A.Q. Shipley having fun again with Cardinals after a trying 2014 season

TEMPE, Ariz. -- A.Q. Shipley spent most of last season waiting for every day to end.

From the moment he was demoted as the Indianapolis Colts' starting center after Week 4 in favor of a rookie, football slowly went from being his passion to his job. He began to count the minutes until he could go home. He had to carefully choose his words during interviews. He was conscious about not being a distraction.

But, he wasn't himself.

And for a guy who once dressed up as Santa Claus for a bowl game Christmas party at Penn State, it wasn't easy to take.

"Last year was trying for me," Shipley said outside the Arizona Cardinals' practice facility. "I mean, it really was."

Shipley was claimed by Indianapolis on Aug. 31, a day after he was released by the Baltimore Ravens, because of injuries to the Colts' top two centers. He was forced into the starting lineup in Week 1, without having looked at the playbook. After finishing the first four weeks of the season as the third-ranked center in the NFL, according to Pro Football Focus -- including the best center in Week 3 -- Shipley was demoted in favor of rookie Jonotthan Harrison, an undrafted free agent who had played eight NFL downs, all at guard.

Shipley played sparingly the rest of the season, getting one more start in Week 17 at left guard but that lasted just 33 snaps because he injured his ankle.

Shipley was told by Colts management that he had played well, but said neither coach Chuck Pagano or general manager Ryan Grigson gave him "a specific reason" why he wasn't starting at center.

"It was hard to keep my mouth shut," Shipley said. "That's the biggest thing. I knew at the end of the day I didn't want to be a cancer. I did not want to be a cancer to the team. We had a great team. We had a great season going, so I didn't want to be that.

"I just kinda had to go to work. I got a pretty fun personality. I couldn't. I just ... I was there. I went to work. I did what I had to do. I did my football stuff. I did my stuff and I went home. But I couldn't be 100 percent me because it was so hard."

Getting cut wasn't the only threat preventing Shipley from publicly airing his dirty laundry. He didn't want to cost himself a job after his tenure in Indianapolis ended.

But there was one person in the NFL who knew Shipley's value.

Cardinals coach Bruce Arians was the Pittsburgh Steelers offensive coordinator in 2009 when they drafted Shipley out of Penn State in the seventh round. Arians was also Indianapolis offensive coordinator in 2012 when the Colts signed Shipley, who didn't play the 2011 season. And Arians was the Colts interim head coach when Shipley was elevated from the practice squad to the 53-man roster on Oct. 1, 2012, the day Arians was announced as Pagano's replacement while he underwent treatment for leukemia.

"He's as solid as you get every day," Arians said. "He comes to work and you know what you're going to get out of him every single day."

In March, Arians called Shipley five minutes into free agency and expressed the Cardinals' interest. Shipley was signed to a two-year contract on March 11. The Cardinals released veteran center Lyle Sendlein a day later, making room for a battle at center between Shipley and Ted Larsen. For the first time in his career -- after being waived five times, traded once and not being tendered by the Colts in March -- Shipley was signed as a free agent to compete for a starting job.

And with last season stoking his inner fire, Shipley came to Arizona with one plan: To be the starter.

He had the benefit of knowing Arians' offense and the experience of playing under offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin.

"I knew I could walk in and be able to make the all the calls from Day 1," Shipley said.

"I know the calls. I do all the little things. I run a smooth operation. I make the call from the get-go. I'm loud. I'm clear with my points. I get everybody on the same page. I pride myself on being a good technician and doing all the little things right."

It's worked so far. Shipley practiced with the first-team offense during the Cardinals' open organized team activities the past two weeks and will stay there heading into minicamp Tuesday through Thursday. The job, however, likely won't be settled until both Shipley and Larsen put on pads during training camp.

But the Cards haven't just allowed Shipley to compete. They've helped him regain his vivacious personality. As Shipley was in the middle of an interview, guard Mike Iupati -- typically quiet and reserved -- drove by on the back of a golf cart and started razzing his new teammate.

That was all that was needed to see Shipley was back to his old self.

"One hundred percent," Shipley said. "I feel good. It's fun coming to work every day again.

"It's great to be able to have the opportunity to go out and lead the team, and I'm looking forward to hopefully being able to hold on to that."