Nate Potter is always on high alert during games.
At the smallest sign that a backup offensive lineman might be needed, his helmet goes on and he hustles to the edge of the field, heart racing and sweat pooling inside his helmet. It could happen three, four, five times a game. But through eight weeks, the Cardinals’ rookie left tackle hasn’t been told to take that next step.
“You look around, you don’t know if you’re going in or not,” Potter said with a smile. “You start to get ready. You definitely get ramped up a little bit.
“You got to be ready. You never know when it could happen.”
Potter and left guard Senio Kelemete are rookie reserves behind an already depleted offensive line that has surrendered 39 sacks. Save for Potter’s lone play this year on a quarterback sneak against St. Louis, neither have seen the field. Potter has been active and Kelemete inactive for all eight games but they’re two more options for offensive line coach Russ Grimm, who has become a master tailor this season by patching voids with his offensive line.
“You get some depth” with the rookies, Grimm said. “I mean I’m glad we got them because we lost a couple guys already so their time is getting near.”
How near, though?
“They may (play) before the season’s out,” Grimm said.
Heading into training camp, Potter and Kelemete were supposed to be insulated from the possibility of playing too quickly as rookies. They were both third on the depth chart, two plays away from seeing the field, until
Mentally, they’re both ready, Grimm said. Potter can play on both sides of the line, and Kelemete can line up as a guard or tackle. Physically, there’s still room to grow, however, but that’s typical for rookies, added Grimm, who played 11 seasons as a guard with the Washington Redskins.
Potter has put on 10 pounds of muscle but the 6-foot-5, 295-pounder from Boise State doesn’t have a weight goal he wants to reach. He just wants to keep adding muscle.
The two rookies have developed a bond over learning the playbook together. They not only play together on the same side of the line, but their lockers are next to each other’s. For Kelemete, the adjustment to learning an NFL playbook was intimidating. But without classes to worry about as he had in college, he quickly learned how to devote himself to being a professional.
They both have. Potter and Kelemete watch and dissect film away from the Cardinals’ facility together.
“It’s a grind being in the meeting room for two hours and just going over plays and plays and going over schemes and different blocking schemes,” Kelemete said. “It’s hard not to watch yourself on film.”
That might change sooner rather than later.
Coach Ken Whisenhunt has used the first half of the season to better evaluate Potter, who didn’t get many reps during the preseason in part because he was nursing an ankle sprain. So far, he likes what he sees.
“Now does that mean he’s ready to play in a regular-season game?” Whisenhunt asked. “At some point you got to look at it and see if he can do that, if his practice is worthy of that. He’s been practicing well, he’s healthier. So that’s something we’re looking at doing at some point.”
As Grimm put it, “it’s just a matter of if the opportunity presents itself.”
Potter and Kelemete are anxiously awaiting its arrival.