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Ryan Lindley ready to inherit NFL's best team if Stanton is out

ST. LOUIS -- All it took was one hit for backup quarterback Ryan Lindley to be thrust into the middle of a playoff chase.

And he’s not intimidated by the attention about to come his way, especially since Lindley and the Arizona Cardinals are playing the Seattle Seahawks on "Sunday Night Football" Dec. 21, not to mention the responsibility of being a playoff quarterback.

“It’s exciting,” Lindley said. “It is, to be honest with you.”

This is the third time this season that Lindley will prepare for the Seahawks -- once when he was with the Chargers and once with the Cardinals a few weeks ago. Any extra knowledge will help the third-year quarterback, who’s Arizona’s starter until Drew Stanton returns from a knee injury suffered in the third quarter of Arizona’s 12-6 win over the Rams on Thursday.

Before Stanton was carted away to the bowels of the Edward Jones Dome, Lindley walked over and shook his hand.

“He just said, 'Win it,'" Lindley said. “I didn’t know how bad it was. I thought it was his shoulder or something.

“So he just said win the game, and he went in and I saw him and his parents afterwards, and we’ll see as we go what’s going on with him.”

Lindley won but almost broke one of his two rules for backup quarterbacks: (1) win, and (2) don’t turn the ball over -- but an interception was overturned after a review.

If Lindley didn't know coach Bruce Arians' system, he’d likely still be on the San Diego Chargers’ practice squad. But in the days after Cards starter Carson Palmer went down after tearing his ACL against the St. Louis Rams in Week 10, Arians was looking for another quarterback. But the coach needed someone who knew the intricacies of his complex scheme.

There are only a few people in all of football -- active or retired -- who know it, and Lindley is one of them.

One month to the day since he was signed away from San Diego, Lindley was given the keys to the best team in football.

The decision to play Lindley instead of rookie Logan Thomas began to take form in the last couple of weeks as Lindley continued to relearn the system he lived and breathed for more than a year.

The Cardinals selected Lindley in the sixth round of the 2012 draft, but released him in August in the second-to-last cuts. When Lindley was re-signed in November, Arians declared Thomas the backup, which Lindley said was justified because Thomas had been there for the 2½ months Lindley was in San Diego. Lindley said quarterbacks coach Freddie Kitchens recently began talking more about Lindley being the No. 2 despite Thomas being listed as the backup on the depth chart. So as soon as Stanton went out with a right knee injury in the third quarter Thursday, Arians turned to Lindley, mainly because of his experience.

“It was not a time to put Logan out there,” Arians said. “He’s going to be a good player someday but he’s not ready for this yet, and Ryan was more than ready, and really liked his poise and confidence.”

Lindley last threw a regular-season pass in Week 16 of 2012, which capped a tumultuous rookie year on the field for Arizona. He hasn’t had many reps with the first-team offense since rejoining the team. In 2012, he started four games and didn’t throw a touchdown (but threw seven interceptions). He also averaged 4.4 yards per attempt. On Thursday, he was 4-for-10 for 30 yards.

Looking back, that year helped Lindley become the quarterback Arizona turned to after Stanton went down in St. Louis.

“I took a lot of bumps, a lot of lumps in 2012,” he said.

But it all prepared him for this.

While the players will enjoy "Victory Friday," Lindley will be at the Cards’ practice facility, getting to work on Seattle, not wasting a moment.

“You got to get back into it,” he said. “It’s not as much as studying the playbook. I’ve been in B.A.’s system for going on two years now. It’s not as much that. It’s just going to be getting out there and getting reps.

“It’ll just help once we get that going. Get some reps out on the field, get with those guys, get my own rhythm. We’re all unique as quarterbacks. It’s like a fingerprint. We all do something a little different, so just get going with that and how it flows from there -- and just got to win some ballgames.”