The Cardinals' captains -- (from left) Jason Wright, Adrian Wilson, Lyle Sendlein, Darnell Dockett and Ben Graham -- want to lead their team to a win against Tampa Sunday.
The words are what got the headlines. The message, however, may have been what was important.
Even the Cardinals – who heard Tampa Bay coach Raheem Morris' "We're the best team in the NFC" remark this past week, leading into the Bucaneers' visit to Arizona Sunday – understood that.
"It's not the weirdest or craziest thing I've ever heard," said Cardinals linebacker Joey Porter, himself a man who has uttered his own bulletin board material in his time. "I don't feel there is anything wrong with that. It is how he feels. People will put it to the test every week, and we're that team this week."
Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt understands. Heading into the playoffs of the 2008 season, analyst Cris Collinsworth called the Cardinals – who had slumped late in the season – the worst team ever to make the postseason.
Whisenhunt jumped on that as a motivational tool, mentioning it many times to his team, including through the media during countless interviews.
"It was beneficial for our team," Whisenhunt said. "We got that message out."
That doesn't mean Whisenhunt would ever declare the same thing Morris did, especially just six games into the season.
"I'm just trying to win a game," Whisenhunt said. "No disrespect to coach Morris. I understand where he's coming from. But from my perspective, there is so much football left to play."
Considering both teams are in the lower end of the NFL in most statistical categories, the fact the Bucs are 4-2 and the Cards 3-3 can be considered amazing in itself. Not that Morris wants to hear that – "I think stats are for losers," he said – and since many considered the Bucs the weakest team in the NFL coming into the season, it's hard to argue against Morris' exuberance.
Morris is young – in his second year, he is just 34 – like his team. He believes in his players, so they believe him when he announces things like there are the best in the conference.
"If coach Morris says it, it's our job to go out and make it true," Bucs quarterback Josh Freeman said.
Cardinals receiver Early Doucet said such statements can only motivate a team.
"I mean, as professional athletes, to have your coach that confidence in your team, that's a good thing," Doucet said.
Not that he is going to agree. Despite the Cards' struggles this season, despite the questions about the quarterback position and the uncertainty around the offense, "I still believe we are the best team in the NFC," Doucet said.
"I'm an Arizona Cardinal and I think we have the tools to win the West," Doucet added. "There is still a lot of football to play and it's only a matter of time before we hit on all cylinders."
The Cardinals will try to start that process against Tampa, with running back Beanie Wells getting his first NFL start and the offense featuring their top three receivers – Larry Fitzgerald, Steve Breaston and Doucet – for the first time since the first half of the season opener.
The best in the NFC won't be determined Sunday. The Cards would be happy with being the best at University of Phoenix Stadium.
"We're just concerned with winning the division," Porter said. "The best team in the NFC will be in the Super Bowl. Talking about that doesn't do anybody any purpose."
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