LaRod Stephens-Howling bursts through the hole during a run in St. Louis.
The thought racing through the head of LaRod Stephens-Howling as he broke off his career-high 21-yard run Sunday in St. Louis? "Finally, finally I get some carries."
"I was just zoned out, excited," Stephens-Howling said. "Being a running back, that's what you want to do – run the ball."
The Cardinals needed Stephens-Howling. His 49 yards rushing on seven carries made up for the fact Beanie Wells was injured. Wells may be back this weekend in Atlanta – he was limited in practice Wednesday but is expected to do more Thursday with his sore knee – but the Cards look like they have lost wide receiver Early Doucet for the short term to a possible sports hernia.
That means veterans Larry Fitzgerald (who is still recovering from his own knee injury) and Steve Breaston have to be supported by a trio of rookies: Stephen Williams, Max Komar, and Andre Roberts.
And the Cards have to make it work.
"It's unfortunate because Early worked his butt off this offseason," Fitzgerald said. "I just hope we can get him back as soon as the bye is over and have him ready to go and help us. It sucks. We will miss him for these next couple of weeks but someone has to pick up the slack.
"Pressure is a privilege. When you work at Circle K, there's not much pressure on you, you know what I mean? This is a privilege to come out and play this game and it comes with the territory."
Doucet was getting checked out by a specialist Wednesday to determine if he does indeed need surgery. Wells said the motion is back with his knee and his pain is "minimal," adding that he did run and cut Wednesday without practicing with his teammates.
Thursday is the day the Cards will "really test" Wells and "he should practice Friday," coach Ken Whisenhunt said. If Wells remains sidelined or even limited, Stephens-Howling is anxious to get more work behind starter Tim Hightower.
"We talked about it in training camp about wanting to get LaRod more involved," Whisenhunt said. "I think we can see why that's important."
Stephens-Howling, however, has gone through a season already. And Wells is closer to returning that Doucet, who has dealt with an injury-plagued career but has shown he is a playmaker when he is on the field.
Roberts, who will likely be active, still has much to prove on the field. His inconsistency has disappointed, but the coaches still hope he can find a comfort level. But Fitzgerald pointed out both Williams and Komar have had extensive work in the preseason thanks to Doucet's groin issues and Fitzgerald's own knee problems.
Both Komar and Williams have shown remarkable consistency considering their undrafted rookie status as well.
"It kind of sucks for Early, and I have learned a lot from him," Komar said. "But it is a good situation for me, Steve and Andre to get on the field and get thrown into the action. After that first week, we know what to expect."
Fitzgerald also will have more on his shoulders. He lamented the "six or seven" passes to him he didn't catch because he isn't healthy, yet he insisted playing while his knee heals is not a problem. "It's not time for rest," he said. "I'll rest in February."
"I've got to improve rapidly so I can be the player I am capable of being," Fitzgerald added. "Last week I put some bad tape out there."
Arizona Cardinals Home: The official source of the latest Cardinals headlines, news, videos, photos, tickets, rosters and game day information
Cardinals Suffer Painful Ending In Loss To The Patriots
Despite good start, finish goes awry in 20-17 defeat
Stellar Defensive Performance Goes For Naught In New England
Notes: Isabella steps in for Fitzgerald; blindside block explanation
With Kyler Murray OK, Cardinals Don't Make 3 QBs Active
Brett Hundley inactive against Patriots, Streveler lone backup
Amidst COVID-19 Battle, Cardinals Turn Attention To Patriots
Team will be without wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, two others
Zach Allen Activated, Josh Mauro, Darrell Daniels To Injured Reserve
Cardinals make multiple roster moves ahead of Patriots game
How To Watch: Cardinals-Patriots
Check out all the ways to watch, listen and live stream Arizona Cardinals vs. the New England Patriots on November 29, 2020
Kyler Murray Will Play Against Patriots
Notes: Cardinals thin at wide receiver; Josh Mauro won't play
Cardinals' Home Game Against Rams Closed To General Public
COVID-19 impact means limited amount from family of players, staff
Larry Fitzgerald Placed On COVID List By Cardinals
Wide receiver Trent Sherfield also goes on COVID reserve list