At Sunday afternoon's practice, the Arizona Cardinals finally had their X-factor back on the field. At Monday's practice, the team will welcome back another key player, but one who has quite a bit to prove.
Safety Tyrann Mathieu returned to the practice field Sunday as he continues his rehabilitation from a torn ACL suffered in December, and on Monday, Mathieu will be joined by first round draft choice Robert Nkemdiche who is returning from an ankle sprain suffered during rookie workouts over the summer.
Nkemdiche was the 29th overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft out of Ole Miss, and Cardinals' head coach Bruce Arians said Monday morning Nkemdiche will participate in individual drills during the team's afternoon practice session.
Arians is excited to have Nkemdiche back on the field, and because Nkemdiche plays defensive end, Arians doesn't believe it will take Nkemdiche a long time to get acclimated.
"It doesn't take much time, he's been to all of the meetings, he should know what gap to get in," Arians said.
Aside from having Mathieu and Nkemdiche back, the Cardinals will also see cornerback Justin Bethel take the field for the second day in a row. Bethel was activated off the team's physically unable to perform list on Wednesday, and Arians was impressed with the way Bethel looked during his first practice on Sunday.
"I think with him (Bethel) coming back this soon, as good as he looked yesterday, that'll be a nice battle going on the rest of the way," Arians said.
Williams has looked relatively green in preseason action thus far, and because Bethel has three weeks to improve his odds of winning the job prior to the season opener, the competition should become one of the most heated camp battles the rest of the way.
Arians said Bethel struggled at times last season as the long-time special teams player made the first five starts of his career at corner. Arians said Bethel took plays made against him personally, which can begin to impact a player's performance if he allows disappointment to linger too long.
"The bravado that goes with a corner, going out and jumping in somebody's face and covering them," Arians said. "And getting beat and shaking it off. He (Bethel) struggled last year, thinking he let the team down if somebody caught a pass on him, it bothered him. They're going to catch passes on him."
Arians was satisfied with both Mathieu and Bethel's performances in their first practice action on Sunday, and thought the overall performance of the team set the tone for a strong week ahead.
On Monday, Arians indicated the Cardinals are becoming healthier, and said outside linebacker Shaquille Riddick, left guard Mike Iupati, defensive lineman Ed Stinson, cornerback Asa Jackson and reserve linemen Earl Watford and Antoine McClain should all be back from their respective injuries and practicing with the team by Wednesday.
"I thought we started the week off extremely well yesterday, one of the best practices we've had the entire camp," Arians said. "We'll see if we can put two together, take a day off and then get into a game plan week. A normal week, non-camp week but more of a game plan week. But I like where we're at."null