The shoe of wide receiver Steve Breaston flies off during his final reception Sunday.
He's not Randy Moss. He's not Anquan Boldin.
Steve Breaston has become a pretty good wide receiver, however. Good enough to make sure the Cards wouldn't even think twice about chasing Moss via waivers Tuesday, good enough to feel confident enough to trade Boldin this past offseason.
Good enough to want to make him a long-term part of the Cards as his contract ends after 2010. And certainly better than then-offensive coordinator Todd Haley thought back when the Cardinals first drafted Breaston in the fifth round in 2007.
"I was the first one saying he's just a returner, and he's proven me 100 percent wrong," Haley said early in 2008. "I'll never sell him short on anything. The character inside is what does it for him, I think."
Breaston isn't a big man, relatively speaking. But he is arguably the toughest player in the locker room. He is fearless, underscored by his years of punt returning and going over the middle. He has also morphed into a playmaker, reaching 130 yards receiving in two of the four games he has been able to play in this season.
The Cardinals have four pass plays of 30 yards or more this season. Breaston has them all.
There is little question that if the Cards can get their quarterback situation stabilized, they have the receivers to make the offense work. Breaston isn't even 100 percent yet; Sunday's 147-yard effort was his first game since missing three after knee surgery to repair his meniscus and he is still undergoing rehab during the week.
There has been a lot of talk of late about fellow wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald and his future with the Cards, since Fitzgerald needs a contract extension before his deal runs out following the 2011 season. (As a quick aside, Fitzgerald talked about his situation during an interview on Sports 620 KTAR Tuesday: "I love Arizona, I love the people here, my son lives here and I really enjoy playing for the Cardinals … I don't want to go anywhere. I want to bring a championship here. … I will play my butt off for this organization as long as they want me.")
But Breaston should come first.
There is uncertainty surrounding the NFL's immediate future, given the need for a new collective bargaining agreement and the possibility of a work stoppage starting in March. Without a new CBA, teams are going to be hesitant to do big deals at this point and the landscape of the league – including the rules of free agency – is very much undecided.
That doesn't mean deals won't get done. Keeping core players remains important to the Cards, and that brings us back to Breaston – who has improbably worked himself into the core roster. If that wasn't clear before, watching him make an impact this past weekend after three games out drove that point home.
Having Moss float out there the last couple of days provided a little more clarity.
In his only career regular-season game in Minnesota, Fitzgerald had 172 yards receiving (in 2006).
The longest run in the NFL this season is 80 yards, by two players who just happen to be facing off Sunday: Cardinals running back Tim Hightower and Vikings running back Adrian Peterson.
Fitzgerald will donate $33,000 to breast cancer research after finishing the month of October with 23 catches (after promising $1,000 per reception) and two touchdowns ($5,000 per TD pledged).
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