Whether he's ready or not, the Arizona Cardinals are preparing to count on first round draft choice Haason Reddick.
The Temple product will have no shortage of opportunities to hone his craft this fall after Arizona head coach Bruce Arians announced starting inside linebacker Deone Bucannon will be out until September after undergoing surgery to address a lingering injury.
Bucannon started the first 13 games of the 2016 season for the Cardinals before suffering an ankle injury in week 14 against Miami that sidelined him for the remainder of the regular season. Bucannon was expected to make a full recovery this offseason, but according to Arians, lingering effects from the ankle injury forced Bucannon to undergo surgery that will keep him out through training camp.
Bucannon's injury is a significant setback for a defense that lost five starters to free agency this offseason, but it opens the door for Reddick to practice with Arizona's first-team unit in Offseason Training Activities (OTAs) and during training camp. Reddick played outside linebacker at the college level, but will begin his NFL career as an inside linebacker with the Cardinals after impressing the team's coaching staff with his natural abilities at the position at the Senior Bowl.
Reddick will work alongside first-team Mike linebacker Karlos Dansby, who signed a one-year contract this offseason to return to the Cardinals for a third tour of duty. Dansby will replace Kevin Minter who left the team in free agency.
Like Reddick, Bucannon was a first round draft pick of the Cardinals who transitioned from a different position to inside linebacker in the NFL. The Cardinals selected Bucannon with the 27th overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft as a safety out of Washington State, but early in his career, Bucannon found a home at the linebacker level and is considered the team's lone, "$LB," or Money backer.
Earlier this offseason, Arizona picked up the fifth-year option on Bucannon's rookie contract, which will keep him with the organization through the 2018 season.
The announcement of Bucannon's surgery came from Arians on the first day of the Cardinals' OTAs, which began Tuesday morning and will run through the beginning of June.