NFL

Cardinals' Arians says Cooper could return this year

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The Canadian Press
8/26/2013 6:07:20 PM
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TEMPE, Ariz. -- Jonathan Cooper's rookie season might not be over after all.

Arizona coach Bruce Arians said Monday that the Cardinals' first-round draft pick could be back for the final six games of the season after undergoing surgery on his broken left leg.

The seventh overall pick in the draft was injured in Saturday night's 24-7 preseason loss to the San Diego Chargers.

Arians said Daryn Colledge will move back to Cooper's left guard spot, with Paul Fanaika taking the right guard position. Colledge played on the left side his entire seven-year NFL career but was moved to right guard after Arizona drafted Cooper. Chilo Rachal also is in the mix at right guard.

Six other Arizona players were hurt in the game, the most significant being tight end Rob Housler with a high left ankle sprain. Running back Rashard Mendenhall has a sprained right knee but is expected to be ready for the season opener Sept. 8 at St. Louis. Neither Housler nor Mendenhall will play in Thursday night's preseason finale at Denver, Arians said.

Cooper underwent surgery Sunday.

Arians said the prognosis is for Cooper to be sidelined 10 to 12 weeks. At 12 weeks, he could return for the Nov. 24 home game against Indianapolis. At the very least, Cooper would get some experience.

"We don't want him to be a rookie next year," Arians said. "That was the big thing for losing him the whole season is he's a rookie again next year. Hopefully now that won't be the case."

Still, it's a significant loss for the Cardinals, who saw Cooper as an anchor on a re-tooled offensive line that will be so important in protecting quarterback Carson Palmer, as well as resuscitating the dormant Arizona running game.

Cooper, Arians said, was giving the Cardinals "all the value you put in that pick."

"The athleticism, the strength, the toughness," Arians said. "He's got a bright future."

Colledge doesn't have Cooper's exceptional athleticism "but he's more than adequate," the coach said.

Colledge said it shouldn't be a problem moving back to the left side, where he's accustomed to playing.

"It should be an easy transition for me," he said. "I expect to fit right back in there and get it done. But I'm going to keep working on the right side in case the situation goes the other direction, too. I need to be prepared to play either side of the ball."

Fanaika has been one of the bigger surprises for the Cardinals. The former Arizona State lineman played in three games for Seattle in 2011 but was out of football last season. He was moved from tackle back to the guard position he played in college and impressed the Cardinals coaches when he filled in while Colledge was out with a hairline leg fracture for two weeks in training camp.

"Paul's played extremely well at camp, had a bunch of snaps," Arians said. "We're confident he's a solid player."

Fanaika said he wasn't sure he'd get another chance in the NFL.

"But I kept my faith and believed in myself and knew that I still had a lot of good football left in me," he said.

High ankle sprains can keep a player out several weeks, and Housler was unsure what that meant for his chances of being ready for the season opener.

"I think I'll have a better grasp for it when the swelling goes down," he said. "Right now I'm just waiting to see how it all pans out the next few days."

Nose tackle Dan Williams aggravated the right ankle he sprained earlier in camp but Arians believed he would be fine. Wide receiver Andre Roberts (quadriceps) and outside linebacker/defensive end Matt Shaughnessy (ankle) are fine, Arians said.

Rookie tight end D.C. Jefferson has a mild knee sprain but hopes to play Thursday.

"It's a big game for a lot of the younger guys," Arians said.

Jonathan Cooper (Photo: Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

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(Photo: Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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