GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) — Dennis Gardeck found himself on the field for more than half of the Arizona Cardinals' defensive snaps Thursday night in the preseason opener, not typical for a player listed atop the depth chart at his inside linebacker position.
Then again, Gardeck is accustomed to hard work. It's why the second-year pro, undrafted out of small-college Sioux Falls, found himself in the position of backup to Haason Reddick, who is coming back from a knee procedure and might not be ready until the start of the regular season.
With Reddick out, Gardeck is in with the No. 1 defense. And his six solo tackles led the Cardinals on Thursday, in no small part because Gardeck was on the field with the starting defense and second unit.
"That's why I love this game, because no matter how good you think you are, there's still so much more to do," Gardeck said. "I'm excited because there's still so much room to grow."
No NFL rookie last season saw more snaps on special teams than Gardeck, who logged 388 and made five solo tackles. This season he's playing defense, and has the confidence of his coaches.
"We feel like he continues to improve," Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury said of Gardeck. "We're excited to get Haason back, but Dennis has taken advantage of those reps, and hopefully we keep seeing him do that."
Gardeck called Thursday night "a blast" and "a night to remember.
"I need to gain as much experience and just see those reps first hand," he said. "I love to play the game. I don't want to come out ever, even if it's preseason, Week 1 or Week 17. It doesn't matter. I like playing football."
REMEMBERING COACH DRAKE
The Cardinals also issued a statement on the passing of former wide receivers coach Darryl Drake, who died Sunday morning.
"It is impossible to overstate his impact on the game in nearly four decades as a coach in college and the NFL. Today, the entire football community mourns his loss," the Cardinals said on their official Twitter account.
Drake was with the Cardinals for five seasons from 2013 to 2017 before joining the Pittsburgh Steelers' staff.
Kingsbury opened his Sunday news conference by offering condolences to Drake's family.
"Listening to stories about him and his time here, he was an amazing man, amazing coach. Any time you coach 40 years in this profession, you impact a lot of lives, We just want to send our hearts out to his loved ones, and we're thinking about him," Kingsbury said.
NOTES: The Cardinals signed DE Pasoni Tasini, and activated TE Charles Clay and CB Brandon Williams from the physically-unable-to-perform list. Clay is listed atop the most recent depth chart despite being out since the start of training camp with a knee injury.