Rookie Ryan Lindley (14) will lead the Cardinals as starting quarterback Sunday against the Rams.
If Ryan Lindley believed at some point he was going to be the starting quarterback for the Cardinals during his rookie season, he wasn't giving that away Wednesday.
He stood under the "interview tree" for the first time, coming after coach Ken Whisenhunt against normal protocol so that Whisenhunt had been able to announce Lindley's status just a couple minutes before.
The idea he'd start was almost moot to him – "I don't think anybody can ever predict the future, so I didn't spend too much time doing that," Lindley said – but here he was, discussing how he would take snaps against the Rams Sunday at University of Phoenix Stadium.
"I'm ready to go," Lindley said. "Come Sunday it's just about getting it done."
That's been the hard part for Cardinals quarterbacks this season, one of the reasons Lindley is going to get a chance so early in his career. The season's original starter John Skelton, who had lost his spot to Kevin Kolb after getting hurt before regaining it with Kolb's injury woes, goes back to the bench. Kolb, recovering from a rib injury, was actually able to practice for the first time Wednesday on a limited basis but said "I'm not going to set a time or date" for a return.
Whisenhunt, meanwhile, will entrust a start to a third rookie quarterback in the past three seasons, after Skelton and Max Hall got chances in 2010.
"Hopefully he will give us a spark," Whisenhunt said.
Lindley played the majority of the Cards' loss in Atlanta, after Whisenhunt put him in and took out Skelton. Lindley completed only 9-of-20 passes for 64 yards as the Cards' passing offense struggled to generate only 41 net yards, its second lowest total in franchise history.
A week of practice as the starter should help Lindley, Whisenhunt said, as well as a chance to play at home. Lindley's ability to take charge of the offense and handling calling plays in the huddle, given the road circumstances, impressed Whisenhunt last week.
"There didn't seem to be any struggles on his part," Whisenhunt said.
Lindley's confidence is obvious. A four-year starter in college, his concerns for his first start revolve around football details – leading a receiver so a pass catcher can make yards after the catch, or more accurate throws in general – that he saw on video in the Atlanta game more than nerves.
"I'm probably going to have to take a deep breath and make sure I'm cool, calm and composed," Lindley said, "but that's going to more excitement, not nervousness."
Lindley's ascension must have a corollary, however, and that was Skelton's demotion. Just last week he was acknowledging the limited opportunities a quarterback will get to hold on to a starting role, and it's fair to wonder if Skelton will get another in Arizona.
"It's frustrating," Skelton said. "Right now, it's just the whole situation. Obviously losing six in a row in frustrating, and then what transpired on Sunday, and now the benching. It's just frustrating."
The next variable will be Kolb, whose return to practice didn't necessary signal that his ability to play was right around the corner. Kolb said one of his issues now is the ability to turn quickly and make a "reactionary" type throw with accuracy without too much discomfort. That has been better, Kolb said, but he's not there yet.
"I felt pretty good," Kolb said. "I checked out good after. We'll see how it feels tomorrow.
"After being out there all day, it's the wear and tear of throwing that many balls. Once I get used to that and the soreness comes out, that'll help."
If and until Kolb can return, Lindley should be the guy under center, although Whisenhunt wasn't declaring Lindley a starter for anything beyond Sunday. His offensive teammates, not surprisingly, were supporting Lindley Wednesday.
"He's got a great presence in the pocket and he commands the huddle well," guard Daryn Colledge said. "All the guys in this room respect Ryan. We expect steady improvement out of the guy."
The offensive players are also expecting more production on offense, regardless of who plays quarterback.
"At this point, we're just trying to score points," center Lyle Sendlein said. "Whoever has to play, wherever he has to play, that's what we need to do."