Cards prove 'next man up' motto works

TEMPE, Ariz. – Coaches rattle it off all time.

Players hear it more than they care for, letting it go in one ear and out the other.

But when the Arizona Cardinals watched Kerry Taylor go from the practice squad to receiving a game ball in less than 48 hours, it didn’t sound so crazy anymore.

“It gives them great confidence that it’s not B.S. when you say, ‘The next man up,’” Arizona coach Bruce Arians said. “It’s real. It’s going to happen again. Somebody else is going to get hurt. We’re not going to play the same 22 guys, and it’s going to happen during a ballgame and that guy has to be ready.

“Kerry was ready, and that just throws gasoline to the fire that I feel all the time about when your opportunity comes.”

The Cardinals announced Taylor was promoted to the 53-man roster last Saturday, a day before Arizona hosted Detroit in its home opener, because wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald was hampered by a left-hamstring injury. Taylor began preparing for the possibility throughout the week, but he said it appeared more likely last Friday that he could be active.

His first career reception came late in the third quarter, on a historic play. The 17-yard completion was Patrick Peterson's first career pass, and the ball from that throw is now sitting in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

That’s why Arians starts organized team activities with a story about Wally Pipp.

Pipp was a New York Yankees’ stalwart at first base in the late 1910s and early 1920s, until one day in early June 1925. He arrived at Yankee Stadium with a headache, according to a 1987 story in Sports Illustrated, and manager Miller Huggins suggested Pipp take a day off and let a little-known first baseman named Lou Gehrig get a chance.

Well, that was all Gehrig needed. He played in the next 2,130 games. Pipp retired a few years later.

“You never know when that time’s going to be or when your number’s going to be called, so you've just got to be ready at all times,” wide receiver Michael Floyd said. “And when you do get in there, when the ball comes your way, if you've got to make a big block here or there for a running back, you've got to do it for the team.”

Arizona quarterback Carson Palmer said he tried not to focus on who was on the field at the end of the Detroit game. He just knew whoever was on the receiving end of his passes, whether it be Andre Roberts, Jaron Brown, Floyd or Taylor, he had to make the play.

And Taylor did, finishing with 40 yards on three receptions, taking over Fitzgerald’s role.

“As a competitor you want to be out on the field, but it’s great to see guys to be rewarded for their hard work and dedication to the team,” Fitzgerald said. “I feel great for (Taylor). It was good for his confidence, good for other guys who may be in his same predicament, knowing if his number’s called, you can go in there and play at a high level. It’s only good for our team.”

As Arizona offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin put it so succinctly this week: It’s the NFL, and if a player can’t step up like Taylor, he shouldn’t be playing.

To have options when a star goes down is crucial to a franchise's long-term success, right tackle Eric Winston said.

“I think any time in this game, if you’re tied to one guy, you’re setting yourself up for failure,” he said. “You look at a guy like Kerry, see the job he’s done coming in, he’s keeping his head up on practice squad. When his time was called, he was ready for it. It speaks to what he’s all about. If he doesn’t step up, then it looks like we’re in desperate need of (Fitzgerald).

“I think it speaks to the whole team aspect going on in the locker room. I think it speaks to the job the coaching staff’s doing. You look at everybody picking up their game in place of a guy like that.”