NATIONAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE
Satele seeking niche with Cardinals
FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. » Don't ask Hercules Satele if he's overwhelmed.
Trying his hand at left guard and center this week
The engaging rookie from Hawaii is coping with the difficult transition from college football to the professional game.
So far, so good.
Satele, who reported from the Arizona Cardinals training camp at Northern Arizona University, is one game into the preseason and a few weeks of structured camp. He's hanging around and could have a reasonable chance to make the team.
That's because starting center Al Johnson is down with a knee injury and the Cardinals hope to get the six-year veteran back for opening day Sept. 7 at San Francisco. That's elevated backup Lyle Sendlein as the first-team center and created an opportunity for Satele, 23.
"They have me centering with the second and third team, and I'm hanging in here," Satele said recently at camp. "The transition for me is tough. So much to learn and it's like moving to college from high school."
With Johnson's unavailability, and Satele untested, the Cards went out and claimed center Pat Ross on waivers from Carolina. That doesn't bother Satele, who understands he is right in the middle of a rather prodigious learning curve.
"The challenge right now is getting down the run blocking," he said. "(At Hawaii), I only blocked on pulling plays. We threw most of the time, so pass blocking is not as challenging for me right now as learning the run schemes."
In practices earlier this week, Satele was positioned at left guard as well as center, and is penciled in with third and fourth teams. For now, that's not a concern because the 6-2, 308-pound native of Long Beach, Calif., is clearly occupied with technique, education and adjustment.
After postseason honors of first-team All-Western Athletic Conference and an honorable mention to Sports Illustrated's All-America team, Satele wanted to know if he had a future in the NFL. He went undrafted, and by early May he instructed agent Leo Goes to find a suitable fit. Together they settled on Arizona, and the reason was clear.
"We know of coach (Ken Whisenhunt's) work with the Steelers and the reputation of (offensive line coach) Russ Grimm," Satele said. "With that combination, we knew Arizona would be a good fit, and I'm excited to be here."
It's clear that Satele comes from a pass-oriented program, which former coach June Jones constructed for the Warriors. At Hawaii, he was part of a 2007 offense which ranked first in the nation in scoring (46.2), second in passing (450.2) and third in total offense (529.2) during the regular season.
Last year, Satele simply followed the shadow of Colt Brennan. With Arizona, Matt Leinart, Edgerrin James, Larry Fitzgerald and Anquian Boldin all loom large. And there's the various formations to master.
"I'll do it, I'll get it done," Satele promised. "At the beginning now, everything is hard and everything is a challenge."
Above all, Satele knows the learning curve will soon disappear. The transition period quickly evaporates, and the hard decisions of who stays and who goes will be made.
"To make this team, I can't make any mental errors," he said. "Coaches will point something out to you and better not (need to) repeat that. You cannot make the same mistake twice."