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Waiting Game For Watson

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DT Gabe Watson is ready to unleash his pent-up rage on the field.

Gabe Watson waits.

It's hard, but it's what he has been doing. Patiently. With an eye to the future.

There is no reason for the Cardinals' giant nose tackle to rush back on the field, not when he is so close to doing so. When he fell off the treadmill this offseason working out, fracturing his kneecap, his first thought was "I'm going to miss the whole season."

It's down to days, now. The timetable does not make an appearance in the opener likely – Watson has yet to practice since the injury, and the game is Sunday – but he'll miss one game, maybe. Two at the most.

At least, that's how Watson is looking at it and this ultimately frustrating process.

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"Seeing your team out there doing everything and you can't, there is so much aggression and rage pent up inside of you, no lie, you're like a time bomb," Watson said. "You think you might snap on somebody. But it's worked out. God blessed me, it could have been worse."

When Watson says worse, he really means it. He said doctors have told him kneecap situations that have caused so much damage that amputation was needed. It's seems a stretch to be worried about such things, but it's given Watson perspective.

The Cardinals could use him right now. The up-and-down learning curve of fellow defensive tackle Alan Branch could take a hit this week depending on Branch's sprained ankle. Besides, even with veteran Bryan Robinson around, Watson will be the starter once he can get back to full speed.

The Cardinals have a lot of options on how they want to play defense this season, but starting with a big run-stuffer in the middle like Watson is a key starting point (and why, in his absence, it's been so important for Branch to up his game).

Watson is about 325 pounds, the best shape he's been in since high school. That commitment has been noticed by coaches.

Watson has said early in the offseason, before his injury, that he was poised for a breakout season. That's why the wait has been so difficult.

"When I get back," Watson said with a grin, "I'll get that aggression and rage out."

Q AND FITZ

Historically, both Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin have shredded season-opening opponent San Francisco. The newest game release from the Cardinals also includes a note about how Boldin (now going into his sixth season) had the most catches in his first four seasons than anyone in NFL history – 342. Second was Fitzgerald, who has 330 in four seasons.

I know this isn't exactly a stretch – I believe Boldin and Fitzgerald will benefit from having Kurt Warner start at quarterback. The Cardinals want to continue gearing up their running game, but let's be honest: Keeping your two star receivers happy and involved is something that can't be ignored.

Warner, with his admitted slant toward the pass, can only help in that regard.

SOME NUMBERS

In the three games against the 49ers in which Warner started for the Cardinals, Fitzgerald has totaled 156 receiving yards, 133 yards, and 129 yards.

Warner had 21 touchdown passes over the final eight games of the 2007 season, tops in the NFL and besting New England's Tom Brady – who had 50 on the season – by one.

The Cardinals have not won a season-opener played on the road this millennium – last doing it in 1999 in Philadelphia.


Contact Darren Urban at askdarren@cardinals.nfl.net. Posted 9/2/08.

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