Tuesday was final cut day for all NFL teams, which needed to finalize their 53-man rosters before the 1 p.m. deadline, Arizona time.
The Cardinals’ practice Tuesday morning looked much thinner than Monday, when the team released 15 total players.
“It’s still some roster gymnastics going on. We’re still working through it,” Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury said to reporters before the deadline. “You never know until it’s finalized. A lot can go on. But we definitely had fewer numbers after today and some guys had to double-duty. But that’s just part of it.”
Following the deadline, the Cardinals announced they had shaved its roster by 15 more players, including the four who were already told on Monday they wouldn’t return to practice the following day (safeties Chris Banjo and Shawn Williams, wide receiver Andrew Baccellia, cornerback Jace Whittaker).
Here were the 11 additional players who didn’t make the team’s 2021 season roster: S James Wiggins; CB Daryl Worley; WR Greg Dortch; LBs Kylie Fitts and Reggie Walker; OLs Sean Harlow and Koda Martin; DLs Margus Hunt and Josh Mauro; TEs Bernhard Seikovits and Ross Travis.
In addition, CB Malcolm Butler was placed on the reserve/retired list and the team waived injured OL Marcus Henry.
Kingsbury hopes the released players received enough playing time in the preseason to market their skills to other teams, who can sign new players after Wednesday. The team’s third preseason game against New Orleans last Saturday was canceled because of Hurricane Ida, which denied many players a final chance to perhaps win a job before the regular season.
“I think we had a lot of what we needed as far as answers who was going to be on the team. But there were certain guys who were going to get ample playing time to maybe show for other teams what they could do,” Kingsbury said.
One of the surprising cuts was third-year WR Greg Dortch, who had a minor leg injury last week. He caught five passes on as many targets for 71 yards between both of the Cardinals two preseason games, against the Cowboys and Chiefs.
But third-year WR Antoine Wesley, who signed to the Cardinals in May, played only in the Chiefs game and posted just five yards on one reception.
“He’s the epitome of taking advantage of your opportunities,” Cardinals wide receiver Christian Kirk said about Wesley. “He knew that there were some spots that were there to be taken and he stepped up, and he took advantage of every opportunity that came his way. He came with an attitude. He came with a mentality and competed, and I just love his energy. Also a positive guy and that never changed throughout camp. He went through an injury and still came back and solidified himself that he belongs here.”
Some of the players the Cardinals released might be returned for the practice squad, Kingsbury acknowledged.
“There’s certain guys that you want to get back, no question,” Kingsbury said. “But you still got to be careful how you phrase it. You just never know if somebody else pops up through our research. That’s just part of the business. We try to be careful how we phrase it and try to get those guys to stay around just in case, but there’s certainly no certainties in this league.”
Kirk’s contract year in hometown
Christian Kirk was disappointed to see how many players didn’t make it past training camp, which ended on Aug. 25.
“I remember my rookie year, (Larry Fitzgerald) talking about how many guys he’s seen come through the room and just imagine that, it was like 150 guys who came through that room,” Kirk said to the media after Tuesday’s practice.
“In the four short years that I’ve been here, it’s crazy how this league evolves and how it’s almost like an open door. Guys are in and out, and that’s just part of it. I don’t take for granted making the team at all because it’s hard to make a 53-man roster in the NFL.”
Kirk has played his entire professional career in Arizona, his home state where he was a standout player at perennial powerhouse Scottsdale Saguaro High School.
As the sixth-round draft pick by the Cardinals in 2018, Kirk understands the pressure to perform at a high level not only upon entering the final year of his rookie contract and vying for an extension, but to show out where he grew up.
“It’s something I’ve always had to deal with. It’s a good and a bad thing. There’s a lot of love, but at the same time, it comes with a lot of criticism,” Kirk said. “You always have the spotlight on you being from here, and being one of the rare players that has come through here and been drafted here. So, I don’t take it for granted.
“I know it comes with a lot of responsibility. I just come to work everyday to put my best foot forward and try to be one of the best players on this team to help this team win, and ultimately win a championship.”
Kirk’s only reception in preseason was for 34 yards against Dallas on Aug. 13.
• Left guard Justin Pugh and veteran CB Robert Alford remain on the team’s COVID-19 list.
• Darren Urban, senior writer for azcardinals.com, tweeted on Tuesday that Cardinals owner Michael Bidwill said Monday, during taping of an upcoming episode of ESPN broadcaster Dave Pasch’s podcast there is just one player on the team who has not been vaccinated. The player was not identified. Pasch also is the voice of the Cardinals radio broadcasts.
Kennard’s financial advice amid cuts
Veteran safety Chris Banjo lamented on his Twitter account Tuesday morning about being released.
He wrote caption that included a Bible scripture, his own feelings about being cut, and a photo of himself in a Cardinals uniform.
“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope … Jeremiah 29:11” Banjo said. “Hard to remember at times…but through it all we all remain blessed!” with a hashtags “Blessed” and “TMC” (the marathon continues).
Cardinals OL and Phoenix native Devon Kennard can relate to being cut during his eight-year NFL career when the Detroit Lions let him go in March 2020. That’s why he stresses to his teammates the importance of financially insuring their own welfare and future beyond football if they have a long off-season.
On Sunday, Kennard posted a lengthy thread on his Twitter account advising players who get cut need to learn financial literacy rather than rely on football as their sole income.
Kennard, who says he enjoys investing in real estate, discussed his approach to money management to the media.
“At this point, I think it’s pivotal for every player,” Kennard said. “It doesn’t matter what your situation is, but to have something going on outside of football is really important. It doesn’t matter how good you are. One thing’s for certain, your career’s going to end at some point and there’s things to put yourself in a better position, regardless, and it doesn’t have to take away from what you’re doing here.”
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