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Rookies Ready For Monday Night Spotlight

Notebook: Ellington limited at practice and a game-day decision; Zastudil ailing

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Rookie tight end Troy Niklas runs after a catch in the preseason finale.


It's an anxious time for any NFL rookie right now as the regular season draws near. Almost all of them will get their feet wet on Sunday, when the majority of the weekly slate takes place.

The Cardinals' first-year players will have to wait an extra day before making their debut, and it will come in a front of a nationally

televised audience on Monday Night Football.

"I think I'll be more amped up knowing everyone in the country will be watching," defensive end Kareem Martin said. "Knowing all those eyes are on you, how can you not be excited for it?"

The amount of past exposure varied wildly for the rookies. Wide receiver John Brown had virtually none at Division II Pittsburg State last year, and safety Deone Bucannon did not see much limelight at Washington State. On the other end of the spectrum, tight end Troy Niklas was regularly on NBC while playing for Notre Dame.

"Personally, I think it helps," Niklas said. "You are already kind of used to having all that attention and pressure."

Bucannon said things will calm down after the first hit, but until then, it's only natural to be nervous.

"It's going to be butterflies regardless," he said. "It's your first regular season game and for any rookie -- it's Monday Night Football, yeah -- but your first football game in the NFL, it's a dream come true."

Martin played in a power conference at North Carolina, but said the amount of attention on this game trumps anything during his college experience.

"I've played on the big stage, the 'Chick-Fil-A Kickoff' my freshman year," Martin said. "But this stage is a lot different. Only game on and everyone will be tuned in. The magnitude – it's bigger than anything I've been a part of."

ELLINGTON A GAME-TIME DECISION

Running back Andre Ellington (foot) practiced in a limited capacity Saturday and is listed as questionable for Monday's game. Coach

Bruce Arians said "there's no doubt" the possibility remains for Ellington to suit up against the Chargers.

"He didn't practice a full practice, (but) he practiced enough to let me see what I needed to see," Arians said.

Jonathan Dwyer, Stepfan Taylor and Robert Hughes are the backups, but Arians said their duties won't change regardless of whether Ellington plays or not. Arians said the main thing is for the reserves to be ready to step in.

 "There's going to be a bunch more bumps in the road down this stretch of games, and we can't worry about injuries," Arians said. "Nobody cares, except us. Everybody else is happy about them. You just keep on rolling."

ZASTUDIL QUESTIONABLE WITH GROIN INJURY

Punter Dave Zastudil was added to the injury report on Saturday with a left groin injury and is listed as questionable for Monday. The Cardinals have an open roster spot after releasing linebacker Desmond Bishop, and could fill it with a punter if Zastudil is unable to play. Kicker Chandler Catanzaro had one punt for 38 yards last season at Clemson, the only punt of his four-year college career.

Linebacker Alex Okafor (thigh) did not practice for the third straight day and is out. Safety Tyrann Mathieu (knee) is questionable. Wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald (knee), guard Jonathan Cooper (toe), linebacker Kevin Minter (back) and defensive end Frostee Rucker (back) are probable.

Chargers tight end Antonio Gates (hamstring) is listed as questionable. He was limited in practice Saturday after not appearing on the injury report the previous two days.

Cornerback Chris Davis (ankle) is out, while safety Jahleel Addae (hamsting), defensive end Lawrence Guy (shoulder), defensive tackle Sean Lissemore (ankle) and linebacker Manti T'eo (foot) are also questionable. Wide receiver Keenan Allen (ribs) and cornerback Jason Verrett (shoulder) are listed as probable.

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