TEMPE, Ariz. -- This was supposed to be Beanie Wells' breakout season. Breakdown is more like it.
A knee injury in the final preseason contest has caused him to miss three games and have just one carry (for minus-two yards) in another.
Wells said Wednesday that he's healthy for the first time since he was hurt and ready to finally show what he can do, and do consistently. The big running back was listed as limited in practice but said he went through a full workout and expects to play Sunday at the Kansas City Chiefs.
"I want to go out there and be productive for this football team," he said. "You want to go out there and be the spark that gets us to a victory."
Critics who have questioned Wells' durability "can say what they want to say," he said. "The injury that I had there was nothing I could do to avoid it."
The Cardinals first called the injury a sprain but finally, after reporters noticed the incision marks, acknowledged that Wells had undergone arthroscopic surgery, causing him to miss the first two games.
Then on Nov. 8, he had an allergic reaction to an injection intended to lubricate his still-bothersome knee. That limited him to one carry at Minnesota, then he sat out Sunday's 36-18 loss to Seattle.
"I haven't been fully healthy all year since the surgery," he said. "Even after the surgery it was a little shaky. Now it feels great."
The durability issue dates to his days at Ohio State, although he missed just two games in his final season with a foot injury. The label carried over to last year, when he sprained an ankle in his first NFL training camp practice.
But the first-round draft pick, 31st selection overall in the 2009 draft, played in every game as a rookie. He was brought along slowly by the coaching staff but came on strong at the end of the season.
Wells rushed for 110 yards in 17 carries in a late-season victory at Detroit and had 91 yards in 14 carries in Arizona's memorable 51-45 overtime win over Green Bay in the first round of the playoffs. Although he started behind Tim Hightower, Wells led Arizona in rushing with 793 yards in 176 carries (4.5 per attempt).
That set the high expectations for his second NFL season.
"I think we've seen signs of what he can be, and that's what's exciting," coach Ken Whisenhunt said. "We all thought coming into this season it was going to be a big year, but obviously there's been a number of reasons, not necessarily just Beanie, that we haven't had as big a year as we would have liked."
Wells has rushed for 231 yards in 70 carries, an average of just 3.3 per attempt.
Asked if the team missed Wells, quarterback Derek Anderson said, "We haven't really had him, so I don't know if we can say we miss him.
"But I think he is a special back and something that can help us."
The allergic reaction came one day after Wells got his first NFL start, gaining a less-than-spectacular 50 yards in 16 carries in Arizona's 38-35 loss to Tampa Bay. The reaction to the injection of Orthovisc made his knee "10 times worse," which added to his frustration.
"I had the opportunity to go out there and start," he said. "That's something I wanted to do since I got here. To get that opportunity and then have to take a step back from it was a little tough to deal with."
On a four-game losing streak, Arizona's longest in Whisenhunt's 3½ seasons as coach, the Cardinals rank 30th (out of 32 teams) in offense and 29th in rushing offense. They are averaging 82.7 yards rushing per game.
The ground game is just one of many problems facing the team, and Wells believes the running woes are directly related to his knee problems.
"Probably a lot," he said, "because I like to think I'm a piece of the puzzle, and when I'm not out there, I don't think we're running to our capabilities."
Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press