The Cardinals hope their playoff win in Carolina last season got them over the hump when it comes to winning games in the East.
Traveling East was a popular topic for the Cardinals last season, and often not in a good way.
The team went to Washington and lost, to the Jets and lost, and followed up with losses at Carolina, at Philadelphia and at New England. It was a dominant storyline going into the playoffs – until the Cards returned to Carolina and pounded the Panthers, 33-13, in the NFC divisional round.
Not surprisingly, the subject isn't the Cards' favorite now that the team heads to Jacksonville Friday for Sunday's date with the Jaguars.
"We can't make any more excuses," defensive lineman Darnell Dockett said. "That's old. We ran out of excuses. We have to be able to play anywhere – the backyard, Mesa, Whataburger, Hooters. You've got to be able to play anywhere the game is at."
Coach Ken Whisenhunt said the win in Carolina in January "decreases the anxiety" for such road trips.
"What also helps is we know how we travel," Whisenhunt said. "What we do, how we are going to prepare and how you're going to feel, because we have had so many trips to the East coast helps us – hopefully.
"We'll see at one o'clock (Eastern time) Sunday."
The Cardinals are doing what they can to prepare. Not only is the team going out early so players can adjust to the time difference – kickoff is at 10 a.m. Arizona time – but the team invested in a special cooling system. Players can wear an attachment in their shoulder pads that can hook up to a machine on the sidelines that blows cool air.
Jacksonville's Sunday forecast is for 87 degrees along with a 40 percent chance of rain, meaning high humidity.
"I know Jacksonville uses it for themselves, but they don't provide it for other teams," Whisenhunt said. "Obviously the Bidwills were good, because it is an expense to do it, to give us an opportunity to have a little extra if it helps us."
Whisenhunt said he wasn't sure how many players will take advantage of the system.
"Putting something extra on, even if it only weighed one-tenth of an ounce, in (a player's) mind it probably weighs 10 pounds and would slow them down, so I'd guess some guys won't do it," Whisenhunt said with a smile. "But I am excited we have that available to us."
As Whisenhunt said, linebacker Chike Okeafor (shoulder) did return to practice Friday on a limited basis. Whisenhunt said he was hopeful in the next couple of days Okeafor would heal enough to play Sunday. If Okeafor can't go, Bertrand Berry will start in his place.
Only two players will miss the game for sure: safety Matt Ware (shoulder) and defensive lineman Kenny Iwebema (ankle).
READY AT RECEIVER
While both Anquan Boldin (hamstring) and Steve Breaston (knee) are listed as questionable, both should end up playing Sunday. With the return of Early Doucet (ribs), the Cards are in much better shape at receiver than last week.
"I have a lot less anxiety right now than I did last week with the receivers," Whisenhunt said. "Last week we didn't know anything about Q. We were hoping but he hadn't practiced a lot. Steve I felt good about and then it threw everything out of whack when he couldn't go on Sunday."
Whisenhunt said Boldin looks closer to 100 percent. There are times when he protects the injury in practice and "the real test will be in the game," Whisenhunt said.
RUSHING THE ROOKIES
The Jaguars start a pair of rookie offensive tackles – Eben Britton on the right side and Eugene Monroe on the left – and coach Jack Del Rio admitted the pair did OK in the season opener except in obvious passing situations against Colts star pass rushers Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis.
So what might that mean for the Cards, who were the last franchise to start a pair of rookie tackles in the opener in 1982 when Luis Sharpe and Tootie Robbins debuted?
"The fact they are rookies, that's just the reality of it," said Berry, who notched a sack in the season opener. "That's what the bio says about them and you can't deny that fact. But they are also professional football players so those guys definitely can play. They are starters for a reason. Coaches put them in the starting lineup because they believe it gives them the best chance to win, so I don't take it as an easier day because they are rookies."
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