TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) The Arizona Cardinals have lost two defensive starters – outside linebacker Alex Okafor and defensive tackle Cory Redding – for the playoffs.
Redding’s loss was not a surprise, Okafor’s was.
On Tuesday, the team placed Okafor on the non-football injury list with an injured toe.
Coach Bruce Arians, clearly unhappy about the development, said Okafor was hurt over the weekend.
Asked what had happened, Arians said, ”You’ve got to talk to Alex.”
Was it an accident or was Okafor doing something he shouldn’t have been doing?
”Talk to him,” Arians said.
That was not possible. Okafor was not in the locker room when reporters were allowed in after Tuesday’s practice.
Redding was placed on season-ending injured reserve with an ankle injury. He had missed four games with the ankle injury and aggravated it in the regular-season finale against Seattle.
”He’s going to be at least a month and we decided we needed fresh bodies,” Arians said.
The Cardinals signed outside linebacker Jason Babin and promoted outside linebacker Gabe Martin from the practice squad.
Okafor, in his third NFL season after being drafted by Arizona in the fourth round out of Texas in 2013, led the team last season in sacks (eight), quarterback pressures (20) and quarterback hits (19). But he had only two sacks this season, both in the season-opening victory over New Orleans.
Okafor had 13 starts this season, missing three games with a calf injury.
”It’s real tough,” inside linebacker Sean Witherspoon said of losing a player when the team had the weekend off. ”You didn’t plan for that at all. It puts our GM and our coach in a bind.”
Weatherspoon said he didn’t know what happened to Okafor, either.
”I haven’t seen him. I haven’t talked to him,” Weatherspoon said. ”The head coach said, `Don’t be that guy.’ Somebody was that guy. I’m just praying for Oke. I know he’s a good kid. Don’t get it twisted. Things happen. He’s one of the guys that I’ve known for about a year now. He had some bad luck, but ultimately you’ve got to take care of your business and make sure you’re there for your teammates. Being accountable, that’s what it all comes down to.”
The injury means a bigger role for Karim Martin, who was behind Okafor on the depth chart. Rookie Markus Golden starts at the other outside linebacker position, with Dwight Freeney coming on in passing situations.
Babin, a 12-year NFL veteran, played in two games for Baltimore this season.
”We’ve looked at him for a while now,” Arians said. ”He was the next guy on our list in case we needed one and glad to have him with us.”
Babin said he got a call from the Cardinals on Sunday.
”I had a little workout, then got here early (Tuesday) and started studying,” he said.
Babin said he loves the style of Arizona’s defense, ”how they get after the quarterback and how fast they play. That’s the way I like to play, so I think it will be an easy transition.”
Asked how confident he was that he could help right away, Babin said, ”at the end of the day it’s about whipping the man across from you. If they didn’t think I could whip the man across from me I don’t think they would have signed me to a contract.”
Martin signed with Arizona in May as an undrafted rookie free agent out of Bowling Green. The Cardinals released him at the end of the preseason and re-signed him to the practice squad, where he’s been all season.
In another move, the Cardinals signed linebacker Quayshawn Nealy to the practice squad.
The team practiced last Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday in Arizona’s bye week, then the players had four days off before resuming workouts on Tuesday.
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