Linebacker Kevin Minter tries to fight through the stiff-arm of Chargers running back Branden Oliver during Thursday night's 12-9 Cardinals' loss.
SAN DIEGO -- The score was meaningless, so the Cardinals won't fret the 12-9 win by the Chargers over the Cardinals at Qualcomm Stadium Thursday night. That didn't mean the game was meaningless.
It sounded meaningful to a few players, who went unnamed by coach Bruce Arians, as he talked about the players who had been in the fight to make the team.
"I was pleased with a couple and very disturbed with some others," Arians said. "They made the choices easy."
The Cardinals are expected to make some of their final 22 cuts/roster moves Friday – Arians is due to meet with the media at 1 p.m. – and more Saturday by 1 p.m. when all teams must get down to the 53-man limit.
A total of 30 Cardinals did not play. Almost all were healthy enough to do so, but the starters -- as Arians promised – were not going to go and risk injury with the season 11 days away.
Injuries still happened. Backup safeties Curtis Taylor (arm) and Eddie Whitley (foot) may have broken bones, while tackle Nate Potter – one of the guys trying to keep a roster spot – hurt his shoulder.
Safety Tyrann Mathieu did not play as he comes back from his knee injury. Arians had said if Mathieu didn't play Thursday he wouldn't play in the opener, and as his timeline unfolds with the season approaching, playing Sept. 8 seems unlikely. Mathieu simply said he wants to take it day by day.
"I thought the best thing to do was not play this game," Mathieu said. "I think my coaches want to see more as far as the things I am doing and the contact I am getting in practice."
The rest of the Cardinals (1-3) who had been hurt did get to play however. Linebacker Kevin Minter (pectoral) and guard Jonathan Cooper (toe) put on pads for the first time since getting hurt in the preseason opener. Both were happy to be back in the field. Neither sounded overly thrilled with how they played.
"I felt alright," Minter said. "I've got to knock off the rust. I definitely didn't play as well as I could have.
"It's my first time really hitting. I gotta practice. I gotta practice. That's all it is."
Cooper gave up a sack early in the game, but Arians said he was generally pleased with the interior of the line in the first half, when Cooper and Earl Watford flanked center John Estes.
"There are definitely things to work on," Cooper said. "I got out of it healthy and I showed some plays where I was moving around pretty good.
"There were some fundamentals that, I don't know if I got too amped up. Forgot some basic fundamentals. I feel I was able to play at a decent level."
The one play of note – that is to say, it fell into the Zach Bauman-picked-up-the-fumble-for-a-TD-in-Minnesota range – was at the end of the first half. The Chargers chose to go for it on fourth-and-goal at the Arizona 2-yard line on the final play of the first half. Kellen Clemens threw an interception to undrafted rookie cornerback Jimmy Legree, who tried to do his best James Harrison on the return before he was brought down at the San Diego 35 after a 68-yard return.
But the Chargers were called for a horsecollar tackle, allowing rookie kicker Chandler Catanzaro to boot one of his three field goals of the night with an untimed down.
That was the extent of the excitement.
In a game with no touchdowns, quarterback Logan Thomas completed only 9-of-21 passes for 73 yards, and his first two throws gained 32 yards on completions to rookie tight end Troy Niklas. Arians called the game an average performance and a "good learning experience."
As for the decisions that still must be made, Arians was giving few hints. He wasn't happy about "some big hits" on the quarterback. Newcomer defensive lineman Tommy Kelly acquitted himself well, Arians said, considering he signed Wednesday and played with no practice.
Now, though, many players will wait for their fate over the next day or so.
"I came into the game today with a chip on my shoulder, looking to show my teammates and coaches I am ready to contribute," said on-the-bubble wide receiver Walt Powell, who was effective on kickoff returns and made a nifty catch-and-run for a first down.
"It's going to be a nervous day, a nervous night. Draft day, you're waiting for that call. Now with cuts, you're hoping not to get that call."