Bradenton, Fla. - The Arizona Cardinals have lost starting outside linebackers Sam Acho and Lorenzo Alexander for the season, and safety Rashad Johnson has lost the tip of a finger for good.
Acho broke a leg and Alexander sustained a season-ending foot injury in Arizona's 31-7 loss at New Orleans on Sunday.
Johnson doesn't know how the tip of his left middle finger was severed during the game, but says it was probably the most painful injury of his career. Still, with the finger — now about the same length as his index finger — shaved off and stitched up, there's a chance he could play Sunday against Tampa Bay.
The Cardinals placed Acho and Alexander on injured reserve Monday and elevated outside linebacker Donte Moch from the practice squad.
Coach Bruce Arians talked about the injuries when he met with reporters at the team's hotel in Bradenton, Fla., where the Cardinals are practicing this week rather than returning from New Orleans and facing another long plane ride.
Acho broke his left fibula, Alexander tore a ligament on his right foot.
"Obviously, they're core people," Arians said. "They are both high energy guys and their energy will be missed as much as their play. As a football team, they will be hard to replace but somebody is going to have an opportunity to step up and do it."
Alexander said that he will have surgery Tuesday and will continue to stay with the team and help mentor the younger players. Matt Shaughnessy and John Abraham are behind Alexander on the depth chart. Alexander, a Pro Bowl special teams player, said he expects the team to also bring in additional help.
"I'm just going help coach up the younger guys and be another set of eyes for them," Alexander said. "I know I was brought in here for more than just playing football. I told the coaches I will be around because I heard when guys get hurt they can disappear.
"Hopefully, I can help speed up their learning curve. Anything I can do to support the guys and be a good teammate. This is just a temporary setback and I know Sam feels the same way."
With the Cardinals sitting at 1-2 and dealing with early-season struggles, the loss of two starters at the same position will be difficult to overcome. However, Arians said other players, such as Alex Okafor, a fourth-round pick in this year's draft, will have to step in.
While less serious, Johnson's injury was more bizarre.
He said he's not sure exactly how it happened.
Johnson said that while he was on punt coverage tackling New Orleans running back Darren Sproles, he believes that his finger was caught in the playing surface. Johnson missed the second half to get surgery and said his middle finger and index finger are now roughly the same size.
"I was more upset I couldn't return to the game than I was about my finger," Johnson said. "It was a 7-7 game at the time and I wanted to be out there with my teammates."
When he peeled off the blood-soaked glove, the tip of his finger stayed inside.
Johnson said the pain was pretty much the worst he's felt since he started playing football.
"I don't know if there is a word I can use to describe the pain," Johnson said. "To have someone chip away at your bone and dig into it to get to the point of where it can be covered up, it's pretty painful the day after."
Despite the pain, Johnson was in good spirits and joked about his ability to still use his thumbs to play video games.
"It's a different kind of injury, it's something I have to adjust to but at the end of the day I've got nine more (fingers)," Johnson added. "It shouldn't change the way I play, you generally catch balls with the index finger. The middle finger probably wouldn't have been used for anything good anyway."