Tight end Stephen Spach catches a pass at Thursday's practice.
FLAGSTAFF – Stephen Spach and Dominique Byrd went to the room of Ben Patrick Wednesday night after their fellow tight end had hurt his knee at practice.
At the time, the prognosis wasn't known. It turned out Patrick's left kneecap had displaced but he suffered no ligament damage. He will be out a few weeks, but coach Ken Whisenhunt expects him to be back for the regular-season opener and Patrick hopes it is sooner than that.
That news wasn't available until Thursday morning, though. So Spach and Byrd visited Patrick wondering how dire the tight end situation really was.
"They cheered me up, and I appreciated it a lot," Patrick said, before adding, "They're going to have to live in a bubble. We're down to two strong right now."
The Cards came to camp with five tight ends, but Anthony Becht (back) and rookie Jim Dray (quad) have been out all week. Long snapper Mike Leach is now taking some tight end reps just so Spach and Byrd aren't run into the ground.
"It just takes more focus," Byrd said. "If anything, it's a little more conditioning, but that is never bad. When the preseason comes, you don't know how many reps you're going to get. Last year I had a two-minute (drill in a game) and I wish I would have had better conditioning."
Whisenhunt said the Cardinals won't make an immediate roster move and he would rather not make one. The hope is that Becht and Dray will be back soon, and Whisenhunt is willing to wait through Saturday's practice to see where the Cards are then.
"We're going to try and keep it going," Spach said. "I think we have a good group of tight ends and even if it is just me and Dominique and Mike right now, we're going to keep trying to hold it down."
Patrick, meanwhile, is dealing with yet another hurdle in the early season. Last year, he missed the first month of the regular season because of a suspension. In 2008, he suffered a knee injury in the first month of the season and battled aliments the rest of the year.
"The last four years, this one included, I've had rough starts," Patrick said. "I am definitely battle-tested, I can tell you that. I've been through the highest of the highs and the lowest of the lows. I'll have no problems adjusting."
The fact he will still be able to play – something he wasn't sure about on the Coconino High School Field Turf Wednesday night – is enough for now.
"I've got an opportunity to compete for a job," Patrick said. "Last night, I was thinking worst-case scenario. I thought potentially my season was over."
IMPRESSED WITH LEVI
Whisenhunt said he has been happy with the way Levi Brown has been playing left tackle, after spending his first three NFL seasons at right tackle.
"One of the things (Wednesday) night in practice that was apparent to me was the number of times he went against Joey Porter, and Joey is someone who brings it in practice every snap," Whisenhunt said. "I asked Joey after his assessment of Levi, and he said Levi is going to be fine.
"When you have a veteran player like Joey, who has gone against some good tackles, make that assessment, it makes you feel good about the progress Levi has made."
Patrick joined a growing injury list. RB Alfonso Smith (neck stinger), WR Max Komar (knee) and DE Jeremy Clark (groin) were sidelined, along with Dray, Becht, Patrick, S Hamza Abdullah (hamstring), LB Gerald Hayes (back) and LB O'Brien Schofield (knee).
The Arizona Republic is reporting Hayes isn't expected to return until early September. The Cards open the regular season Sept. 12 in St. Louis.
AGE HAS ITS REWARDS
Guard Alan Faneca, who sat out practice just for a rest day, had this to say on Twitter: "I'm pretty sure in my 13 years in the league that today was my first healthy scratch for a training camp practice. I rather enjoyed myself."
Safety Adrian Wilson and cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie were also "healthy scratches."
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