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The Arizona Cardinals finished their 2011 NFL Training Camp in Flagstaff with a spirited full practice in shells on Thursday morning. Players were clearly feeling the "last day of school" mentality but instead of reacting with distraction or disinterest the team turned up the intensity, and even fun, to another level.
"I thought we'd have a lot of guys who already had their cars running, but they worked. The tempo was good and they paid attention to detail. That's a good sign which will hopefully show up Saturday night (in the preseason game versus the Chargers)," coach Ken Whisenhunt said.
The team went through a wide variety of scenarios from goal line, to punt coverage, to base defense versus a standard two tight end rushing package. The offense has a distinct advantage in these affairs given the limited amount of contact allowed and the "don't breadth on our quarterback" rules.
Even with those disadvantages, the secondary made several nice plays including yet another camp interception for Patrick Peterson. After returning the ball up the sideline with rookie fullback Anthony Sherman in pursuit, Sherman was overhead saying, "dang, he's fast." Yes, yes he is. And there was of course the obligatory great Larry Fitzgerald catch.
Whisenhunt was pleased overall with the way camp went. Obviously, there were challenges caused by the lack of normal offseason work which were compounded by the changes at quarterback and defensive coordinator.
The mood and confidence is high going into the 2011-12 NFL Season.
Tight end Stephen Spach (calf) returned to practice for the first time while fellow TE, Rob Housler (groin) sat out again. Joining Housler today was rookie wide receiver DeMarco Sampson who tweaked a hamstring. Cornerback Mike Adams and quarterback John Skelton were also sidelined. Sampson and Housler will be evaluated again to determine if they can play on Saturday. Skelton (ankle) and Adams (knee) are considered unlikely by coach Whisenhunt.
Arizona Cardinals tight end Rob Housler did not practice on Wednesday due to a groin injury, which we originally reported on Tuesday. The rookie seems to have tweaked something during Tuesday's practice and was given the day off. Housler told SB Nation Arizona after Wednesday morning's practice that treatment and extra rehab was "precautionary".
The team has not yet addressed the injury. It does not look serious and Housler should be back at some point in the near future. He was on the lower field working with training staff on a series of exercises that involved stretching a large rubber band-like device.
Housler, the Cardinals' third-round pick from the 2011 NFL Draft, has been playing well so far in training camp. He may have gotten a shot at the starting job had it not been for the acquisition of former Arizona State Sun Devil and Baltimore Raven Todd Heap. Heap will start this season, but the Cardinals will likely use Housler as well in various situations this year.
The acquisition of Heap should help Housler's development as the rookie watches and learns from the ten-year veteran. Together, the duo gives the Cardinals some receiving flexibility at tight end that the team hasn't had in recent years.
The Arizona Cardinals are one day from breaking camp and heading back down the hill into the heat of the Phoenix desert. Quarterback Kevin Kolb is looking forward to getting settled in his new home and says the heat won't bother him at all. At least he won't be dodging skunks on his Segway as he reported happened in Flagstaff this week.
Kolb has specific goals for Saturday's third preseason game against the San Diego Chargers. He wants to work on the two-minute drill in live game situation, he wants to get the chance to lead the team in the first possession after half time and he wants to learn the game-day routines so he can be comfortable and focused for the September 11, Week 1 opener against Carolina.
"I don't even know how to get out there," Kolb said about his new home field, "I have to look it up on my phone."
Directions to the new office aside, the big focus for Kolb is cleaning up the little mistakes that lead to several dead-ball penalties during the Green Bay game, "Obviously, it starts with me. Three or four of those were on me, absolutely 100 percent."
What you get in Kevin Kolb is a detail oriented guy and a self described perfectionist. That gives you all kinds of things including pregame butterflies.
"I take the game pretty serious. I spend a lot of time on it. I think part of being a quarterback is being a perfectionist, you want things to go right. Not to say that I get nervous, but I get 'amped up' and ready to go for practice, preseason, regular season -- whatever it is I get a few butterflies."
Kolb says he hopes to play into the third quarter of the game on Saturday. Coach Ken Whisenhunt was willing to say that would "probably" be the case but he wouldn't say for sure what anyone's playing time would be.
Other training camp notes:
As we very much suspected thanks to reporting done on Tuesday, the Arizona Cardinals have signed quarterback Brodie Croyle to replace Max Hall who was waived due to injury (shoulder). The Cardinals also signed punter Dave Zastudil and released tackle Jake Vermiglio.
Hall was unlikely to make the roster anyway, and now after suffering a shoulder dislocation in practice on Monday, it was a no-brainer to replace him on the roster with Croyle. John Skelton is still rehabbing an ankle sprain and is questionable for Saturday's preseason game against the Chargers.
Even though starting QB Kevin Kolb is expected to play into the third quarter, the team needed a third active QB if Skelton can't go. Croyle is as good as any other option out there given his five seasons NFL experience with the Kansas City Chiefs.
Croyle will wear jersey no. 14 and Zastudil will wear no. 9.
For more on the Cardinals, visit Revenge of the Birds.
