Cardinals to start Hoyer at QB against 49ers

TEMPE, Ariz. — The Arizona Cardinals will give Brian Hoyer his first NFL start, less than three weeks after the team claimed him off waivers from Pittsburgh.

Coach Ken Whisenhunt said Wednesday the former Michigan State quarterback and New England backup will start in the season finale Sunday at San Francisco.

“He’s been in the league, he’s a veteran guy,” Whisenhunt said. “He did a nice job in last week’s game and this is an opportunity to see what he can do with a week of practice and where he can go from there.”

Hoyer, who spent three seasons as a backup to Tom Brady in New England and was out of a job for most of this season, will be the fourth starter at quarterback for the Cardinals this year. He’ll be operating an offense that ranks last in the NFL.

Arizona also has gone with John Skelton, Kevin Kolb and rookie Ryan Lindley at the position. Kolb is out for the season with a rib injury. The other two were benched for poor play.

“It’s no secret. We haven’t gotten the production out of that position that we’ve needed,” Whisenhunt said. “I think it’s actually more than four if you consider back and forth, the way guys have started. We’ve got to get consistency at that position and this is an opportunity to see how Brian measures up.”

After failing to make it on an NFL roster to start the season, Hoyer was signed by the Steelers when Ben Roethlisberger was injured, then waived after three weeks when Roethlisberger returned. The Cardinals signed him on Dec. 10, a day after losing 58-0 at Seattle. Hoyer has appeared in 14 NFL games, 13 with the Patriots, then last week in Arizona’s 28-13 loss to Chicago.

“It’s a crazy business, but to me it’s the best job in the world,” Hoyer said after Wednesday’s practice. “I’m excited and going to work hard this week and try to put as much into it on the practice field and the film study and studying the books, and go from there.”

Arizona (5-10) has lost 10 of 11. After Lindley’s pass was intercepted by the Bears’ Charles Tillman and returned 10 yards for a touchdown on Arizona’s first series of the second half, Hoyer came in and completed 11 of 19 passes for 105 yards with one interception and no TDs.

“He has a good knowledge of the game, good timing on his throws,” Whisenhunt said. “He did a good job in the game last week, making some accurate throws, some quick throws. Obviously the interception wasn’t one of those, but it will be interesting to see how he stacks up with a week to prepare. I know he’s going against a tough defense. It will be a tough situation, but it’s a great time to evaluate him and see where he is.”

Hoyer said that when the Cardinals picked him up so late in the season, he figured he would get a chance to play. He said he didn’t practice with the Arizona offense at all before going into the game last Sunday. Now he will benefit from a full week of practice with the starters.

“Football is football and when you can read it off the wrist band it’s not like you have to worry about making a mistake in the play call,” he said. “Once I could read it off the wrist band, I could translate it and relate it to what I know and kind of just go from there — and play football.”

Hoyer said he learned a lot as Brady’s backup.

“The hard work that he puts in, that’s not what people get to see on the field,” Hoyer said. “What they see on the field is kind of the result of the time he puts in. Obviously being there, being experienced, being there for so many years, he knows everything that’s going on out on the field. For me it’s a little bit different situation, but I can still prepare the way that I learned from him and try to take all the guesswork out of it.”

Whisenhunt said his decision was based on the combination of wanting to see what Hoyer can do and believing he gives the team its best chance to win.

“I wouldn’t put him in there just to play him and see what he is,” the coach said. “This isn’t a tryout. I think he merited that based on the way he played last weekend. It is an opportunity to see how he handles that with a week of practice. There’s no question about that, but I also think from what we saw last week, he did some nice things in the game and see if he can build off of that.”

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