Defensive end Vonnie Holliday gets in a hit on Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers in the Cards' last game.
Opportunities like these are becoming fewer and farther between for Vonnie Holliday.
Actually, this one nearly never happened.
After last season, Holliday took roll of the 14 years he played in the NFL and contemplated retirement. It wasn't the type of introspection that some players toss around every season after they hit 30. He was serious about it.
"I was pretty damn close," said Holliday, who'll turn 37 next month. "I played the game for a long time and you get to a point where, when you play this game to win championships that wears on you and not going to the playoffs, personal life, kids are growing up.
"My daughter's 12 and in five years she's out of the house going to college, so all those things weigh in. And then, when's enough enough?"
Holliday's decision to return in 2012 for his 15th season could pay off. With defensive end Calais Campbell missing Wednesday's practice with a calf injury, Holliday could find himself in the starting lineup.
This is what Holliday returned for and he's ready for it.
"No doubt about it," Holliday said. "You prepare and work as hard as you do because when you get your opportunity to contribute and make a play, you want to do that. You don't want there to be any drop off.
"That's what I'm here for. I'm not here to be a starter and play 40, 50 snaps. I'm here to contribute in a different role."
But if he's needed Sunday, Holliday will summon his inner "old school" and "suck it up" to play a full game in place of Campbell. He had an excellent game in place of Campbell in the 2011 season finale against Seattle after an injury ended Campbell's day early.
It might be the last time Holliday gets such a chance.
"It's like that old tractor you get out of the barn," he said. "Once you get it out there and get it all cranked up and get some of the smoke out of it and it starts going, it's good to go. That's me."
CARDS GLAD TO RETURN TO FIELD
After about a week away from the practice field, the Cardinals returned Wednesday to prepare for the Falcons. Coach Ken Whisenhunt was pleased with the refreshed group of players he saw.
"You should be though," Whisenhunt said. "They should be rejuvenated. They should practice with some energy. The test will be (Thursday). We'll put the pads on and get a little physical, but it was a good start today."
After five straight losses, the bye week gave the Cardinals a chance to not think about football for a few days. It helped, quarterback John Skelton said.
"Wednesday's practice was probably the best Wednesday we've had in a long time," he said. "Guys seem excited to be back. We are creatures of habit. So when you give us a few days off, we don't know what to do with ourselves. I think guys cleared their mind, and now we are back, everyone is focused on the next task at hand."
CAMPBELL, KOLB MISS PRACTICE
After a weekend of the media postulating about the status of Campbell, the defensive end did not practice Wednesday and was listed on the Cardinals' injury report with a calf injury.
Quarterback Kevin Kolb (ribs) also missed practice.
CB Jamell Fleming (back), TE Todd Heap (knee), TE Jeff King (knee), LS Mike Leach (back), G Adam Snyder (quad) and CB Greg Toler (hamstring) were limited Wednesday. S Kerry Rhodes (back) fully participated in practice.
For the Falcons, starters WR Julio Jones (ankle) and LB Sean Weatherspoon (ankle) did not practice.
FORMER ASU COACH LEADS FALCONS' OFFENSE
When Dirk Koetter was hired before the season to run Atlanta's already-potent offense, the former Arizona State head coach didn't have to change much, if anything. And he didn't.
Falcons coach Mike Smith and quarterback Matt Ryan said Koetter kept the offense's terminology the same, which both cited as a reason for the seamless transition to a new offensive coordinator. It's helped the Falcons to an 8-1 record and the fourth best passing offense in the league.
"I think he's done a great job in our vertical passing game," Ryan said. "I think he's very well versed in that area and I think he's also helped us in terms of screens. Those are two areas where I felt like we could improve and I think he's helped us in those areas."