Quarterbacks Ryan Lindley (14) and Logan Thomas are in a battle for the No. 3 quarterback role.
Ryan Lindley is not naïve.
As a rookie the quarterback played probably when he shouldn't have. Last year he wasn't sure he'd even make the team. Those are the things that have made him "pretty much numb to the business."
When the Cardinals drafted high-ceilinged project Logan Thomas in the fourth round this year, and when coach Bruce Arians stressed Drew Stanton was going to remain the No. 2 QB behind Carson Palmer, the math was anything but fuzzy.
Yet there Lindley is every day – even this week, when veterans could have dispersed for the summer – lifting weights, studying video and accepting reality regardless of how steep it makes the climb.
"It helps when Logan is such a good kid," Lindley said. "If he came in here and was cocky and was kind of a jerk … but
he's such a good guy, I just want to help where I can. I just have to put my best foot forward. Regardless, you put yourself on tape, whether it is practice or preseason, and if it is my time, it's my time.
"There is a time everyone gets tapped on the shoulder."
Arians insists nothing is set. He loves the way Lindley is resilient – "He can take ass chewings as well as anybody and bounce right back," Arians said – and stresses that training camp and the preseason will make his determination who to keep.
"I'm going to keep the best three. Or the best two," Arians said. "Neither one is guaranteed anything."
That's not new. Arians said in camp early last year he might only keep two quarterbacks, and Lindley went into the preseason finale at Denver knowing he was on the bubble. He played well and stuck around, even though that was the last time he saw the field.
Unlike his 2012 rookie year in which he was overmatched in six appearances (four starts, 171 passes, zero touchdowns and seven interceptions), Lindley just had to sit and watch in 2013.He was able to watch how Palmer worked and studied. He was able to see how Stanton prepped as a backup.
"To be honest, I didn't have a guy like that my rookie year who could show me how to spend that time in the film room, how to see different intricacies of what defenses do," Lindley said.
The question is whether Lindley will ever be able to put it into practice with the Cardinals.
"As a Number three especially you better show a bright future," Arians said. "You have to flash enough to have someone say, 'This guy could be something in a few years.'
"The battle for No. 3 is always, 'Is he smart enough to play the game, can he process, if he is throwing interceptions, why? If he's not accurate, why? Can you fix it?' If not, why keep him?"
Many think Thomas can be "something" somewhere down the road. He is the one with accuracy issues (although Lindley completed just 52 percent of his passes as a rookie). But he is the one with the major potential, in frame a Cam Newton clone with a rocket of a right arm.
What he could be makes it hard to see Lindley coming out ahead in this race.
In the meantime, Lindley helps Thomas. Thomas said the two have a good relationship. "We have built a nice rapport," Thomas said, and added it is easy to ask Lindley questions.
"Ryan couldn't handle the situation any better," Palmer said. "He's good with Logan, where he could just go into a shell and say, 'I'm not going to talk to anybody.' He's just in a tough spot, but he's a fighter. He's going to prepare and he's going to make the decision as hard as he can. I hate to see a guy in that spot but I love to see a guy in that spot handling it as well as he handles it."
Lindley can only smile. The subject isn't hard to discuss. It's too obvious. Besides, he has his wife at home for support, and his faith. He also has a pragmatic view of where he has been, and where he is going.
"It's weird saying this because I love the game and love competing and I'm a football player, but it's what I do, it's not who I am," Lindley said. "I want to give my best effort, make sure I am a good teammate and a good player for the coaches and things will work out the way they will.
"If the training I get here gets me ready for a job in the real world, so be it. It's bigger than how I react on the field. It's how I react to the people around me."