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TEMPE Ariz — Sixty minutes Threethousand six

first_img TEMPE, Ariz. — Sixty minutes. Three-thousand, six hundred seconds.One game.In terms like that, it does not seem like much is standing in the way of the Arizona Cardinals and Super Bowl 50.The Carolina Panthers, who earned the NFC’s No. 1 seed, plan on presenting a pretty substantial road block, but still, the Cardinals are ever so close to the NFL’s biggest and brightest stage.It’s a position most of the roster has never been in. Comments   Share   Grace expects Greinke trade to have emotional impact Top Stories “The big thing is just the opportunity doesn’t come up too often,” he said. “You have to capitalize when it comes. We’re going to face a really good team. That’s what you’re supposed to do. You’re not going to get to the Championship Game and not face a good team. That’s just the way it goes. It’s going to be a battle for 60 minutes. It’s going to take even more if we need to. But it’s never over until it’s over.” – / 47 “It’s special to have this opportunity,” left tackle Jared Veldheer said. “We’re excited. Just put in a great first day’s work, and we’re ready to go win a game Sunday.”Of the 53 players on Arizona’s active roster, only Red Bryant, Calais Campbell, Larry Fitzgerald, Dwight Freeney, Mike Iupati, Lyle Sendlein, A.Q. Shipley, Mike Leach and Sean Weatherspoon have ever reached a conference championship game. Cornerback Jerraud Powers has never played in a conference championship game but has appeared in a Super Bowl.Of the players who have been part of the NFL’s Final Four, only Shipley, Leach and Weatherspoon have never advanced to the Super Bowl.“I’m excited, this is my second NFC Championship Game, don’t want it to slip by,” Weatherspoon, a former Atlanta Falcon, said. “So I’m doing whatever I can to help the team. When an opportunity comes, I’ll be ready.”One of the players who has been on this stage and advanced past it, Iupati, said his teammates’ lack of experience shouldn’t be a factor Sunday in Carolina against a roster that is not exactly rich with championship game history, either. Still, it would seem to be difficult not to imagine what would be in store for the Cardinals if they win this game. You can’t get to the Super Bowl without getting to the conference championship game, and with 28 teams down, the Cardinals are one of the four who remains, and could be an hour’s worth of football away from being in the final two.“It just means we’re that much closer but still far away,” running back Andre Ellington said of being one of the NFC’s final two teams. “We have to focus on this game because we won’t be playing in a Super Bowl unless we handle business now.“But we understand that. The guys are hungry; we want to win it more than anything, so we’re going to do everything we can to make sure we do that.”“At the end of the day, the only thing this team is worried about is maximizing our effort for 60 minutes,” cornerback Patrick Peterson said. “That’s the only thing we can control and that’s the only thing that’s in our future right now.“You can’t think about Super Bowl, you can’t think about two weeks from now, you can’t think about next week. You’ve got to respect the process, which is playing the game Sunday night. We win, we move on. That’s the only thing that’s on our mind. We’re not even thinking about if we win or where we will be. We just want to focus on these 60 minutes and see what happens next week.” While Palmer, Ellington, Peterson and the rest of the roster are focusing on this game only, one player who can’t help but look a little ahead to the next one is running back Chris Johnson. On the injury reserve/designated to return list since late November, he will be eligible to play again this season only if the Cardinals reach the Super Bowl.“It’s kind of like a dream come true and it’s crazy to have a chance and to actually be this close to making it,” he said. “You know, a lot of guys, a lot of younger guys, they probably don’t understand how lucky it is to be this far or to even have a chance to play in the Super Bowl.”Johnson has been in the NFL eight seasons and reached the playoffs twice. He is one of many players on the roster who has never been this close to an NFL championship, and there’s a good chance many will never be in this position again.The NFL is fickle like that, and there is no guarantee the Cardinals will be back next season or any after that. You just never know.For the Cardinals, the important thing is acknowledging and appreciating where the are and where they could go without being overwhelmed by the moment. Campbell, who was a rookie when the Cardinals advanced to Super Bowl XLIII, said there is a lot that can be taken from that run, things that you can’t truly know unless you’ve been in this position before. There are players on the roster who understand it now, and some who will learn it all on Sunday. Arizona Cardinals’ Patrick Peterson talks about facing the Carolina Panthers during a news conference at the Cardinals NFL football training facility, Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2016, in Tempe, Ariz. The Cardinals will face the Panthers in the NFC Championship game on Sunday in Charlotte. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) Derrick Hall satisfied with D-backs’ buying and selling The 5: Takeaways from the Coyotes’ introduction of Alex Meruelo Former Cardinals kicker Phil Dawson retires “We played them last year there and it’s just one of those things,” he said. “We have a really good team. We’ve just got to go out there and execute plays and play to our full potential.“And we know they have a good team too, so it’s going to be a great game.”A running story line this week has been about how the Cardinals erased any postseason jitters they may have had by halftime of Saturday’s win over the Green Bay Packers. Add that to the fact that they did face off with the Panthers in Bank of America Stadium just last year and you have reason to believe the stage will not be too big or too bright for the 14-3 Cardinals.The trick, they say, is treating this game no different than any other they have prepared for this season.“This feels like any other game, really,” Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said. “I’ve been in this arena before, as a coordinator, so it’s not new. It’s exciting, but as far as the week of preparation, nothing ever changes.”Keeping things the same, in part, keeps the players sane during a fairly crazy time.“I think once you get in the season and you get your routine down, it’s the same every week,” he said. “If the bye week comes up, it changes, but your routine becomes natural and becomes easy and it becomes something that gets you in the right place Sunday morning and the right place Sunday at 6:00, and we’re relying on it too.”last_img read more