FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. — While the attention goes to the fight for starting quarterback for the Arizona Cardinals, rookie Ryan Lindley toils away trying to win the No. 3 spot at the position.
The sixth-round draft pick from San Diego State has exceeded expectations, according to coach Ken Whisenhunt.
"I think Ryan's done a very good job for a rookie in what we've asked him to do," Whisenhunt said. "He's missed some things. He hasn't got a lot of reps. So I'd say based on the fact that he hasn't gotten a lot of reps, he's probably ahead of where you'd expect a young guy to be. But by no means does that mean he's ready to play at this level. He still needs some work."
Lindley, at 6-foot-3 and 232 pounds with a strong arm, certainly looks the part. And he said he has grown more and more confident that he belongs in the NFL.
He said he felt "really good" in rookie camp.
"But getting these two (preseason) games under my belt, I think there were a lot of things I could have improved on, but there's a lot of points where I think I gained some confidence. I think the two-minute drill was a big thing that kind of boosted me a little bit. You've just got to take those things and not sit on them, just let them encourage you and keep going."
Lindley is under no illusion that he is ready to step in tomorrow and be the quarterback the Cardinals have sorely needed since Kurt Warner retired. But he said he's willing to learn. He praises Kevin Kolb and John Skelton, the players fighting for the starting job, for all the help they've given. Lindley said that even Rich Bartel, whose job he is trying to take, has been kind and helpful.
"Really, coming in you kind of assume the guy is going to see you as a threat and maybe not be the most cordial," Lindley said before practice Tuesday, "but Rich has helped me out just as much if not more than Kevin and John have."
Lindley has seen the most playing time in the two preseason games, completing 16 of 32 passes for 166 yards with one interception and no touchdowns. He may not get much, if any, time on the field Friday when Arizona is home against Oakland, because Whisenhunt has said he expects his starters to see considerable playing time in the wake of their poor performances the first two games. (Arizona and Oakland are tied for No. 23 in the AP Pro32.)
While Kolb and Skelton have sputtered to take hold of the offense, fans of course have flocked to Lindley's support, regardless of the fact that he's yet to take a regular-season NFL snap, or even take snaps with the first unit in a preseason game.
"But I've got to give the young man credit," Whisenhunt said, "he's done a nice job of what we've asked him to do."
At San Diego State, Lindley was a four-year starter who played in three different offensive systems. Going into the draft, accuracy was considered his weakness, but when he was still available, the Cardinals decided to pick him and try to develop him for the future.
As a person, Lindley describes himself as "pretty low-key."
"I just love the teamwork aspect of football. I enjoy hanging out with my teammates, being a leader and obviously playing the game."
Friendly or not, he knows that the competition is with Bartel for the third-string job. He also has an up-close look at the Kolb-Skelton fight, another battle between a pair of low-key guys. The whole quarterback quartet, for that matter, is maybe a little too nice.
"Both Kevin and John have been extremely professional about it," Lindley said. "I've grown up and my dad's old school, you're competing against somebody that's not usually your buddy, where they've kind of shown me how they're still great friends but at the same time they're competing for a starting spot in the NFL, which is something new for me to see."
But when all is said and done, Lindley said, "I just want to get better every day and I want to make this 53-man roster and do what I can to contribute to the team right now."
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