Dave Zastudil’s career might have been over, done in by painful right knee tendonitis and the invasive surgery needed to repair in halfway through the 2009 season.
It cost Zastudil all of the 2010 season and only the Cardinals’ call late in training camp of 2011 got him back on a roster. From there, Zastudil has made it work.
Three years with the Cardinals post-rehab have been productive, with the last two the best two of Zastudil’s 11 NFL seasons. It was enough for the Cardinals want to bring back the 35-year-old and keep him from free agency, as Zastudil agreed to a new two-year contract Tuesday.
“Whenever you suffer a knee injury, you always will have some doubt,” Zastudil said. “But it also
Zastudil averaged 45.7 yards a punt and for a second straight season, averaged better than 40 yards (40.1) as a net average. He also had 35 punts downed inside the 20, or 45 percent of his kicks – bettering the 41 percent of punts inside the 20 he had in 2012 when he set an NFL record with 46 such boots.
Zastudil also serves as the Cardinals’ holder on field goals and extra points.
“I know the nature of this business and free agency,” Zastudil said from his home in Ohio. “I always wanted to be back and I made that known. When the Cardinals had a chance to re-sign free agents, I was hoping it’d be me. It’s been a great second home for me and I really wanted to come back and play there.”
The Cardinals will still have to decide what they want to do with the other half of their special-teams free agent duo, with veteran kicker
Zastudil’s deal figures to be the first in a handful of new contracts the Cardinals get done before players hit the open market. General Manager Steve Keim has already said there are multiple players the team wants to bring back that have expiring contracts. The Cards should be able to get some deals done, but for others, players are expected to hit the market and test their worth.
The Cardinals also found out Tuesday they were losing vice president of player personnel Jason Licht, who is accepting the general manager job for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
“It’s almost impossible to bring the same team back,” Zastudil said. “What you think and hope for, the guys that are free agents and have helped this team to be so successful, you hope there is some way for the front office to bring all the guys back and upgrade, but the reality is that won’t happen.
“You hope the core comes back, and the players who come in that are new understand how Coach (Bruce) Arians runs the show and they buy into it quickly. You hope you don’t lose a step and just gain momentum.”
For a full list of the Cardinals on the roster and their contract status, click here.