TEMPE, Ariz. – These aren’t your Arizona Cardinals of old.
They’re not viewed around the NFL anymore through losing-colored glasses. Those lenses have a tint of winning these days.
When three of Arizona’s free-agent signings played against the Cardinals last season, they saw a team and a franchise they wanted to join. Last week, guard Mike Iupati, linebacker Sean Weatherspoon and defensive lineman Corey Peters made it happen.
When they were introduced to the media last week, all three had a consistent message: They liked what they saw on the field.
“We’ve had the opportunity in Atlanta to play against the Cardinals,” Peters said. “A few times we came here and kind of got smacked around a little bit.
“We know. I think players in this league know who the good players, who the good teams are, regardless of what’s said on the outside. The fans here are great. We know. We know what Arizona has to offer.”
Each player had their own moment when they realized these Cardinals aren’t the Cardinals they’d heard about for years.
For Iupati, the evolution of the franchise, especially under head coach Bruce Arians and general manager Steve Keim, was apparent in Week 3 last season when Arizona beat San Francisco 23-14 at University of Phoenix Stadium.
“It was a tough game,” Iupati said. “Arizona won, but it was really tough and that’s when I knew. Then you guys had the long winning streak. It was really fun. I think this team is going to go over the hump.”
The proverbial hump was discussed often on March 11.
What would consider getting “over the hump” isn’t a tangible definition. But a victory – at least one – in the playoffs would get Arizona closer to the peak.
Weatherspoon's former team, the Atlanta Falcons, has faced Arizona four times since he was drafted in 2010, and won three of them. But, watching from afar, he saw a franchise on the upswing the last couple seasons, and that helped him decide to sign with Arizona.
“Because I saw what they were doing,” he said. “They were winning games here. Was it two consecutive winning seasons? We’re trying to keep that thing going. So, looking at it from that standpoint, it helped my decision, but I don’t think it helped me too much moving on preparing for these guys because I’m pretty sure [quarterback] Carson [Palmer] comes out there every day a with the goal to kick the defense’s ass.”
Even though the Falcons beat Arizona 29-18 in Week 13 this year with Weatherspoon and Palmer on the sidelines, Weatherspoon could sense the pieces were in place.
That belief was affirmed when he watched Arizona’s dismal performance in the NFC wild-card round against Carolina, in which Arizona started third-string quarterback Ryan Lindley and lost 27-16.
“I watched that game and I know what’s going,” he said. “I know football.
“I’m sitting there watching the game and I’m like, ‘Yeah, they’re right there.’ So, I felt like what I bring and what Corey brings and what Mike brings from San Fran, I feel like we’re putting the pieces together to do something special.”