New kicker Mike Nugent tries a field goal out of the hold of Ben Graham during practice Wednesday. Nugent was signed with Neil Rackers hurting.
Neil Rackers couldn't go anymore, so the Cardinals had to look elsewhere for a kicker.
And that probably cost Matt Ware any chance of playing in the postseason.
The Cards signed Mike Nugent Wednesday to fill in for Rackers, who has had his right groin injury worsen. Needing a spot on the roster, the team put Ware – who hurt his right knee Monday night and will need four-to-six weeks to return – on injured reserve, ending his season.
Ware admitted he was disappointed, but coach Ken Whisenhunt said the Cards had to make a "tough decision."
"At this point, we had a greater need to protect ourselves at kicker," Whisenhunt said.
Clearly sore, Rackers was walking with a limp Wednesday (although the ice used on his injured area was also affecting his gait). The Cards will monitor Rackers, who has yet to be officially ruled out for the Lions' game.
The Cards turned to Nugent, who played with holder Ben Graham with the Jets. Nugent missed his first four field goal tries this season when he opened with the Buccaneers, including two in a 16-13 loss in Washington. He hit the right upright with a 49-yard try and pushed a 48-yarder right, and despite making two field goals later in the game, Tampa Bay cut him.
"No matter what, you have to make every field goal," said Nugent, who had converted 81.5 percent of his field goals before this season. "I hit them well but I didn't hit them where they need to be."
Whisenhunt said he liked Nugent's experience as well as his previous work with Graham.
"We've learned that from the holder and his relationship with the kicker, that's important," said Whisenhunt, a reference to Rackers' struggles in 2007 when the Cards went through three holders.
That won't be a problem with Nugent.
"No matter how long you have been playing, when you come to a new snapper and holder, it's something to get used to," Nugent said. "Those guys made it easy today."
FITZ BOTTOM LINES IT
When it was suggested the 49ers did a good job making big plays to create some of the seven turnovers the Cards suffered through Monday night, wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald had a simple way of looking at it.
"When we stink, we stink really bad," Fitzgerald said. "It's not like not just one turnover, two turnovers. We have to go for the gusto and do it six or seven times. We just can't let those things happen."
With Ware out, the Cardinals have some options in the secondary. One is Ralph Brown, the veteran cornerback who has been working at safety recently. But Ware's first fill-in will be second-round draft pick Rashad Johnson, who has had typical ups and downs of a rookie.
"We're just going to plug Rashad in," Whisenhunt said. "That's why you have depth."
Said Johnson, "I knew there would be some tough times. But I think the times I was out there and not playing very much on defense, I was getting reps at practice. I am ready to step in and show the team what I can do."
Reserve defensive end Kenny Iwebema, who has been on the injury report with knee and thumb problems, didn't practice with a shoulder injury. Tackle Mike Gandy was absent Wednesday as he continues to try and rehab his pelvic injury that has caused him to miss a recent game and leave two others early, including the game in San Francisco.
Limited Wednesday were cornerback Michael Adams (hamstring), linebacker Gerald Hayes (back), Graham (left groin) and cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (toe).
Lions coach Jim Schwartz said quarterback Matt Stafford was unlikely to return this week because of a bad left shoulder, meaning backup Daunte Culpepper will get the start against the Cardinals.
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