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Cardinals guard Justin Pugh out for season with torn ACL

Pro Football Rumors 10/19/2022 Sam Robinson, Pro Football Rumors
Arizona Cardinals guard Justin Pugh. © Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports Arizona Cardinals guard Justin Pugh.

Justin Pugh joined Rodney Hudson in considering retirement this offseason. In order to continue his career, the veteran guard will now need to go through an extensive rehab effort. Pugh is believed to have torn an ACL, Josh Weinfuss of ESPN.com tweets.

While Pugh has a notable injury history, this will be his shortest NFL season. Pugh, 32, missed the Cardinals’ opener because of a neck injury. This five-game season will also close out the veteran offensive lineman’s contract, which he signed in 2018. The 10th-year veteran’s latest setback obviously hurts his value for a potential free agency run in 2023.

Arizona paid up for Pugh four years ago, giving him a five-year, $45M contract to head west. The former Giants first-rounder has now played five seasons with two teams. Pugh’s Arizona commitment ended up giving Kyler Murray a long-term interior presence; the Syracuse alum has 119 career starts under his belt.

The Giants struggled to assemble quality lines during Eli Manning‘s final seasons, but Pugh was part of five New York fronts, working as a guard and at right tackle. Pugh suffered a midseason injury during his first Cardinals campaign — that one also a knee malady — but he was mostly healthy during Murray’s rookie-contract seasons. Pugh played 45 games from 2019-21, being the team’s interior constant as Murray grew into a Pro Bowler.

Pugh agreed to a pay cut during the 2021 offseason, but after a 2022 salary reduction, the Syracuse product said he contemplated retirement. Hudson also did so, but the veteran center reported to Cards training camp as well. This injury hurts one of the league’s most experienced O-lines, a unit that headed into the season housing a 12th-year center, a 10th-year left guard, an 11th-year right tackle (Kelvin Beachum) and an eighth-year left tackle (D.J. Humphries).

Pro Football Focus ranks Pugh as this season’s No. 36 overall guard. The Cardinals are seeing a nice bounce-back season from free agent flier Will Hernandez, whom PFF slots in the top 20. Max Garcia replaced Pugh against the Seahawks; the eighth-year vet started 11 games last season. Pugh’s injury also makes the Cards’ decision to trade for Cody Ford a bit more important. Arizona designated Ford for return Tuesday and could activate him at any point in the next three weeks.

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