Cardinals rookie gaining attention, yardage

The Associated Press

TEMPE, Ariz. Frank Sanders, the fourth wide receiver drafted in April, doesn't feel he has to prove anything. He's getting enough attention just being himself.

''I hope he goes to the Pro Bowl his rookie year. You only do that once,'' Arizona Cardinals coach Buddy Ryan said.

The 22-year-old had six catches for 108 yards and two touchdowns in a 27-21 overtime loss to the New York Giants.

One of the receptions was highlight-reel material a 26-yard grab between two defenders on third down. It kept a drive going, and Sanders' 6-yard touchdown catch and 2-point conversion later grab gave the Cardinals a 21-14 lead.

Nobody asked Sanders to take on extra responsibilities, but he also stepped up by exhorting his teammates to keep their heads high after Jessie Armstead's 58-yard interception return ended the game and handed the Cardinals their fifth loss in six games.

''This is a good team, and we're really trying to find ourselves,'' Sanders explained.

In two years as a starter, Sanders became Auburn's second-best receiver, and he had big-time size for the position.

But the Washington Redskins took Michael Westbrook of Colorado No. 4 overall in the first round, Seattle grabbed Ohio State's Joey Galloway four spots lower, and San Francisco went for J.J. Stokes of UCLA at No. 10.

Sanders had to wait for 37 more selections for the Cardinals, who had no first-round choice because they traded it to the New York Jets for Rob Moore, to choose him.

Six weeks into the season, he is leading the NFL in yardage per catch, averaging 20.4 yards.

Meanwhile, Westbrook made his debut with a 58-yard scoring run on a reverse when the Redskins beat the Cardinals 27-7 on Sept. 3. His average on 16 catches is a respectable 16.8 yards, but Washington coach Norv Turner said Westbrook's holdout-related absence from training camp is showing up in spotty play.

''There are things you learn in camp that you draw on as the season wears on,'' Turner said.

Sanders is in position to gloat, but he isn't interested.

''I don't read my stats,'' he said while preparing to play the Redskins again Sunday. ''I don't want to know my stats. I just want to see W's. I want to see my team happy.''

He said he wished Westbrook the best after Washington beat the Cardinals 27-7 on Sept. 3, and has the same feelings this time.

''There's no personal vendetta because he went first between me and him, or Galloway or any other receiver,'' Sanders said. ''Those guys were drafted ahead of me because those teams needed those names.''

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