— The Arizona Cardinals have lost starting center A.Q. Shipley for the season with a torn right ACL and will replace him with rookie Mason Cole.
Coach Steve Wilks confirmed the injury Monday Frank Gore Jersey , saying the center “heard something pop” in his knee during a goal-line drill in training camp on Saturday.
Shipley, a six-year NFL veteran, started all 16 games each of the past two seasons, the only member of the Cardinals offensive line to play every game either year. Wilks called him “a tremendous leader and hard worker.”
“When you talk about the DNA that I look for, a guy that loves the game, very passionate, gritty,” Wilks said. “He really was the leader up front.”
Shipley signed with Arizona as a free agent in 2015, working his way to a starting role after bouncing around the NFL early in his career.
“Coach (offensive coordinator Mike) McCoy said it best,” right guard Justin Pugh said. “He’s the heartbeat of the offensive line. So it’s’ definitely tough news to hear and knowing everything he’s been through in his career.”
The 6-foot-5, 307-pound Cole is a third-round draft pick out of Michigan, where he was a four-year starter but only one — his junior year — was at center.
The Cardinals, though, drafted him as a center and he’s been working at that position through the offseason.
“I learned a lot from him (Shipley) my first few months of being here and still will learn a lot from him,” Cole said Ronnie Lott Jersey , “but I’m confident I can fill in and hopefully play as good as he has.”
Shipley was drafted in the seventh round out of Penn State by Pittsburgh in 2009 but didn’t make an active roster until 2012, when he was promoted from the practice squad by Indianapolis. He played two seasons for the Colts, sandwiched around one year with Baltimore.
He wasn’t regarded as one of the top centers around the NFL but inside the Cardinals organization, his worth has been considerable.
“I didn’t watch much Cardinals football last year, obviously,” said Pugh, who came to Arizona after five seasons with the New York Giants. “You get in this building and you realize who runs things and who does things the right way and A.Q. is one of those guys.”
Wilks said he watched video of Shipley’s injury “12 or 15 times.”
“I really couldn’t see anything malicious or anybody that fell into his leg,” he said. “I think it really just got caught up in the turf and he was engaged and he said he heard it pop.”
Shipley was able to walk off the field but was carted from there to the locker room, a towel draped over his head.
Cole started all 51 games at Michigan after arriving on campus, tying a school record.
“I played early in college and I think that helps me in situations like this,” he said, “but also coming from Michigan and (coach Jim) Harbaugh’s staff and Harbaugh’s offense, I think that gives me a little upper hand here, too, just in terms of learning the offense and knowing what to do.”
As center Brandon Coleman Jersey , Cole will be responsible for making the offensive line play calls.
“Mentally is going to be the biggest challenge,” Pugh said. “For me (coming into the NFL) it was more physical because I was out there playing tackle. Obviously I had to know the playbook, know what I had to do. The center’s got to know what everyone has to do.”
Pugh said he and the other linemen will help Cole, as will veteran quarterback Sam Bradford.
Serious injury is always lurking around the corner in the NFL.
“It’s an evil of this game that you don’t want to see happen and when it happens to one of your leaders it definitely hurts,” Pugh said, “but we’ve got to rally behind the guys that are out there.”
Evan Boehm and Daniel Munyer will be the backups to Cole. Both also play guard. Boehm was drafted in the fourth round out of Missouri in 2016. Munyer, an undrafted free agent out of Colorado in 2016, played 10 offensive snaps against Dallas and was active for four other games — but did not play — before his season ended with a toe injury in early November.
The Cardinals also will look for possible help from unsigned players or those released by other teams in the coming weeks.
From the time James Bettcher was hired as defensive coordinator by Pat Shurmur, there has been speculation whether the New York Giants were switching from a four-man front to a three-man look.
After all, it's what the 39-year-old Bettcher ran with the Arizona Cardinals last season.
Bettcher dropped a hint Wednesday in his first interview since taking the job: He is not into labeling defensive schemes.
The Giants are going to use a lot of formations, including three- and four-man fronts. Sometimes, they are going to put five up front. They are going to keep offenses guessing, and they are going to attack.
"What it is about is playing relentless," Bettcher said. "The game is about playing hard. The game is about playing physical. The game is about playing smart. Those are things that our guys are going to do whether we are bringing five or six or dropping eight, whatever we are doing Mitch Morse Jersey , whatever the field position is. The thing our fans are going to see, they are going to see a defense that is going to run around, that plays hard, plays fast and plays smarts and plays physical. That's what playing defense is about."
Bettcher will start laying the foundation for his defense Monday when players show up for organized team activities. The OTAs are a time that most coaches and coordinators begin discovering what they have, especially with a new team.
"Right now, if you asked me who we are on defense, I have no clue," Bettcher said, adding by the end of training camp he will know.
The Giants certainly will have a different look, at least based on personnel.
Defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul was traded to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last month. Cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie was released and fellow CB Ross Cockrell was signed by Carolina as a free agent. The Giants added Alec Ogletree in a trade with the Rams and signed fellow linebacker Kareem Martin as a free agent. LB Devon Kennard signed with Detroit as a free agent, while defensive captain Jonathan Casillas, also a linebacker, remains a free agent.
The mainstays up front will be tackles Damon Harrison and Dalvin Tomlinson along with end Olivier Vernon. Ogletree and Martin will be the core of the linebackers, and cornerback Janoris Jenkins and safety Landon Collins will anchor the secondary.
"This isn't going to be James Bettcher's defense," Bettcher said. "This is going to be our players' defense Terron Armstead Jersey , this is going to be these assistant coaches' defense, this is going to be our defense."
The process of putting the defense together will be done over the next five-plus months, and a version of the final product will be rolled out in early September. Bettcher said everyone is starting with a clean slate. There are some who need that.
There was squabbling among the defensive backs last season, and 2016 first-round draft pick Eli Apple miffed some teammates with his attitude and play.
Defensive end Josh Mauro, who played for Bettcher in Arizona before signing with the Giants as a free agent, will sit out the first four games of the regular season for violating the league's policy on performance enhancers.
Bettcher called Apple a very talented player who can do everything expected of a cornerback.
"He's a guy that, I think it's a guy that has expectations for himself and that's the most important thing," Bettcher said.
In his three years as Cardinals defensive coordinator, Bettcher's unit was consistently among the NFL's best in yardage allowed and run defense. Arizona led the league in sacks (48) in 2016, and Chandler Jones had a league-high 17 last season.
"I just love football, I love watching football, I love talking about it, I love being around it," Bettcher said. "I probably tire my wife out very much when we watch football. We're home and it's in-season and it's a Saturday afternoon when we have some time and we have college football in the house and we're watching ball. So it's an exciting time."
And a time to build a defense.
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