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Cardinals stunned by loss of RB Johnson

(TSX / STATS) -- TEMPE, Ariz. -- After barely getting any snaps at all during his team's five-game preseason schedule as a way of protecting him, it took less than three quarters of action in the Arizona Cardinals' regular-season opener for star running back David Johnson to suffer a devastating injury that could derail the Cardinals' chances of returning to the postseason.

An MRI revealed Johnson suffered a dislocated left wrist that likely will require surgery and force him to miss anywhere from eight to 12 weeks. Johnson was seeking a second opinion to make sure surgery is necessary, but any type of fracture likely will make it all but certain.

"It's always a huge blow to lose a top player, but it's not the end of the world," head coach Bruce Arians said. "We've got quality guys on our team and it's an opportunity for somebody to step up. David Johnson became David Johnson because of somebody's injury."

Johnson, who led the NFL last season in total yards from scrimmage (2,118) and touchdowns (20), was injured during the third quarter of Sunday's 35-23 loss at the Detroit Lions. Arians said it happened when Johnson caught a 24-yard pass from quarterback Carson Palmer to give the Cardinals a first-and-goal at the Lions' 3-yard line.

He returned during Arizona's next possession, telling Arians he could play, but wound up fumbling the ball and may have aggravated the wrist by tackling Lions linebacker Jarrad David to save a potential touchdown.

Right tackle Jared Veldheer said losing Johnson for any length of time is "like a sock in the gut."

"It's always tough seeing guys' seasons ended after Week 1," Veldheer said. "All the work that goes into it in the offseason, the preparation and just knowing David personally, I'm sure it's a real hard thing for him. You feel for him.

"Those are some big shoes for somebody to step into. We've got some good running backs in our system, so we need somebody to step up."

Arians didn't say how the Cardinals' offense will change with Johnson now out of the lineup, but it is sure to undergo a major makeover. More weight likely will be placed on Palmer's plate and the passing game. The running attack, meanwhile, could end up being a three-pronged effort between Kerwynn Williams, Andre Ellington and Elijhaa Penny.

"It's hard to replace a guy like DJ," tight end Troy Niklas said. "He's so versatile. He's big in the pass game, huge in the run game. We're going to have to put pieces together and try to make two people one, essentially. But we've got a lot of really good running backs. Hopefully, they can take off right where he left off."

For insurance, the Cardinals on Monday also signed running back D.J. Foster off the New England Patriots' practice squad. Per NFL rules, he must remain on Arizona's 53-man active roster for at least the next three weeks.

--Quarterback Carson Palmer completed only 10 of 24 passes in the first half before finishing Sunday's 35-23 loss in Detroit going 27 of 48 for 269 yards with one touchdown and three interceptions, one of which was returned for a touchdown. According to both Palmer and head coach Bruce Arians, Palmer's footwork was primarily to blame for the inefficiency.

"He was hurrying everything," Arians said. "It was footwork, reading things too fast, and then just accuracy killed him."

Palmer said, "I don't think I got in a rhythm with my feet. But I'm really looking forward to looking at this film because I want to improve from it and move past it."

Palmer blamed himself, not the offense, for Arizona's season-opening loss, saying, "I just didn't do a good enough job. I'm disappointed in myself. I just felt like had I'd made a handful of throws, we'd have been in a different position. I just didn't make those throws."

--Left tackle D.J. Humphries has a sprained MCL in his right knee. The injury, which occurred during the first quarter of Sunday's loss in Detroit, will force Humphries to miss Sunday's game at Indianapolis and quite likely Arizona's Monday night home opener against the Cowboys on Sept. 25.

Head coach Bruce Arians said John Wetzel, who filled in for Humphries during the remainder of Sunday's game, will start at left tackle until Humphries is able to return. The team could move right tackle Jared Veldheer back to his natural spot at left tackle, but Arians said that probably won't happen.

"If it were long term, possibly," Arians said, "but Wetzel plays left better than right so we'll probably stick where we are right now. It does not look to be any kind of long-term injury."

Wetzel made some mistakes on Sunday, including getting beat off the edge to give up the only sack of the afternoon on Palmer.

"I've got faith in him. I'm sure he'll bounce back," Arians said of Wetzel, a second-year pro from Boston College. "In his defense, he played left guard, right guard, right tackle, left tackle in practice so he didn't really get a full week's worth of left tackle. When he has in the past, he's played pretty solid."

--Defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche (sprained calf) was inactive Sunday against the Lions, although he was a game-time decision. Head coach Bruce Arians, though, said he didn't see enough from Nkemdiche during pregame warmups to warrant dressing the second-year pro out of Ole Miss.

Nkemdiche said he expects to play this Sunday when the Cardinals meet the Colts in Indianapolis.

NOTES: QB Carson Palmer, as well as head coach Bruce Arians, dismissed questions following Sunday's loss in Detroit that in somehow having Palmer sit out weekly Wednesday practice that the quarterback is somehow losing valuable practice time that could be affect his performance on game days. "I have a good schedule during the week and a way to compartmentalize different things," Palmer said. "We're not changing what we do. The sky is not falling. It's very early, on the road against a playoff team in their house. You have to look past it. We will get past it. I will get past it. I can't wait to get that taste out of my mouth." ... CB Justin Bethel started Sunday's game at Detroit with an 82-yard interception return of a Matthew Stafford pass for a touchdown, but in the decisive fourth quarter, he allowed two touchdown receptions to rookie Kenny Golladay, which completely swung the game in Detroit's favor. "I think we did a lot of good things in the first three quarters," he said. "At the end there, the last two series, we just couldn't keep them out of the end zone. Me personally, I know what I gave up in those last two series. There were three plays that I know. ... I think we just didn't finish how we should've." ... TE Jermaine Gresham was scheduled to have X-rays taken of his ribs after getting body slammed by a Lions' defender on Sunday. Head coach Bruce Arians on Monday said everything checked out with Gresham and that he expects the veteran to be available in Week 2 at Indianapolis. "He's just got some sore ribs," Arians said. ... LB Philip Wheeler was re-signed to the 53-man active roster on Monday and in a corresponding move, the Cardinals released LB Scooby Wright. Wheeler was released last Friday in a procedural move to avoid having to guarantee his full salary for this season. He originally joined the Cardinals in July after spending the past two seasons with the Falcons. Wright, a standout special teams player, likely will be re-signed to the practice squad if he isn't claimed off waivers by another club.

Updated September 11, 2017

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