The Cardinals have been cautious with Gardeck throughout training camp and the preseason as the 27-year-old linebacker recovers from ACL surgery in January. But it was a hand injury in practice Thursday, September 9, that will sideline Gardeck against the Titans, Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury told reporters Friday, September 10.
Kingsbury said the injury could keep the fourth-year special teams star on the sidelines beyond the Week 1 matchup with the Titans on Sunday, September 12.
“Like we’ve said all along, we’re going to err on the side of caution (with Gardeck),” he said. “It could be more of a blessing in disguise to really let him get healed up over the next couple of weeks, and then we’ll get him back.”
The Cardinals are likely to activate one or more of the three protected players on the practice squad: linebacker Kylie Fitts and cornerbacks Rasul Douglas and Antonio Hamilton. The decision will come down to whether the Cardinals need a player to fill Gardeck’s linebacker and special teams spots or if they want to add depth to an unproven cornerback corps.
Douglas, a former third-round pick of the Philadelphia Eagles, was added to the practice squad on September 1.
Speaking with Dave Burns and John Gambadoro on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM on Friday, September 10, Cardinals general manager Steve Keim said the team will make a decision about the roster move Saturday, September 11.
“Both of those guys have played a lot of football,” Keim said of Douglas and Hamilton. “The way the rosters are constructed and the fact that we can have veterans on the practice squad now is really a big benefit for us.”
Douglas, 24, at 6-foot-2, 209 pounds, is “long, he’s athletic, he does a great job of press/man (coverage), does a lot of things that (defensive coordinator Vance Joseph) likes to do in his scheme,” he said.
“And Hamilton is a guy that has had a lot of success on special teams,” Keim said. “Everybody we talked to through the process of acquiring him, guys who’ve coached him in the past, had really high remarks for him as far as his passion and love for the game and his ability to contribute on game day.”
Hamilton, 28, now in his sixth NFL season, played in 16 games for the Kansas City Chiefs last season. He started his career in 2016 with the Raiders and also played two seasons with the New York Giants.
“Both of those guys have a chance,” Keim said, “and I would expect, throughout the season, we’ll see one or both of them at some point.”
Gardeck, an undrafted free agent from the University of Sioux Falls who signed with the Cardinals in 2018, was selected as a captain for the second year in a row on Wednesday, September 8.
He had seven sacks, seven tackles for loss and 10 QB hits while playing just 93 defensive snaps in 2020. He was injured in the Cardinals’ 33-26 win over the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 15 last season.
In addition to Gardeck, third-string tight end Darrell Daniels was limited in practice Thursday, September 9.