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Stepping In For The Wounded

Cards lean on young players while dealing with Wells, Doucet injuries

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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."

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