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One More Chance For The Bubble Boys

Posted Aug 28, 2013

Preseason finale in Denver a final round to leave impression for 53

Two on the bubble: Linebacker Zack Nash (59) and defensive lineman Ricky Lumpkin (95) take part in practice earlier in camp.

Ricky Lumpkin already knows he won’t get much sleep Thursday night.

It won’t be the result of leftover adrenaline from the Cardinals’ last preseason game a few hours earlier. His mind will be running through all the possibilities in which he can make the Cards’ 53-man roster. With every thought, his heart rate will increase. Sleep won’t be in the cards.

But he has seen this happen before. The night before final cuts is never an easy one for Lumpkin, who is completing his third training camp.

“I’m really anxious,” he said. “The last two years I didn’t sleep well. I was like up. Last year I sort of knew I was going to be on the practice squad again.

“I didn’t sleep well at all. I woke up, made sure my phone was on, hoping I didn’t get the phone call. (I was) like, ‘Please don’t call me, please don’t call me.’”

Because of the new NFL rules, teams had to cut down from 90 to 75 on Tuesday and then from 75 to 53 by Saturday, giving players on the bubble just one extra game and a couple of practices to prove themselves to coach Bruce Arians and General Manager Steve Keim.

After the first cuts, there isn’t one position that’s oversaturated, leaving the decision to trim the roster a complete job. But Arians has said for a few weeks that making the 53-man roster doesn’t always give the players a reason to celebrate. With Arians’ and Keim’s penchant for working the waiver wire, the last few players on the roster are anything but safe.

“There’ll be two or three guys that I’ll say, ‘Look, You’re here (but) it could be a practice squad spot by Thursday,’” Arians said.

There are a few intriguing positions that could be mulled over.

At wide receiver, the battle for the fourth and fifth positions hasn’t been decided, even with the addition of Mike Thomas. Kerry Taylor, Charles Hawkins and Jaron Brown have been competing for the other position, a race that’s seen all three take the lead at some point.

“Really, it’s not in my hands,” Brown said. “That’s really kind of upper level and my job, like I say, is to just come out here and be the best receiver every day.

“Me and Hawk, we work together to get better and we’re just trying to make the team.”

With seven tight ends on the roster, there will be a reduction of three or four, which means Kory Sperry, Richard Quinn, Alex Gottlieb and D.C. Jefferson will be working for a roster spot.

Other questions abound. Will Arians decide to carry two or three quarterbacks, meaning Ryan Lindley would be on the bubble? How many running backs are kept? Which cornerbacks don’t make the cut? Will it be Jamell Fleming, Bryan McCann or Javier Arenas?

The answers will be figured out this weekend. Teams need to be down to 53 by Saturday and can fill their practice squads by Sunday.

Arians won’t go out advocating for players who didn’t make the roster, but if a fellow coach calls, he’ll give them a recommendation. Some coaches, Arians said, have already started calling.

That could be good news for guys like Lumpkin, straddling the 53-man roster. It’s consuming his thoughts every waking minute except for when he’s playing. Then it’s all blocked out, for a few hours at least.

“It’s the same every year because you’re grown,” Lumpkin said. “You’ve got bills to pay. You want to stay. You want to play. You want to support your family. You don’t want to pack up and move.

“You don’t want to admit it but it’s a stressful thing because you work hard to get here and you bust your butt all camp and the last day it can either be there or it’s gone. There’s no telling what can happen.”


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