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Newest Cardinal Faneca calls situation with team ideal

TEMPE, Ariz. -- Pursued by the Cardinals when he was a free agent two years ago, Alan Faneca was hoping to land in Arizona where he could play for coaches he knew well.

A deal couldn't be worked out, so the left guard wound up with the New York Jets and signed the richest contract for an offensive lineman in NFL history at that time.

When he became a free agent again this past weekend, Faneca didn't want to miss another chance to be reunited with coach Ken Whisenhunt and offensive line coach Russ Grimm, whom he played for in Pittsburgh. Grimm was the nine-time Pro Bowl selection's position coach from 2001-06.

"To come back and play with Russ, some guys who I'm familiar with on the team, the system I'm familiar with, Coach Whisenhunt, the whole situation was ideal for me," Faneca said at a news conference Thursday, two days after signing a one-year contract.

Faneca, 33, was released by the Jets on Saturday afternoon, and the Cardinals were in contact later that day, Whisenhunt said.

Faneca joins kicker Jay Feely and safety Kerry Rhodes as former Jets now with the Cardinals, but he said Whisenhunt and Grimm were the biggest draws.

"They bring a fire and energy to the game and that's something that everybody that's a player, you want to play for somebody that brings that," he said.

In New York, Faneca was one of the leaders of a unit that paved the way for the league's top-rushing offense last year.

The Cardinals are expected to run the ball more this season than they did the past two years when they had the now-retired Kurt Warner under center. That means Faneca will be playing in an Arizona offense more suited to his strengths that it was in the past.

"If we're going to get back to the run, that does fit me a little bit better than you've got a talent like Kurt back there and you're able to throw the ball nonstop," Faneca said.

The Cardinals already have a left guard in Reggie Wells, but it's possible either Wells or Faneca could switch to the right side.

"That's what the next few weeks are going to be all about," said Whisenhunt, whose team opens mimicamp Friday. "I know all about Alan's versatility. We just feel like we got a very good football player that can help us somewhere in the line."

Deuce Lutui, the starter at right guard the past two seasons, is a restricted free agent who has yet to sign his qualifying offer.

Faneca signed a five-year, $40 million contract, with $21 million in guarantees, with the Jets in 2008 and was cut despite being owed $5.2 million in guaranteed salary this year. New York selected University of Massachusetts lineman Vladimir Ducasse in the second round of the draft, and he'll compete with Matt Slauson for Faneca's old spot.

Faneca spent his first 10 NFL seasons with the Steelers, who drafted him in the first round out of Louisiana State in 1998, and has 128 consecutive starts over the past eight years.

Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press

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