Curious case of Cardinals TE Todd Heap

Back on Sept. 24, eight days after the Arizona Cardinals' Todd Heap suffered a knee injury at New England, coach Ken Whisenhunt sounded optimistic about the veteran tight end returning right away.

"I know that Todd was really close last week and it was just more of a decision to let him rest that week with the idea of getting him back," Whisenhunt said at the time.

Heap has missed another six games, apparently without suffering any additional injuries. The team has listed him as questionable on its injury report.

Now, a report from Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic suggests Whisenhunt and defensive lineman Darnell Dockett think Heap should have returned some time ago. Whisenhunt and Heap declined to discuss the matter. The comments Dockett made about players needing to get back on the field more quickly did not name Heap or even hint that Heap was his intended target.

We do know the Cardinals waited until training camp before asking Heap to reduce his $2.15 million salary by $1 million. The timing made it difficult for Heap, 32, to explore other options. He accepted the reduction.

Might the pay issue be affecting Heap's willingness to return quickly or play through pain?

Heap missed six games to injury with Baltimore last season. He has played in 146 games since entering the NFL in 2001. He has six seasons with 16 regular-season starts.

Whisenhunt, asked Oct. 17 about Heap possibly playing at Minnesota in Week 7, kept his comments short.

"Well, I think Todd is a good football player," he said. "There's always a chance, so I hope so."

More recently, on Oct. 31, a reporter asked Whisenhunt whether the team remained "in the same place" regarding Heap.

"Yes," Whisenhunt responded, without elaboration.