Center Lyle Sendlein came off of his second season in the big leagues with one of the hardest learning curves in the NFL—a playoff run to the Super Bowl culminating in a fight against the Steel Curtain of Pittsburgh.
Starting all regular and postseason games for the Arizona Cardinals last season, Sendlein took over at the center position after veteran Al Johnson left with an knee injury early in 2008.
In his second year with the Arizona franchise, he was given the job of controlling the offensive line and taking the place of a veteran starter with experience in pressure situations.
Many have looked at Sendlein's inexperience as a weakness to the team and have even questioned his signing as a free agent to the Cardinals in 2007.
While some critics believe that the two-year center is at a loss being thrown into the starting position so quickly, others see his trial-by-fire last season as a sign of what's to come with the young player.
Kurt Warner and head coach Ken Wisenhunt have both stood by the center, who has also been eager to learn and expand his game play.
"Center is a lot like a quarterback; so much of it is being comfortable with what you are seeing and making the calls,” Warner stated on the Cardinals Web site earlier this month. “It is hard to play your position because you aren’t just waiting for someone to say something and reacting. You’ve got to see things, you’ve got to watch for adjustments and then make the calls, and then you’ve got to go out and do it."
Warner has also stated that he likes how Sendlein is willing to listen to advice from other players on how to build upon the on-the-job experience last season.
After having surgery on his left shoulder in January, Sendlein has stated that he believes he is stronger than ever and will be able to build upon earlier performances in the coming year.
Going into his third year with the Cardinals, and after a season of new experiences and challenges, Sendlein has only to look up with his career in the NFL and with the Cards.