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Frustrated Dave Zastudil heads to IR with lingering groin injury

TEMPE, Ariz. -- The frustration still lingered in Dave Zastudil's voice Tuesday, but it was toned down compared to Sunday and Monday.

There wasn’t anything left that he could do. The Arizona Cardinals' 12th-year punter was placed on injured reserve Tuesday morning after reaggravating his left groin during the Cardinals’ 41-20 loss to the Denver Broncos on Sunday. He punted 11 times but after each one, the injury, which has been nagging him since Week 1, continued to get worse.

“It was just one of those things that was close to the attachment by my adductor, so what happened is every time I’d come through and kick that ball at full force, it would just aggravate it,” Zastudil told ESPN. “It just kept reaggravating, reaggravating to the point where I couldn’t do my job at an NFL level effectively until I gave it a little but more time to rest and rehab.”

Zastudil didn’t know how long his groin would take to fully heal but he’ll have the rest of the season to recover. It’s the second time in Zastudil’s career that he’s been placed on injured reserve. He missed the 2010 season while recovering from a torn patellar tendon.

This injury is much different, however. His career isn’t at stake and Zastudil, who was voted one of Arizona’s special-teams captains this season, plans on returning for his 13th season at age 36 in 2015. He’s been one of the league’s best punters over the past few seasons, leading the NFL in punts inside the 20-yard line in each of the past two years. Zastudil will be in the final season of a two-year contract he signed in January. He's scheduled to earn $1.525 million this season.

Sunday was Zastudil’s first action of the season.

He injured his groin on Sept. 6, the Saturday before Arizona’s season opener on “Monday Night Football,” while working on directional punts. During one of his 15 kicks in practice, he aimed the ball right and felt his groin pop. His hamstring was already an issue then, so Zastudil thought the two were related.

An ensuing MRI showed the damage wasn’t as bad as he expected, and Zastudil thought he could let his groin calm down and start kicking again.

“I could just feel it give way and right then and there, I knew I had an issue,” he said.

That same day, Arizona signed punter Drew Butler, who’s been signed and released three times by the Cardinals since early September. He was most recently re-signed to the Cardinals’ practice squad on Sept. 24, the week of Arizona's bye. On Tuesday, Butler was promoted to the active roster.

With injuries piling up even before the Denver game, Zastudil knew the Cardinals couldn’t keep two punters on the roster so he returned last week and was limited in practice. He doesn’t feel like he came back from the injury too soon, but Zastudil wasn’t kicking at 100 percent.

Heading into Sunday’s game, his groin was still bothering him but the adrenaline kicked in and he said it felt good enough to kick. He averaged 44.3 yards per punt, which will rank as the sixth-best season of his career.

“I was hoping to get through and play a solid game and help the team as best I can but I was also hoping, in the back of my mind, that I was just slowly going to get better,” he said.

“What I think happened was the groin kind of was just telling me, 'Hey, I need a little more time to settle and get better before I can swing full go at a football at an NFL level.'"

Butler has remained steady despite coming and going this season. He’s averaging 47.9 yards per punt this season. During the past month, Butler has learned not to stray too far from Arizona.

“It’s just kind of in the job description,” Butler said.

“Week in and week out just get ready to play on Sunday, and really got to stay mentally strong and visualize that you’re going to take care of business.”

Besides a blocked and a deflected punt, he’s done that. His strong leg has impressed Cardinals coach Bruce Arians, who has plans for Zastudil while he rehabs his groin.

“Dave’s probably the best in the world at dropping that thing inside the 10,” Arians said Tuesday night on SiriusXM NFL Radio. “He’s got that ball that he can hit it 45 yards and it bites and spins and I said, ‘Your job right now is to teach Drew how to do that.’”