Cardinals defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche (left) practiced at training camp for the first time on Monday.
The idea of a 6-foot-4, 295-pound defensive tackle taking a baby step doesn't sound all that exciting, but it left a smile on Robert Nkemdiche's face Monday afternoon.
The Cardinals' first-round pick made his long-awaited training camp debut, returning to the field for the first time since a high ankle sprain sidelined him at QB School in late July. Nkemdiche only practiced for an hour and didn't do any work during team periods, but was finally back in his element.
"It sucks being out and watching your teammates grind through training camp," Nkemidiche said. "You want to be
out there helping them."
Nkemdiche is expected to ramp up his activity in the coming days, and he could play on Sunday against the Texans. The Cardinals have a deep reservoir of talent at defensive line, but Nkemdiche can be special as an interior pass-rusher.
After weeks on the sideline, he hopes to finally show his production can match the hype.
"I've been itching for a couple weeks now and they've been telling me to chill," Nkemdiche said. "These injuries are no joke, so really be patient with it and the right time will come. I can't wait."
Nkemdiche said Monday's work was about testing the ankle to make sure it responded well to sharp, explosive movements, and it went as planned.
Coach Bruce Arians said defensive tackle isn't a position that takes a lot of time to learn, and he believes Nkemdiche can get into the flow quickly.
"He's been in all the meetings," Arians said. "He should know what gap to get in."
BUCANNON'S PERFECT HIT
Money linebacker Deone Bucannon had the hit of the night in Friday's preseason game, rocketing the helmet off Chargers wide receiver Dontrelle Inman to force an incompletion.
The NFL has made player safety a top priority in recent years and has cracked down on illegal hits by penalizing and
fining offenders. Bucannon's monster play was impressive because it was a textbook tackle into Inman's chest which didn't result in a penalty.
Bucannon works hard in practice to perfect his technique, but said there's an element of luck involved in fast-paced collisions like that one.
"If you're over there tip-toeing and trying to do everything perfect, that's going to make you a worse player," said Bucannon, who has been fined for a horse-collar on LeSean McCoy and a helmet-to-helmet hit on A.J. Green during his career. "I'm not thinking about, oh, man, what the consequences are. I've got so many things I need to think about. I need to think about what I'm doing within the defense to help my team win the game. And then on top of that, you expect me in point-one second to (decide where to deliver a hit)? I can't think about all that at the same time, but I'm going to train my body through practice so I can understand."
FITZGERALD RESTS KNEE
Wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald (knee) missed Friday's game against the Chargers but returned for practice on Sunday. However, he stopped participating midway through and then sat out on Monday.
"He overdid it (Sunday) and got it sore again," Arians said. "It'll just take some time."
Wide receiver John Brown wore a yellow non-contact jersey while participating in individual drills and a handful of 11-on-11 snaps.
Players who missed Monday's practice but expected back Wednesday were guard Mike Iupati, linebacker Shaq Riddick, guard Earl Watford, guard Antoine McClain and defensive tackle Ed Stinson.
Players who could miss more time this week include Fitzgerald, cornerback Alan Ball, cornerback Elie Bouka and linebacker Gabe Martin.
Pictures from the 16th practice at training camp