Sean Kugler, the running game coordinator and chief offensive line coach for the Cardinals, has been relieved of his duties by the team after an incident in Mexico City on Sunday night a day after the team arrived there for its game against the 49ers on “Monday Night Soccer.”
Details on what exactly happened remain sketchy, but Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury confirmed to The Republic on Tuesday that Kugler, 56, was not present during Arizona’s 38-10 loss to the San Francisco 49ers at Estadio Azteca and was sent back to the Valley beforehand .
“We relieved him of his duties, and he was sent home Monday morning prior to the game,” Kingsbury said.
Kingsbury said the move is permanent, meaning Kugler is no longer an employee of the team. He was part of Kingsbury’s original staff with the Cardinals in 2019 and had earned steady praise by players, coaches and members of the front office.
“It’s challenging anytime you make a staff change in that type of manner and I’m just going to leave it at that,” Kingsbury told The Republic.
Kingsbury said Kugler’s duties will now be shared by assistant offensive line coach Brian Natkin and tight ends coach Steve Heiden, who both handled the job during Monday’s game. Offensive assistant Mike Bercovici will temporarily replace Heiden as tight ends coach.
Kingsbury said a search for a new running game coordinator and offensive line coach would begin after this season.
Kugler is the second member of the Cardinals’ coaching staff to be disciplined this year. In August, running backs coach James Saxon was placed on administrative leave once news broke he had been charged with assaulting a woman in her Indianapolis home in May.
Saxon, who was also hired by the team before the start of the 2019 season, pled guilty to one count of domestic battery on Oct. 6. He resigned from the Cardinals shortly thereafter.
A third coach, offensive assistant Don Shumpert, is no longer listed among the staff on the Cardinals’ website. He stepped in to help coach the running backs after Saxon was placed on administrative leave.
The Cardinals on Tuesday waived running back Jonathan Ward off injured reserve. He’s the second running back to be released by the team in a week, joining Eno Benjamin, who was cut on Nov. 14.
Ward appeared in 32 games for the Cardinals over three seasons, rushing for 33 yards on nine total carries and catching four passes for 45 yards and one touchdown. He appeared in five games this season but did not touch the ball on offense, playing mostly on special teams.
He’s been sidelined with a hamstring injury but now is fully healthy and can be claimed off waivers.
Also on Tuesday, the Cardinals released offensive lineman Jean Delance and defensive lineman Michael Dogbe from the practice squad.