Former Arizona Cardinals coach says he was given burner phone to communicate with suspended general manager

The Arizona Cardinals aren’t expected to make many headlines on the field in 2023 as they prepare for a rebuilding year, with many expecting them to be one of the worst teams in the NFL. However, the Cardinals are making headlines away from the field which could cause problems.

Arizona is currently being accused of gross misconduct, discrimination, harassment and violating NFL rules in an arbitration claim filed by former executive Terry McDonough. After working with the organization as vice president of player personnel from 2014-’19, McDonough was fired for what the team described as “erratic behavior” that eventually damaged his career.

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McDonough was reportedly offered a demotion in 2019, with the team proposing he could work from home. He was later let go after Monti Ossenfort was hired as general manager this offseason.

Arizona’s former top executive has since filed an arbitration claim to the NFL, accusing the Cardinals’ organization of cheating, violating NFL conduct rules and discrimination. As part of that process, former Cardinals’ coach Steve Wilks confirmed one of McDonough’s allegations during a videoconference last Friday.

According to a deposition transcript obtained by ESPN’s Tisha Thompson, former Cardinals’ coach Steve Wilks said that a team executive gave him a burner phone to communicate with general manager Steve Keim during Keim’s suspension from the NFL.

The orders allegedly came from Keim and Cardinals’ owner Michael Bidwell, who the former head coach said directed for the burner phone to be passed along to Keim.

“It was a directive from Keim as well as Bidwill. They both knew.”

Former Arizona Cardinals coach Steve Wilks on being issued a burner phone to communicate with Steve Keim

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Keim was suspended by the Cardinals in 2018 following his arrest for extreme DUI. During a league or team-imposed suspension, a suspended general manager or coach isn’t supposed to have contact with other club officials, especially the head coach.

However, Wilks alleges that former Cardinals’ vice president of football administration Mike Disner provided him with the burner phone. He also said during his videoconference that Disner told him Keim, McDonough and vice president of football operations Matt Caracciolo were also given burner phones.

“With me being a first-year head coach, I felt uncomfortable from the beginning that I worked this hard to get to this plateau and this opportunity, and then I was presented with this situation with being unethical.”

Former Cardinals’ coach Steve Wilks on being issued a burner phone

McDonough has told the NFL that he still has the burner phone, which contains evidence of Arizona’s alleged secret communications. However, the Cardinals have vehemently denied the claims made against the organization.

During his testimony, Wilks also pushed back against the Cardinals’ claims that McDonough was combative towards his colleagues in leadership. Instead, the former Cardinals’ coach said Bidweill, the team owner, “bullied, belittled and criticized” McDonough in a personnel meeting and he also berated Wilks multiple times, including one in front of his son.

The Cardinals have denied all allegations made against them.

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