TEMPE, Ariz. — Arizona Cardinals coach Bruce Arians was busy with “by far” his least favorite part of the job, slicing the roster to the 53-man limit.
“It’s Catch 22,” he said at a news conference Friday. “You hate cut day but you’re really excited about the season starting. I’ll feel a lot better Monday than I do today.”
The Cardinals won’t release their list of their roster cuts until Saturday, but one name already has surfaced.
A person with knowledge of the situation said Friday that running back Chris Johnson was among those released. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the Cardinals had not officially announced their roster cuts.
It wasn’t a big surprise. Johnson, once among the most accomplished running backs in the NFL, had not shown his usual burst of speed in his brief time on the field in the preseason and fumbled twice in a game against Atlanta.
If Arizona keeps four running backs, Andre Ellington and Elijhaa Penny will back up David Johnson, along with Kerwynn Williams, who will return kicks and punts.
Arians wasn’t offering any hints, except to say there were only two or three cuts that were very difficult decisions.
Just who will be the Arizona punter remains unknown. Matt Wile and Richie Leone competed for the job in the preseason but Arians wasn’t very pleased with either of them, leading to speculation that the team might sign someone who is released by another team or perhaps make a trade.
The Miami Dolphins reportedly have released punter Matt Darr and the Carolina Panthers may be willing to negotiate a deal for veteran Andy Lee, who was the holder for current Arizona kicker Phil Dawson in San Francisco.
Arians said the Cardinals could keep anywhere between five and seven receivers.
He said he hates to tell players they’ve been cut after he sees how hard they’ve worked to make it.
“They probably don’t have a chance but they’re such an overachiever that they get this far,” he said. “…. He’s really not good enough but you love coaching him and you probably know that his career is probably over.”
And he said those at the bottom of the roster should not feel secure.
“The last 10 guys, your jobs are never safe,” Arians said. “You can’t have a bad day. There’s somebody out there that wants your job.”
Whoever fills out the practice squad will be considered serious candidates for roles on the team in the future.
“You’re not filling spots to practice against,” Arians said, “you’re filling as future players. I’m not one of those guys, ‘Hey there’s a good local kid let’s give him a job to practice against.’ If he doesn’t have any future, he’s not going to be on our practice squad.”
The coach said he was pleased with the entire draft class.
“Obviously Rudy Ford in the two games he played safety looked really good and looked really good at covering kicks,” he said. “Both Haason (Reddick) and Budda (Baker). Budda made up for lost time, still has some time to make up but he took to two positions (safety and nickel corner) really well.”
A year ago, coming off a 13-3 season, the Cardinals were burdened with high expectations. After a disappointing 7-8-1 season, those expectations are gone. But Arians believes his team still has the makings of a contender.
“This team is totally different I think than last year’s team in that they’re very serious about their work but they have a lot of fun and enjoy competing against each other,” Arians said. “Last year was a lot of business. The work got done but it was more business because this is what was expected of us. This year is more a chip on their shoulder and it should be.”
The Cardinals will practice Monday, installing their game plan for their opener at Detroit, then take Tuesday off.