The NFL offseason is an opportunity to rest and get healthy, but not just for players. Arizona head coach Bruce Arians is recovering from shoulder surgery.
“I feel great,” Arians said on CBS Sports Radio’s Tiki and Tierney. “I’m recuperating from shoulder surgery. I tore my rotator cuff on Christmas Eve in Seattle. We kicked the game-winning field goal and Larry, it was the worst high-five I’ve ever had, and I tore my rotator cuff. So I’ve been spending the offseason rehabbing.”
That Larry, of course, is Larry Fitzgerald. If you’re going to accept a high-five from him when his adrenaline is pumping, you better be ready.
“The dude is strong,” Arians said. “(We high-fived) and (he) wrapped (my arm) around my back.”
That wasn’t Arians’ first trip to the doctor last year, either. The 64-year-old was hospitalized multiple times last season with chest and stomach pains. Those health scares made Arians reassess a few things, including his coaching career.
“It always crosses your mind,” Arians said of his football morality. “I’m not one of those guys that’s going to die on the sidelines, but until I don’t look forward to coming to work, then I’ll know when it’s time. My wife is like, ‘Okay, enough is enough,’ but it’s not time yet. . . . Today was the first day back, and I was excited like a little kid, doing the first-day installation again with our offense. So when those things don’t get exciting and I don’t look forward to them, I’ll know it’s time.”
The Cardinals were one of the best teams in football from 2013-15, going 10-6, 11-5 and 13-3. In 2016, however, Arizona went 7-8-1 and missed the playoffs.
“We played really dumb football in some critical situations that cost us games,” Arians said. “That, and we missed kicks that we had made in the past. We missed three game-winners. That’s the difference in everybody in the NFL – those last two minutes of the half and the last two minutes of games.”
While David Johnson is perhaps the best all-around running back in football, Carson Palmer holds the keys to the offense. Palmer, 37, threw for 4,233 yards, 26 touchdowns and 14 interceptions last season.
Arians firmly believes that Palmer, who has two years left on his deal, is still good enough to win a Super Bowl.
“Oh, I don’t think there’s any doubt just (from) looking at the last five weeks of the season,” he said. “Once we figured out his work regimen – Carson is one of those guys who’s going to over-work, and he over-worked his arm into training camp and even in the September practices, to the point where we had to really back off. Once we learned how to back off and still get ready for Sunday, everything bounced back in late-November, December. He was playing at a really, really high level again, and his arm was back. Once we learned to manage that thing as far as his arm and still get enough reps – virtual reality really helps with these guys now. Especially a veteran player, he can take virtual reality reps on the head set and get a whole practice in. So yeah, I don’t think there’s any doubt.”
Defensively, the Cardinals will need more from 2016 first-round pick Robert Nkemdiche, who had just one tackle in five games as a rookie.
Is Nkemdiche still learning how to be a pro?
“He is one of those college kids that had one bad night before the draft and got labeled,” Arians said, referring to Nkemdiche’s drug-possession charge in December 2015. “We’ve all had bad nights, but when you’re drafting those guys, we try to get into their character. We felt fine. He got a high-ankle sprain, a bad one, the first day of practice when we started in camp with the rookies. It lingered. He got healthy. He’s going to be the player we think we drafted. He’s shown all the signs. He’s working his tail off. Then he got the ankle again. So he really missed his whole rookie year. We didn’t need him as much as we will this year, but I feel real confident he’s going to have a breakout season.”