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Rashard Mendenhall Cardinals' No. 1 RB, Arians says

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A report out of Phoenix last week noted that free-agent acquisition Rashard Mendenhallalready had established himself as the No. 1 running back for the Arizona Cardinals, separating from Ryan Williams.

Appearing on NFL Network's "NFL AM" on Wednesday, coach Bruce Arians confirmed "there's no doubt" that Mendenhall would be the featured back if the season started today.

"Rashard is just 25 years old (he turns 26 on Wednesday)," Arians said. "He took me personally to a Super Bowl, and I know what he can bring to the table as a runner and a pass protector and also a receiver. He's an every-down player. And I think he's looking forward to having an outstanding season."

Although Mendenhall's early 2012 knee surgery led to a bout with Achilles tendinitis last season, it's no longer an issue and "he's ready to go," Arians assured.

The takeaway here is that Arians is shying away from a timeshare in his backfield. After touting Mendenhall in March as a "big back who never has to come out of the game," Arians now is making it clear that the Pittsburgh Steelers' former first-round darft pick is a three-down running back.

Barring an injury to Mendenhall, Williams appears to be in line for a change-of-pace role. Rookies Andre Ellington and Stepfan Taylor figure to be brought along slowly, only to be used in case of emergency.

Follow Chris Wesseling on Twitter @ChrisWesseling.

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