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Monday, August 17, 2009

Mauia tries to latch on

By Mark Brown, Special to The Star-Bulletin

POSTED: 01:30 a.m. HST, Aug 17, 2009

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. » Reaganomics was a theory of economics put forth by President Ronald Reagan in the early 1980s.

Now there's a new theory of Reaganomics, as in Reagan Mauia, the former University of Hawaii blocking back, caught in the middle of a fresh set of numbers. Signed last week by the Arizona Cardinals to a one-year deal, Mauia's status with the Cardinals may be in jeopardy from the start, and that's because of the offense run by head coach Ken Whisenhunt.

The Cardinals use a predominantly single-back running game. For Mauia to be on the field, the Cardinals would have to employ a two-back formation.

Nonetheless, Mauia remains in camp, desperately trying to find a roster spot.

"I'm here to help, and contribute wherever I can," he said recently from the Cards' training location at Northern Arizona University. "I know what I can do, and hopefully there's a place for me."

Entering his third season as head coach, Whisenhunt has not used a blocking back since taking over the helm. This time, there may be change, and Mauia impressed with strong lead blocking and standing up tacklers in a recent scrimmage.

Last season, the Cardinals interchanged Edgerrin James (133-514, three touchdowns) and Tim Hightower (143-399, 10 TDs) as running backs. No blocking back was used, but Whisenhunt may be entertaining a misdirection of sorts.

"We'll utilize players based on their strengths," said Whisenhunt, without making a commitment. "(Mauia) has been here only a few days, so I'm anxious to see what he can do."

If Mauia is to make the Cardinals' 53-man roster, he must overcome a history of injuries.

Mauia was selected in the sixth round of the 2007 draft by the Miami Dolphins. He started nine of 16 games, but carried only four times for 5 yards. His stay in south Florida ended when Mauia was released by Miami after the 2008 training camp. He subsequently signed with Cincinnati, but suffered a season-ending hamstring injury against Pittsburgh in Week 7, and was placed on injured reserve Oct. 24.

Mauia then reached an injury settlement with Cincinnati on Nov. 26 of last season, and eventually signed with the Cardinals on Aug. 5.

"I have high expectations," he said. "I know I can contribute and I know I can help make a difference. I always wanted to come here, and with this team coming off a Super Bowl season, it's a great atmosphere. The guys here are awesome, and this is where I want to be."

During a recent scrimmage, Mauia lined up as a blocking back with the third team — behind Jason Wright, a free agent who played at Cleveland a year ago, and free agent Dan Kreider. At 6-foot, 260 pounds, Mauia's strength is his ability to push his arms under the defender and drive. If Whisenhunt is looking for that skill, then Mauia could find a roster spot.

The reality remains that the Cardinals use a single-back formation, with Hightower and first-round pick Chris Wells seeking the starting position.

With that in mind, Mauia could be looking at another round of Reaganomics, caught in a numbers game where there is no spot for the 25-year old from Stockton, Calif.

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