Marcel Shipp came to practice Thursday like any other day, until Cardinals running backs coach Kirby Wilson pulled him aside to talk.
Shipp was being demoted by coach Dennis Green. Veteran Emmitt Smith, wh o just last week was acknowledging that his role was to back up Shipp, was now the starter.
"I don’t ask questions, I don’t look for reasons," Shipp said quietly after practice Thursday. "The point is it happened and I am still a part of this team.
"Yeah, it caught me off guard. No one expects to show up for work and lose their job. You have to take the bitter and the sweet. Whatever . . ."
Green ended three weeks of organized team activities Thursday by announcing the starting lineup that will take the field when training camp opens in Flagstaff Aug. 2. There were other mild surprises. Rookie Darnell Dockett has taken a starting defensive tackle spot. And with Dexter Jackson sidelined almost all of the offseason with a bulging disc in his back, Green named Quentin Harris as his free safety.
But it was the decision to promote Smith that attracted the most attention. Green said Smith simply fits better in a Cardinals offense that now will feature three receivers — Anquan Boldin, Larry Fitzgerald and Bryant Johnson — in the starting lineup. Smith, Green said, can find seams in the line to run through that perhaps Shipp might not.
Smith, who just last week told the Tribune he had accepted his backup role, admitted he was as surprised as Shipp when Green informed him of the decision.
"I never really truly expected it because they talked about Marcel being the No. 1 guy," Smith said. "I was fine with that. Yes, I was named to the starting lineup but we have 90-some days to go before the first game and anything is possible. It doesn’t necessarily mean it will be how it is on starting day."
But Green was emphatic when asked if starting jobs would be available again once training camp started.
"No, that’s the starting lineup," Green said. "You’d have to lose your job now. If you’re not doing your job now, that’s not good."
Still, there seems to be room for maneuvering.
Green said he was hopeful Jackson would be ready for camp. Jackson, who had six interceptions last season and rarely missed practice, clearly was not happy with the Harris announcement. But Jackson also said Harris had worked hard and realized all his missed work cost him.
"Real men will figure out when training camp comes, when it’s time to tackle and hit," said Jackson. "What do they say? It’s not where you start but where you finish."
That also could play into the offensive line, where longtime starter L.J. Shelton remains in Green’s doghouse and untested Reggie Wells is at left guard while Leonard Davis continues to learn at Shelton’s former left tackle spot.