Cardinals tight end Troy Niklas runs after the catch last week against the Cowboys.
The temptation of Troy Niklas as tight end is obvious to Bruce Arians.
Jermaine Gresham has proven himself in the league, and reserves Ifeanyi Momah and Hakeem Valles have stepped in when needed.
"But they aren't 6-7, 270, and (Troy) has special talent," Arians said. "He's just had some freaky injuries."
Lots of them, in fact. A hernia and then a broken finger – suffered when he got it caught in a teammate's jersey – came before his first NFL training camp, followed by a season-ended ankle issue after seven games. His ankle never
was great the next season, and then a bad hamstring hurt him, although he did appear in all 16 games. Last year, Niklas played only three games before suffering a season-ending wrist injury.
When he's on the field, the coaches have never stopped saying how impressive he is. He's just rarely been on the field.
"I like to try and take ownership of it," Niklas said. "That's the only way I can overcome it for myself. All the injuries, all that time not spent on the field, regardless of how you look at it, it's on me. I'm not doing my job. That's the way I look at it and that's the only way I feel I can grow from it is taking to steps to improve from there."
Healthy for the time being, Niklas – who only has eight career catches in three seasons – said he's very comfortable in the offense, understanding all facets. If he is able to be on the field, he provides the opportunity for good run blocking and while he'll never be a 50-catch guy, he can provide an outlet for quarterback Carson Palmer.
Arians certainly wants to see him succeed. "Love him. Great guy," Arians said. "He's a dawn-to-dusk worker. You're pulling for those guys."
Niklas, who joked last year about whether Arians knew his name instead as an expletive, said that means a lot.
"It's awesome to know he's rooting for me," Niklas said. "It means he knows about what I'm putting in on a daily basis. It's encouraging. It makes me get out there and try that much harder every day."
PUNT RETURNS, AFTER LOGAN
With rookie T.J. Logan out with wrist surgery, Kerwynn Williams is the next man up for both kickoff return and
punt return roles – and yet another in the line of potential replacements for Patrick Peterson, something the Cards have been chasing since Arians' arrival.
"We thought we had some guys (over the years)," Arians said.
Speed as a punt returner isn't as important as three other traits, Arians said – great hands, fearlessness, and the ability to make one guy miss.
Williams hasn't returned punts in the NFL but "I'm sure he'll do a great job," Arians said. Wide receiver John Brown continues to be a possibility, in part because he wants the job. But he has to stay healthy (Brown returned to practice on a limited basis Tuesday recovering from a quad problem.)
J.J. Nelson was once the guy Arians wanted back there, but too many injuries later, he is now on the back burner, Arians said. The Cardinals don't want Peterson to return punts.
But, Arians said, "he's the guy you have in your back pocket."
"NOT REAL PLEASED" AT PUNTER
Asked about the punting, Arians said he was "not real pleased with it yet." Matt Wile and Richie Leone are battling for the job. Wile netted 34.5 yards a punt on two tries Thursday, while Leone was at 38.0 on three punts.
Arians didn't like the inconsistency, nor their kickoffs, but he added there are still four preseason games.
"We'll look at it another couple of weeks," Arians said. "If we have to make a change, we'll make a change."
BACK TO PRACTICE WITH FANS
The Cardinals returned to open practice Tuesday at University of Phoenix Stadium. As of now, there are nine public practices left – two this week, four next week and three beginning Aug. 21. For all the latest details – including if there is a change in the schedule – visit www.azcardinals.com/cardscamp.
Images from the 12th practice of #CardsCamp