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The Tight End Factor

With Patrick's imminent return, Cards juggling four at the position


Tight end Anthony Becht has three catches this season, while fellow tight end Stephen Spach also has three.
With the return of Ben Patrick, the Cardinals are back to having four tight ends.

Juggling how they will fit together is something coach Ken Whisenhunt is still sorting out.

Patrick is returning from a four-game suspension. Stephen Spach is hurting with an ankle injury suffered against Houston. Dominique Byrd has yet to be active for a game. Only veteran Anthony Becht will have remained the constant.

Patrick technically isn't even on the active roster yet; the Cards – who have an open roster spot – will wait until practices end for the week before determining if Patrick will play.

"Just based off what we saw in training camp we were excited about him," Whisenhunt said. "(But) it has been five weeks since he has played football with us."

Patrick, who repeatedly has called his suspension the hardest thing he's had to deal with, deferred to the coaching staff to judge his return to the field.

"When they feel I'm ready and throw me in there, I'm going to give it my best shot … and we'll move forward," Patrick said. "Mentally I'm still in it, but physically I'm still off as far as the speed of the game itself. But I think that will come with reps."

Getting Patrick back in the fold comes at the right time because of Spach's injury.

"He won't play this week, I don't think, but we should have him back fairly soon." Whisenhunt said.

Regardless of whether Spach were available, the return of Patrick – who had been the leading candidate to start before his suspension was announced over the summer – should make a difference in the offense.

"He gives us a threat down the field from the tight end position," quarterback Kurt Warner said.  "It gives us some more versatility so we can do more with different personnel groups.  It is going to be a distinct advantage for us."

Added Becht: "He's been around this offense for a few years now and although he's missed a few weeks, he should be ready to go and give us an immediate impact at the position."

The bigger question may be how does the tight end position fit into the offensive scheme?  In the first four games, the tight ends caught a total of six passes, no surprise in the Cards' current offensive setup.

"The thing about our position is we need to make sure when we have our opportunities we take advantage of them," said Becht, who has three of the six receptions. "We pride ourselves on being prepared and when those opportunities come, we'll make the plays."

"That kind of stuff takes care of itself," Byrd added, who has yet to catch a pass this season.  "You have two Pro Bowl receivers and a Pro Bowl QB so those guys are supposed to get the ball. 
"You don't really worry about that because if you find yourself worry about that kind of stuff then that takes away from you doing your job very well."

Carrying four tight ends isn't common in the NFL, so when Spach is ready to play, a roster move could happen.

"I can't worry about anything I can't control," Byrd said.  "Those decisions are made upstairs and I'm just thankful for the opportunity and I'll keep working every day that I'm here."

"I go out there every day and work hard and I do my job," Becht said.  "If that's not enough, then they'll make a change.  I know the numbers game comes into play and hopefully being an older guy, it won't affect me as much. But you never know."

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