Running back LaRod Stephens-Howling hauls in a touchdown pass over linebacker Daryl Washington during practice Friday morning in Flagstaff.
FLAGSTAFF – LaRod Stephens-Howling put on a show in the Friday morning practice, but that may be the only place the second-year running back does such a thing – at least until the regular season.
The 5-foot-7 Stephens-Howling should play a greater role in the offense this year, but how that develops is on a need-to-know-basis – and coach Ken Whisenhunt doesn't see why anyone else needs to know yet.
"You want to get him enough that he gets the work, and we will do that in practice and preseason games, but it is hard to say," Whisenhunt said. "He does so many things well and he does certain things extremely well that you want to utilize those talents, but you don't necessarily want to show those things on tape."
It's obvious the Cards will still use Stephens-Howling on kickoff returns. And with former Pro Bowl special teamer Sean Morey gone, the Cardinals "have a void in special teams and it will be up to LaRod to fill that role," Whisenhunt said.
The special teams were a given. The moves Stephens-Howling has made during his offensive reps in practice has shown something special as well. He has a shiftiness that clearly could be a weapon when wed with top backs Tim Hightower and Beanie Wells.
"He's not big in stature but he has a heart the size of Texas," running backs coach Tommie Robinson said. "Someone forgot to tell LaRod his stature was small, because he thinks he is as big as Beanie and he can do whatever (the other backs) do."
The Cardinals will have a difficult time getting all their backs enough work. Whisenhunt praised Jason Wright as a guy who will be ready with limited carries in practice, and even in games "it's going to be hard to spread that around," Whisenhunt said.
Stephens-Howling, meanwhile, is willing to be patient. He only had six carries and 10 receptions last season, and he said he knows how the coaches will approach his work in the preseason.
"It's something I am used to now," he said.
What he is not used to is so much praise. Stephens-Howling is a long way from last training camp, when he was just a small seventh-round draft pick that had to find a way to make the team. He seems to have locked that up for the foreseeable future, but "we are never comfortable," he said. "We are still working to make sure the (roster) spot is there."
THE IMPACT OF THE MOVING UMPIRE
It's a little thing that won't be noticed by many. The NFL has mandated that the umpire – the official that has always stood near the middle linebackers about five to seven yards downfield each play – move on to the offensive side of the ball, about 15 yards away to the side.
The decision was made for safety reasons. But it will impact the game. Referee Tony Corrente noted it will be much more difficult to see defensive penalties (such as holding on the line, a recent point of emphasis) and defenders are quick to notice and take advantage.
"Today in practice, the defensive linemen were just laughing," Corrente said. "It'll be interesting to see if anyone can still run inside the tackles."
The Cardinals didn't have any changes in their injured players Friday. Sitting out were DE Jeremy Clark (groin), RB Alfonso Smith (neck stinger), WR Max Komar (knee), S Hamza Abdullah (hamstring), LB Gerald Hayes (back), LB O'Brien Schofield (knee), TE Anthony Becht (back), TE Jim Dray (quad) and TE Ben Patrick (knee).
CB Trumaine McBride sat out in the afternoon with a sore groin, while FB Charles Ali came out of practice and didn't return.
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