Because of injuries to key players, the Arizona Cardinals were forced to patch together their secondary depth through the first two weeks of fall camp.
That may not be the case much longer, as head coach Bruce Arians said the Cardinals brought cornerback Justin Bethel, safety Tyrann Mathieu and defensive tackle Frostee Rucker off the team's physically unable to perform (PUP) list during his Tuesday media availability. The decision to activate the trio of players means Bethel, Mathieu and Rucker can now practice with the Cardinals for the remainder of training camp.
The preseason PUP list is different from the regular season PUP list, as players on the preseason list can be activated at any time during training camp. However, if a player ends the preseason on the PUP list, that player must sit out the first six weeks of the regular season before the player can be activated.
To this point in camp, league rules have only permitted Bethel, Mathieu and Rucker to participate in team meetings and use the team's medical facilities, but now they can take the field with the Cardinals during practice.
The decision to activate the three players does not mean each player will begin practicing right away, as Arians said the rationale behind the decision was to allow Bethel, Mathieu and Rucker to participate in walk throughs.
"We brought those guys off of PUP not necessarily to practice, but to get them mental reps in walk throughs," Arians said. "We're not going to get them on the field until they're ready and there's no timetable for any of those three guys right now as far as when they'll practice, but they will get the mental reps in the walk throughs."
Arians was non-committal when asked whether Bethel, Mathieu and Rucker were on-target to play in the team's season-opener against New England, instead focusing on the importance of their ability to now get mental reps with the team.
"They look good, Ty (Mathieu) looks real good right now, Justin (Bethel) still favors a little bit but he's fine and Frostee's (Rucker) got to get in a little better shape," Arians said.
Mathieu is expected to assume his role as the team's starting free safety when he returns to full health, but Bethel will have to battle for playing time at cornerback with rookie Brandon Williams, who has surpassed Bethel on the team's depth chart in his absence. Williams struggled in first team reps against Oakland, but made slight improvements in coverage against the Raiders' second team offense.
Arizona was without 13 players on its 90-man roster for the team's preseason opener against the Oakland Raiders, and it's likely many of the players who missed Friday's contest will sit out the Cardinals' second preseason game.
Wide receiver John Brown and first round draft pick Robert Nkemdiche are two players who have yet to make it back on the practice field since suffering their respective injuries, as Brown is sidelined with a concussion and Nkemdiche is out with an ankle sprain.
The Cardinals are in San Diego this week for joint-practice sessions with the Chargers ahead of Friday night's matchup between the teams, and Arians said with injuries lingering for both teams, the organizations decided to cut some reps out of Tuesday evening's practice.
"They're a little bit beat up right now, we're a little bit beat up right now, so we're going to cut some reps out where we would have gotten our threes more work, both of us are a little bit shy on some positions for threes so we'll shorten the practice a bit but looking forward to working with another team," Arians said.