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March 13, 2013

LaRod parting company with Cardinals

— Johnstown’s LaRod Stephens-Howling won’t wear an Arizona Cardinals jersey next NFL season.

According to the Arizona Republic, the Cardinals made a contract offer to Stephens-Howling last week that “wasn’t close” to the Johnstown High and Pitt product’s expectations. Stephens-Howling is an unrestricted free agent with four seasons of NFL experience with Arizona.

On Monday, the Cards cut running back Beanie Wells. New head coach Bruce Arians is reworking his backfield, which now would have Ryan Williams as the top back unless the Cardinals sign Reggie Bush, who was being courted by Arizona and the Detroit Lions.

Stephens-Howling established himself as an effective return specialist, and a reliable running back used in third down situations and as a threat to catch passes out of the backfield.

Last season, when Wells and Williams each were injured, Stephens-Howling moved into the role as the primary back for several weeks. He finished with 357 rushing yards, an average of 3.2 per carry, and four rushing touchdowns.

At 5-foot-7, 185 pounds, Stephens-Howling overcame a size disadvantage to become a fan favorite nicknamed “The Hyphen.”

Drafted out of Pitt in the seventh round in 2009, Stephens-Howling used his versatility to establish himself in the NFL. In addition to his return skills, he’s considered among the top special teams coverage players in the league.

Among his career highlights are kickoff returns for touchdowns of 99 yards at Tennessee, 102 yards against Oakland and 96 yards against Minnesota. In October 2011, Stephens-Howling had a 73-yard touchdown reception in a 32-20 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers in Phoenix.

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