Fred Wakefield laughed. So did his father. And his agent. He was changing positions — again. The one-time undrafted free agent who just moved from defensive lineman to offensive lineman the previous season had now gone from offensive lineman to tight end, thanks to coach Dennis Green.
He told those close to him and “they thought it was hysterical,” Wakefield said.
Not that Wakefield is complaining. Sure, he is wearing his fourth uniform number in six seasons, now that 87 is on his chest (following 97, 79 and 78). But at least he still has a job.
“Every year I am one of those guys that is on the cusp,” Wakefield said. “I have another year.
“Whatever it takes.”
Having the 6-foot-7, 319-pound Wakefield at tight end gave his teammates a chance to have some fun. Running back Edgerrin James hollered out “Reggie Wayne” when Wakefield hauled in a warm-up pass at practice Sunday, a nod to Wakefield’s new number.
Veteran tackle Leonard Davis joked that Wakefield was “out of the group,” banishing Wakefield out of the tightly bonded offensive linemen. It should be noted, though, that Wakefield’s locker remains next to the offensive linemen and not across the locker room where fellow tight ends Leonard Pope and Adam Bergen reside.
Meanwhile, rookie guard Deuce Lutui feigned irritation with Wakefield’s move after Lutui accidently caught a John Navarre pass late during the preseason finale against Denver.
“Yeah man, I wanted a tight end number,” Lutui joked. “I came in saw Fred Wakefield No. 87 and I started throwing my bags. That’s how the cards are dealt. What can you do?”
With the move, the only position Wakefield will not have played on either side of the line of scrimmage is center. He played both tackle and end when he was on defense, and got time as guard and tackle last season on offense.
That’s the versatility Green counted on in sliding Wakefield over. The recently cut Eric Edwards was the blocking tight end, but Edwards had trouble being consistent in that role.
Green will still mostly use Pope and Bergen at tight end, “but sometimes it is a blaster,” Green said. “It is a great, big guy that can come in with Bergen and play with Pope and that can come off and create some seams.”
As for catching a pass, that opportunity for Wakefield seems slim.
“I’m afraid Kurt (Warner) will see me and be like, ‘Uuuuhhh . . .’ ” Wakefield said. “We will see what happens.”
Wakefield could still get some work at backup tackle, although the pressure to do so was lessened Monday when the Cards signed 6-foot-5, 325-pound veteran Chris Liwienski to a oneyear contract.
Liwienski’s agent, Vern Sharbaugh, declined to say what kind of role the Cardinals have planned for Liwienski. Liwienski, who started 73 games the past five seasons in Minnesota before being cut Saturday, can play both guard and tackle and has a history with offensive line coach Steve Loney, who coached Liwienski the past four seasons.
With Oliver Ross still out after knee surgery, starting left guard Reggie Wells is the latest to get a test drive at right tackle. Lutui was working in Wells’ spot.
It really isn’t that surprising to recall that the first man to replace Ross in the lineup when Ross got hurt in camp was Wakefield. But now it’s on to another chapter in a career longer than he ever expected it to be.
“I have my first two numbers (78 and 97) framed and up in my loft,” Wakefield said. “I’m not taking them down though. That’d be a pain in my (butt).”
EXTRA POINTS: To make room for Liwienski, the Cardinals used an injury settlement to release safety Ernest Shazor, who had been out with a bad toe. . . .
The Cards also filled the final spot on the practice squad with quarterback Shane Boyd, recently cut by Pittsburgh. . . .
The Cardinals were off Monday. The players are not practicing today. They resume workouts Wednesday morning, with the regular season opener Sunday at Cardinals Stadium against San Francisco.