Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, who has filled a void in the Cardinals' pass coverage this season, has been named the NFL's defensive rookie of the month.
He finished December with two interceptions, 15 tackles, six passes defended and a fumble recovery. His highlight was a team-record 99-yard interception return for a touchdown against the St. Louis Rams on Dec. 7.
The next week, against Minnesota he blocked a field goal that was returned 68 yards by cornerback Rod Hood for a touchdown.
Rodgers-Cromartie finished the regular season against Seattle with an interception and a fumble recovery in the Cards' win.
The rookie cornerback led the Cardinals this season with four interceptions and 23 passes defended while starting in 11 games. His four interceptions tied Tampa Bay's Aqib Talib for the league lead among rookies.
Coach Ken Whisenhunt expected the rookie to contribute, "maybe even start" this season.
But to do this?
"I'm very pleased with his progress," Whisenhunt said. "I don't think you can have expectations of a rookie corner playing at the level he's played."
The Cardinals had about 5,600 tickets remaining Wednesday afternoon when they got a 24-hour extension to avoid a TV blackout for Saturday's game.
Everyone practiced Wednesday except linebacker/defensive end Travis LaBoy, who has a lingering ankle problem.
For the Falcons, defensive ends John Abraham (thigh/shoulder) and Jamaal Anderson (ankle) did not practice. Tackle Todd Weiner (knee) and defensive tackle Grady Jackson (knee) also sat out.
PROTECTING THE QUARTERBACK
Whisenhunt was skeptical of an unofficial stat dug up by a quarterback saying that Warner had been hit more often than any other NFL quarterback.
"If a guy touches him, is that a hit? I don't know how to legitimize that stat."
Whisenhunt pointed out that Warner has started every game in a pass-dominated offense, so he's likely to get hit.
He also noted that the Cardinals have played blitzing teams such as the New York Giants and Philadelphia, and that, "I think we've done a very good job of picking those (blitzes) up and protecting the quarterback.
"At that position, you're going to take some hits. But Kurt has done a very good job, and he's held up physically."
Offensive linemen typically enjoy blocking for the running game, where they can knock opponents off the ball, Whisenhunt pointed out.
But, "Our line will do whatever we ask, and they haven't complained."