive lineman Muhammad Wilkerson (ankle) and guard Brian Winters (concussion) were all limited.

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