Bertrand Berry had seven sacks through eight games this season and was hoping he was going to make a push for a second straight Pro Bowl.
Instead, the Cardinals defensive end is likely to miss the rest of the season, after a magnetic resonance imaging test Monday morning revealed a torn left pectoral muscle.
Berry won’t be placed on injured reserve. Coach Dennis Green said he hopes Berry, who probably won’t need surgery, can rehab, miss six weeks and still play in a game or two. The Cardinals have eight weeks remaining in the season.
“Anybody who can play, you want him to play,” Green said. “He’s the No. 1 leader on our team and a great player for us. But I think his safety and his career are the No. 1 thing. That’s something the doctors will look at.”
Whatever happens, it’s a crippling blow to a Cardinals defensive line that has been absorbing shots all season. Of the six top defensive linemen Green envisioned playing going into training camp, Berry becomes the fourth to suffer a major injury.
The Cards have already lost starting nose tackle Russell Davis (biceps), top reserve defensive tackle Kenny King (wrist) and top reserve defensive end Calvin Pace (arm) to season-ending injuries.
On top of that, defensive tackle Langston Moore — elevated to the starting lineup for the first time Sunday — suffered a left shoulder injury that will require surgery. Moore’s season is definitely over.
“You take it as a test of perseverance — are you going to fold or are you going to keep on fighting?” defensive end Chike Okeafor said. “It’s going to be a good test of character, see how guys respond. I guess that’s the only positive.
“Who’s supposed to feel sorry for us? None of these other teams. They’re trying to win the Super Bowl like we are.”
The Cards will look to sign a free agent to replace Berry, Green said, and the coach will consider using Antonio Smith in Berry’s spot. Green did not mention veteran defensive end Antonio Cochran, who was healthy but inactive for Sunday’s game, as a possibility.
Ross Kolodziej will take Moore’s place in the lineup, and the team will likely promote defensive tackle Tim Bulman from the practice squad.
“You try to make moves that you think would enable you to bring a guy in who can play for you right away and have success,” Green said during his Monday morning press conference. “That can be the guy who was with you before, has a good understanding of your system or some type of tie-in to what he can do specifically.
“With Bertrand Berry, we’re talking about an outside player primarily, a perimeter player, an up-the-field player, a pass-rush type player. There are not that many guys who can fit that specific role.”
Okeafor, who has 3 1/2 sacks this season, will now become the Cards’ main pass-rush threat. Green acknowledged the Cardinals will use Okeafor on both sides of the line with Berry out, much like they did with Berry last season when Peppi Zellner was the other defensive end.
“There can’t be a drop-off,” Okeafor said. “We can’t use (the injuries) as an excuse not to perform well.”