Arizona coach Ken Whisenhunt talks to his players, including RB/kick returner J.J. Arrington, front, TE Jerame Tuman, center, and TE Leonard Pope, right, while they warm up for Thursday afternoon's practice at One Buc Place. A steady drizzle fell throughout. "Who knows?" Whisenhunt said. "It's not supposed to be like this on game day. But if it does rain, at least we got a lot of work in with wet balls and operating on a field that is a little bit wet."
Rolle the dice
Among the accepted truths is coach Ken Whisenhunt will encourage offensive coordinator Todd Haley to attack the Steelers with skulduggery. Whisenhunt's end-around capped by a pass from WR Antwaan Randle El to WR Hines Ward for a 43-yard score was the turning point in the Super Bowl XL win over Seattle, when he was the Steelers' offensive coordinator. The Cardinals' first playoff touchdown came on a 42-yard pass to Larry Fitzgerald off a flea-flicker. Against the Eagles, RB Tim Hightower took a handoff and lateraled it back to QB Kurt Warner, who hit Fitzgerald for a 62-yard touchdown. And the appearance of S Antrel Rolle, below, as an offset running back on the first drive appeared to flummox Philadelphia as RB Edgerrin James was sprung for a 16-yard gain. Warner said he prefers Haley remain conventional. "As a quarterback, you always want to be in control," he said. "With trick plays, you are not in control." But Rolle, who has one catch for 9 yards this season, was cagey about his potential role:
How many offensive plays with you in them are there in the playbook? This game?
Sure, if you want to tell me that. But I was asking in general terms. I don't know.
In the playbook in general? I can't give out that information.
Several? Some? They probably have me in there one play just to throw a wrinkle in here and there. There's no actual designed number of plays I have. They tell me what to do, and I just get it done.
Numbers of the day
71.4 Neil Rackers' field goal percentage during the playoffs (5-of-7 with misses from 51 and 53 yards).
89.2 Rackers' field goal percentage during the regular season (25-of-28 with one block and misses from 35 and 68 yards).
Breakfast of champions?
Steve Breaston said a McDonald's breakfast — sausage, egg and cheese biscuit with a hash brown and large orange juice — will be part of his pregame ritual Sunday. Or was the No. 3 receiver for the Cardinals cleverly angling for an endorsement deal?
Unlike most teammates, long snapper Nathan Hodel, below, didn't grab his assigned seat and leaf through the newspapers strewn to kill time between media interviews. He was intent on using whatever time he had to study and be better prepared for his job. So from his bag, he pulled out a green highlighter and a hardback book — Fundamentals of Photography. "It's my second career. I'm just trying to make sure I know the ins and outs," said Hodel, who next month plans to start a business shooting portraits and landscapes. Although just 31, the Illinois graduate (he has a degree in communications and MBA in sports marketing) knows he will need a second act sooner or later. "This thing doesn't last long," he said. "I've done it for eight years, and that's abnormal. You've got to have a backup plan. I was planning for this to be over after my first training camp."
Drawing the line
Don't blame Pittsburgh's offensive line for all of the 46 sacks (one off the league high) Ben Roethlisberger has incurred this season, said Cardinals DE Travis LaBoy, left. "Their line is good to me. Ben seems like he holds the ball a long time sometimes," LaBoy said. "You can have five (Pro Bowl players) blocking for you. But if you hold the ball all day, it's not going to be good for them."
Perhaps he could try StubHub … or scalpers
This should be a homecoming for RB Edgerrin James, below. But the Immokalee native is having difficulty getting enough tickets. "I'm used to playing in front of so much family. I had the most family members ever to a Pop Warner football game," he said, laughing. "At the University of Miami, I've always had people at the game. But there's a limit on tickets, so that's disappointing. So even though you're here, there are still going to be some people who will be at home watching the game in front of the TV." Coincidentally, James' former team, the Colts, won Super Bowl XLI in 2007, the season after James left. And they won it in Miami, which is 115 miles from Immokalee, a tad closer than Tampa.
Russ Grimm, below, the Cardinals' offensive line coach who interviewed for and was erroneously reported to have been offered the Steelers coaching job that eventually went to Mike Tomlin, said he still wants his own team. But not too badly. "In some of these interviews, I tell (team owners) ahead of time, 'Look, I'm interviewing you in the process,' " he said Thursday. "I'm not just going to jump on that first train that comes by. I know there's only 32 jobs, but I want to make sure it's a job where I feel it has a good chance to be successful." Grimm, a finalist for the Hall of Fame, was an assistant with Pittsburgh for six seasons before following then-offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt to Arizona. Grimm played guard for 11 seasons in Washington and coached there for eight.