Fitz's absence at practice muddled offense

SARASOTA, Fla. -- Arizona Cardinals coach Bruce Arians isn’t big on excuses, but he did offer a possible explanation for part of the Cardinals’ recent offensive woes.

Leading into the games against the Detroit Lions and New Orleans Saint, wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald barely practiced, if at all. To fill his void, the Cardinals rearranged their receivers, lining up Michael Floyd, Andre Roberts, Jaron Brown and then Kerry Taylor at positions they might not normally have played had Fitzgerald been healthy.

And on practice went, with Arizona quarterback Carson Palmer working with that foursome, learning their tendencies and movements from various routes -- only to have Fitzgerald play both Sundays. It wasn’t a conducive situation to a relatively new offense learning how to flow.

But this week could be different. Fitzgerald’s hamstring has apparently healed, and he practiced all week.

“We lost him on Wednesday (Sept. 11),” Arians said on national radio this week. “And then he played in the game. Well, in the meantime we shuffled guys around in case he wasn’t going to play. Carson saw those guys in those positions, and then Larry comes back and plays and everybody’s in a different spot. The same thing happened last week.

“He wasn’t able to practice until Friday (before New Orleans). You never know [if he is going] to make it. And then he was healthy Friday. We got everybody back in the other spots where they belonged and he got one day of practice. I think that’s an excuse, but it does have some validity. When you look at the tape, a little hesitation is all it takes for a quarterback.”

Fitzgerald had 33 yards in the Cardinals’ win against the Lions, a game that saw Taylor emerge as an unexpected contributor. He was promoted from the practice squad a day before the game, and finished with 40 yards on three catches.

Despite not practicing until Friday before the Saints game, Fitzgerald had 64 yards on five receptions in a 31-7 loss.

Offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin said it shouldn’t matter who is lined up, but it does.

“It’s tough when you’re not sure if you’re No. 1 guy is going to be able to play,” Palmer said. “And you don’t practice and you’re thinking you might play and you’re not sure, and you get to Sunday and everything’s great and you get to play and you lose out on those reps.

“It gets a little muddied I guess, when you lose your guy and all of a sudden he’s there on Sunday.”

Palmer won’t have to worry this week. Despite being listed as probable, Fitzgerald practiced all week.