Their lockers are right next to each other at the Cardinals’ Tempe training facility, but right now, the chasm couldn’t be any wider between defensive ends Bertrand Berry and Calvin Pace.
Berry, whose 12 sacks lead the NFC, is waiting to see if Monday’s league-wide Pro Bowl voting will earn him that prestigious honor. His signing as a free agent may have been the best such move the franchise has ever made.
The man Berry replaced in the starting lineup, Pace, was inactive against the St. Louis Rams Sunday, less than two seasons removed from being a first-round pick in the draft.
“I just come in and clock in like everybody else — I guess it ain’t enough,” Pace said quietly, clearly down about the situation. “You’ll have to ask Coach Green what is going on. I figure you have a lot of time and money invested in somebody, I figure you’d give them a chance, but we’ll see.”
One of Green’s most memorable comments of the offseason was just after the team signed Berry, when the coach said of Pace, “We should not have to go out and find an unrestricted free agent when we drafted a guy in the first round last year.”
Monday, Green said one of the reasons Pace sat was because the Cardinals changed up their game plan. The Cards went with multiple formations, used Kyle Vanden Bosch more often and defensive tackle Darnell Dockett at end some, all in a successful effort to confuse St. Louis.
“I don’t think the Rams had any damn idea what we were doing to them,” Dockett said. But Green also said he wanted to use rookie Antonio Smith at defensive end, because Smith would be more physical than Pace. Green said Pace’s progress hasn’t shown up when it comes to pressuring the quarterback, and the statistics back that up. While Pace is second on the team with 4 1/2 sacks, he has just half a sack in the past eight games before sitting against the Rams.
“(Pace) has been playing 15, 20 plays, maybe, a game (and) I think he does what we ask him to do,” Green said of Pace. “I wish he was bigger. . . . You have to have a certain body type if you’re going to go up against those tackles. Clearly, Calvin has got to get stronger.”
Pace, 6-foot-4 and listed at 262 pounds, said it was a goal to get bigger.
“I don’t have a problem with that,” Pace said, who then noted the Cards were 14 games into a rigorous season. “Right now, that’s not going to happen.”
Green used the question about Pace to segue into a plea for Berry to get a trip to Hawaii. The Pro Bowl teams will be announced Wednesday.
“The one guy who clearly, hopefully, gets to the Pro Bowl because he’s a leader, on the field, sacks and so forth, would be Bertrand Berry,” Green said. “Hopefully that will happen.”
Berry is tied for the lead in the NFC with former Cardinal and current Tampa Bay Buccaneer Simeon Rice. Rice picked a good time to have his best game of the season Sunday when he sacked Saints quarterback Aaron Brooks 3 times. Three defensive ends are chosen for the game, and both Carolina’s Julius Peppers and Atlanta’s Patrick Kearney (10 sacks each) are having big years for better teams.
“I’m not going to kill myself about it,” Berry said. “I put my best foot forward, I deserve to be there, so if I’m there, great. If not, it’s a crime.”
Dockett said he is hoping his teammate gets the honor he should.
“It’s going to be tough,” Dockett said. “At the end of the season, everyone knows he’s one of the best, whether he goes or not.”
EXTRA POINTS: Realistically, Berry is the lone Cardinal with a Pro Bowl chance. Tackle Leonard Davis has been good, but he has two perennial Pro Bowlers in his division — the Seattle Seahawks’ Walter Jones and the St. Louis Rams’ Orlando Pace.
Punter Scott Player and kicker Neil Rackers might also gain some attention. Player has had back-to-back games of 50-yard averages, although his 43.5 average and 36.5 net ranks behind Carolina’s Todd Sauerbrun and New Orleans’ Mitch Berger. Rackers leads the NFL with 19 touchbacks and has booted five 50-yard field goals, but Philadelphia’s David Akers is having a huge year and likely will get the nod. . . .
The Cardinals seem to be in decent injury shape after Sunday’s win. Linebacker Raynoch Thompson (shoulder) was the only player Green expressed concern about Monday. Thompson might be out again this week.