Adrian Wilson wasn't going to be kept down for long. He surprised everyone when he took the practice field on Tuesday afternoon wearing his No. 24 Arizona Cardinals practice jersey. Wilson was sidelined with a torn biceps tendon and was scheduled to be out for...well, no one really knew because A-Dub doesn't talk about injuries.
"It felt good to be back out just getting some rust off. We'll see where I'm at in September. Hopefully, there's no set-backs and everything is on the up-and-up," Wilson said after chiding the assembled reporters for not believing in him.
Getting back on the field, even if it was in a limited capacity that kept him out of full scrimmage, was important for Wilson. "For me mentally and for my guys as well," he said.
Asked if he had to be careful with how he used the arm, he responded, "I don't know what that means."
Rest of the team...
Overall, the Cardinals seemed to lack the pep and pop that was present early in training camp. A bit lethargic, they spent some time Tuesday on spread offense and nickle and dime coverage packages. They also ran a full two-minute drill that started out on the 30-yard line and quickly advanced to about the other 20 before the drive stalled with a false start that came from somewhere on the right side of the line (not Levi Brown) and was immediately followed by a sack.
Earlier in the day, coach Ken Whisenhunt said he was pleased with all of his rookies from the 2011 class. He felt that all of them have performed well so far and he can see all of them being good players in the NFL. Expect to see six-round pick LB Quan Sturdivant get even more opportunities in the next two preseason game. He's a bit buried behind a few vets and is still working on taking charge of the defense as a middle linebacker.
Another rookie who's looked very good so far is TE Rob Housler. Whisenhunt said again that Housler has shown a lot of flashes of talent but has work to do with his blocking. Housler left Tuesday's practice with an apparent upper leg injury.
After making a catch during scrimmage, Housler pulled up immediately and went to the sideline. He was seen after practice ended on the cart with his left leg wrapped in ice. We'll have an update on his status Wednesday.
In other injury news, Ryan Williams had his surgery Tuesday morning. They also repaired a minor meniscus issue while fixing the torn patellar tendon. Whisenhunt reported no problems, but added wryly, "I don't know a doctor who's said a surgery hasn't gone well."
For more on the Cardinals, visit Revenge of the Birds.
Max Hall left practice on Monday holding his left arm after he fell with his hand outstretched. Arizona Cardinals head coach Ken Whisenhunt confirmed on Tuesday that Hall suffered a should subluxation which is typically defined as a temporary and partial dislocation of the joint.
Hall suffered a similar injury in 2010 during a game against the St. Louis Rams. Hall was placed on the injured reserve as a result of that injury and didn't play again that season. According to Whisenhunt, Hall will return to Phoenix for further evaluation by the team's medical staff.
Hall had fallen to fourth place in the quarterback depth chart behind Kevin Kolb, John Skelton and Richard Bartell so the loss isn't considered a serious blow to the team. Skelton is also currently sidelined from practice with an ankle sprain. His status for the preseason game Saturday against San Diego is questionable.
To avoid going into the game with only two active quarterbacks, Whisenhunt said the team is exploring options to bring in a QB. He would not confirm a previous report that Brodie Croyle would be that guy.
For more on the Cardinals, visit the Revenge of the Birds blog.
The Arizona Cardinals quarterback core took a couple of hits recently. John Skelton was in a walking boot at practice Monday with a sprained ankle suffered in Friday's preseason game in Green Bay. Max Hall was seen leaving the field holding his arm in an awkward position and has an apparent left shoulder injury. In response, the Cardinals will sign former Kansas City Chiefs quarterback, Brodie Croyle according to a report from Arizona Republic's Kent Somers.
It would seem at least one of those injuries, most likely Hall, is serious enough to require a replacement for the last part of training camp. We expect official word soon and a full update on Hall's and Skelton's status at coach Ken Whisenhunt's mid-day press briefing.
Croyle, 28, had been with the Chiefs since 2006 and played in 18 total games. He has a total 1,660 yards with a completion percent of 57 percent.
The Arizona Cardinals returned to the practice field on Monday for a fairly quick session that started around 4:00 p.m. and ended after about 90 minutes. The focus seemed to be on two-minute drill, high-tempo offense as well as blitz reads and hot routes. Both Kevin Kolb and Rich Bartel seemed to complete many nice passes with pressure coming. Larry Fitzgerald had at least three note-worthy catches, but by now that's not really news.
The injury bug seems to have struck the quarter back position with John Skelton in a walking boot for his ankle sprain suffered in the Green Bay game and Max Hall leaving the field with an apparent shoulder injury suffered after a fall. Details on Hall's status will be available on Tuesday.
Alfonso Smith ready for the opportunity
With rookie running back Ryan Williams down for the season, the spotlight now falls on undrafted free agent Alfonso Smith. Smith was with the team in camp last summer and on the practice squad during the season.
Smith said that he's been in this position before both in high school and college so he knows what it's like to take over for an injury player ahead of him in the depth chart. In college however, he felt he didn't take advantage of the situation and as a result didn't get enough carries and therefore wasn't drafted.
Alfonso has no intention of letting that happen again, "This is a dream come true. I'm going to come out here and work because this is for me, this is definitely for my family and my future so I've got to seize the opportunity."
