ARIZONA CARDINALS UPDATE 

lBLAKE INTENDS TO BATTLE TO REMAIN ON FIELD...

Following up on an item in this week's Team Notes. ... Although head coach Dave McGinnis told reporters on Monday that winning was more important at this point than assessing talent -- especially at quarterback, it appears things have changed somewhat since.

In an article published early Thursday, Arizona Republic staffer Kent Somers advised readers that it's now likely backup quarterbacks Josh McCown and Preston Parsons will play in the team's final four games this year, although no one will say when or how much.

"I think we need to find out where we stand with all three of our quarterbacks," said Rod Graves, vice president for football operations, "and hopefully we'll have that opportunity before the end of the season."

The fact Graves is now doing the talking on this subject rather than McGinnis is probably worth noting.

With a 3-9 record, the Cardinals are headed toward a top-five draft pick and the opportunity to take a quarterback, possibly Mississippi's Eli Manning.

How McCown and Parsons fare in the final month could determine the team's draft strategy.

"Hopefully, we can win, and hopefully they'll trust in what they see whenever I get the opportunity to play," McCown said.

Jeff Blake will start his 13th game for the Cardinals on Sunday in San Francisco, but McCown could play at a significant point in the game. And in the final three weeks, Parsons, the No. 3 quarterback, is expected to play.

That would mean either McCown or Blake would be the third quarterback for that game.

Blake, in his 12th season, was signed in the off-season to serve as a bridge to the future, presumably one that included McCown. But McCown, a third-round pick out of Sam Houston State in 2002, has looked shaky in brief appearances this season.

He has yet to throw a touchdown pass and has made several poor decisions that resulted in four interceptions.

McCown has played just one time with the game in doubt, against Seattle in the second week of this season. Blake left with a bruised heel, and McCown completed 18 of 32 for 150 yards. He was intercepted twice.

Three weeks ago in Cleveland, he threw two poor passes that were intercepted. He was nearly intercepted the following week against St. Louis.

His performance has management and coaches wondering whether he's a viable starter. Some in the organization think Parsons, also in his second year, might be better.

Parsons made the team last year as an undrafted rookie from Northern Arizona but has yet to play in a regular-season game. He was impressive this past preseason.

If McCown and Parsons fail to impress in the final month, the club must consider drafting a quarterback next spring.

Four other teams -- Oakland, Atlanta, San Diego and Jacksonville -- have won three or fewer games this season and could pick ahead of the Cardinals. But of the four, only Oakland has a serious need for a quarterback.

Other teams with a need at quarterback could trade up, however, in an effort to get Manning, regarded at this early stage as the best quarterback available.

Blake has been through all of this before. He was the starter in Cincinnati when the Bengals drafted Akili Smith in the first round in 1999. Blake moved to New Orleans the next year, was injured and lost his job to Aaron Brooks, obtained that year in a trade with Green Bay.

"It's nothing new to me," said Blake, who vowed to fight for the job. "I'm not going to quit. I'm not going to give up. I'm going to keep working hard and stay in the game. ..."

Also of interest. ...

According to the Sports XChange, Marcel Shipp isn't likely to carry 35 times in this one as he did against San Francisco in October. He's too beat up now. He also has a backup of some repute who was injured and unavailable last time -- NFL career rushing leader Emmitt Smith.

Shipp's career-high carries yielded a career-high 135 yards rushing against the 49ers in October.

Also according to the XChange, back in October, Tim Duncan kicked a career-long 53-yard field goal to help get the game into overtime. Then he won it for the Cardinals with a 39-yarder. Three weeks later, he was cut.

Duncan's replacement, Neil Rackers, has yet to miss a field goal (5 for 5) but his longest is from 42 yards -- his very first try. The other four have been chip shots from 32 yards or closer. ...

And finally. ...

Tight end Freddie Jones, who was held out of Wednesday's workout with an injured arm, returned to practice Thursday. He is listed on the official injury report as probable for this weekend's game with the 49ers.


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