Just a few years into his young NFL career, Sean Harlow thought about hanging up his cleats.
Now, the Oregon State product is a vital instrument for a banged-up Cardinals' offensive line.
"Honestly, I was probably done with football if it didn't work out here," Harlow said. "This season rekindled my love for the game of football."
Since the age of 7, the NFL was a dream for Harlow. But Harlow had an advantage: his father, Pat Harlow, played in the NFL for eight seasons. Pat never pushed Sean to the game, but was a support system when that was the direction Sean wanted to go.
But the NFL has been a difficult road for Sean Harlow. He was released by the Falcons, who drafted him in the fourth round of the 2017 NFL Draft. He joined the Colts' practice squad in 2018, but the Colts cut him, and he went back to the Falcons in 2019 on their practice squad. He briefly got on the Falcons' active roster before moving back to the practice squad in 2020.
"I was pretty burnt out," Harlow said. "I wasn't having fun."
That's when Harlow considered quitting the game. But then the Cardinals came calling this offseason, and offensive line coach Sean Kugler gave Harlow hope.
"The first thing Kugler told me when I came here was, I would get a real opportunity here," Harlow said. "That was all I could ask for, and I'm grateful for it."
"It was four years of battling, battling, battling, and I never saw the field," Harlow said. "It shot my confidence, to be honest. But coach (Kliff) Kingsbury and Kugler believed in me."
Harlow received more playing time and made the most of his opportunities after injuries struck the Cardinals. With centers Rodney Hudson and Max Garcia injured, Harlow made his first NFL start Week 8 against Green Bay.
"It was awesome," Harlow said. "Center is a stressful position mentally and physically, but I enjoyed getting to call the shots. We do a great job rotating guys and getting people ready. At the end of the day, you do your job, and that's what I'm here to do."
Since then, Harlow has been the offensive lineman the Cardinals have trusted to handle different positions when a starter is out. In the loss Sunday to Carolina, Harlow started at left guard with Justin Pugh absent with a calf injury.
In eight games and 226 offensive snaps played -- both career-highs -- Harlow has yet to allow a single sack.
Harlow could start again with Pugh uncertain to play Sunday at Seattle. Harlow said he never likes to see his teammates injured, despite the uptick of playing time it brings his direction.
But, of course, Harlow will be ready if called upon.
"This game is so opportunity-based," Harlow said. "Through injuries is how a lot of people get their opportunities. You never want to see someone go down, especially someone you spent so much time with. But it is what it is. When you get your opportunity, just don't mess it up."
JUSTIN MURRAY HAS SETBACK
Kingsbury said offensive lineman Justin Murray had a setback with his back injury. Murray is on injured reserve and already had his 21-day window opened to return to the active roster. If he isn't activated by Nov. 24, Murray must remain on IR the balance of the season. Murray has been used at right tackle and right guard as a fill-in for injured starters and has allowed just one sack in 90 playing snaps.
LONG INJURY LISTS FOR BOTH CARDS, SEAHAWKS
Of the players on the active roster who didn't practice, tackle Kelvin Beachum, center Rodney Hudson,and linebacker Chandler Jones had rest days. Also sitting out were Pugh (calf), defensive tackle Corey Peters (shoulder), wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins (hamstring), running back Jonathan Ward (concussion) safety James Wiggins (knee) and linebacker Tanner Vallejo (knee).
Limited were quarterbacks Kyler Murray (ankle) and Colt McCoy (pectoral), safety Budda Baker (heel), running back Eno Benjamin (groin), tight end Darrell Daniels (knee), offensive lineman Max Garcia (Achilles), and defensive linemen Jordan Phillips (groin) and Michael Dogbe (knee).
For the Seahawks, linebacker Carlos Dunlap and guard Gabe Jackson had rest days. Sitting out were tackle Duane Brown (hip), tight end Gerald Everett (groin), defensive end Kerry Hyder (calf), tackle Jamarco Jones (back), and wide receiver DK Metcalf (foot). Limited were linebacker Cody Barton (quadricep), running back Alex Collins (groin), safety Ryan Neal (concussion), and tackle Brandon Shell (shoulder).
The Cardinals re-signed Tavien Feaster to the practice squad after releasing the running back from the active roster on Monday.