Smith says he's improved since last year and has a better grasp of the offense and knows the playbook which allows him to play faster. He's done well in pass protection which is important and he's very focused on making each play count.
He described himself as a "straight line and speed guy" who's trying to become more shifty and a better all around back.
It's clear from coach Ken Whisenhunt's comments that Smith is going to get plenty of opportunities to prove he's capable of playing behind Beanie Wells. As Smith said, it's up to him to make the most of this chance.
For more on the Cardinals, visit Revenge of the Birds.
Arizona Cardinals quarterback Max Hall injured his left shoulder during Monday's practice and was taken off the field. The Cardinals are getting Hall checked out and do not know the severity of the injury yet, but the team is expected to know by the Tuesday afternoon, according to an ABC-15 report.
Hall has been solid during training camp and has played well during the preseason games. In the Cardinals' first preseason game (a 24-18 victory against the Oakland Raiders), Hall completed four of four passes for 66 yards and a touchdown. Hall saw little action in Friday's 28-20 preseason loss to the Green Bay Packers, but in his limited stint he did complete two of four passes for 13 yards.
Hall sustained the injury by falling onto his left arm during a drill towards the end of practice. The official word on his injury should be released tomorrow.
The Arizona Cardinals are back in Flagstaff for their final four days of training camp. With two more preseason games on the schedule, both at home, head coach Ken Whisenhunt said he's, "Ready to get back to work. Ready to play at home."
The plan for this week is to install more of the regular season packages and blitzes. These won't be used in preseason, but it's helpful to work on them now so when they are addressed during the regular season for specific games they will be familiar to the team.
What the Cardinals won't do this week is scheme for the San Diego Chargers, their Week 3 preseason opponent. According to Whisenhunt, there's not enough tape on them anyway and he likes having the team react to things they haven't covered in practice. It happens during the regular season no matter how much game prep goes on. Consider it practicing for the unexpected that you haven't practiced for.
Typically, the third NFL preseason game is treated most like a real game. Starters play longer, often into the second half, and the teams use the game as a dress rehearsal that's still far enough from Week 1 to recover from any non-serious injuries to key personnel.
Whisenhunt said he will probably follow that plan and play some of this starters into the third quarter but not in all cases. For example, don't expect veteran OLBs Joey Porter and Clark Haggans to play as much. This gives the team to further evaluate young players O'Brien Schofield and rookie Sam Acho.
Schofield played well in the Green Bay preseason game and is making progress learning the defense. Most of what he needs to improve on is the mental part of the game. Whisenhunt wants him replicate that good performance and see if he can do it against first-team opposition.
Larry Fitzgerald contract
"There's a lot of teams that would have liked to have had an opportunity at him and they didn't get it because our ownership stepped up."
Kolb said he'd been nudging Fitzgerald to sign the deal for the last week or so. He's excited to have the opportunity to throw uncatchable balls to Fitz and have them turned into receptions for many years to come.
Ryan Williams surgery is scheduled for early this week and the team feels for him as a person and for the loss of his talent. But it's football so they are moving on.
There's no sense of panic to get a replacement for Williams but, Whisenhunt said, "We're always going to look for an opportunity to address that and if somebody comes available that's going to help our team, which next week is when is when some of that situation may happen, then we'll address it."
Third string running back Alfonso Smith has worked hard for year and a half, and the team wants to see how he handles the opportunity to step into a bigger role.
As expected, the Cardinals did sign a young player to help with the reps in camp. Undrafted rookie free agent running back William Powell was brought back to the team. He had been released on August 2. Powell played two seasons at Kansas State.
Whisenhunt was happy with how Beanie Wells ran during the Green Bay game. He wants to see him get even lower and to accelerate when he makes contact. Wells did better in protection but missed one assignment. His coach was pleased that after he missed the blocking assignment, he was immediately asking about it on the sidelines wanting to get better. Overall, Wells is doing very...well.
Other roster moves
The Cardinals brought back defensive end Kenny Iwebema who played seven games with the team last year before hurting his knee. They also brought in cornerback Thad Thurner. To make room on the roster, the Cardinals released cornerback Desia Dunn and punter Derek Epperson.
The Cardinals practice at 3:00 p.m. Monday at NAU.
At the risk of sparking some kind of political debate about immigration and the English language, Arizona Cardinals head coach Ken Whisenhunt explained the process for quarterback Kevin Kolb to learn the grammar of his new offensive system. Some might find the explanation given at a mid-day training camp press conference offensive. We found it clever and humorous. In the interest of meta world peace, we hope you'll see it this way too.
azcentral.com blogs - Kent Somers - Learning the language
"I can only associate it with speaking another language. If you speak English and you're trying to speak Spanish, at some point in the process you'll start to hear it in Spanish and think of it in Spanish. How long that takes, you don't know."
How long does it take a quarterback from Texas who spent his early NFL years in Philadelphia to learn "Spanish" once he crosses the Arizona border? We'll let you know when the process is over.
In the mean time, language lessons at Northern Arizona University continue. Fortunately for Master Kolb, the immigrant has a new friend to guide and mentor him through class.
Word From the Birds Blog
He joked that he’ll be watching video with Larry Fitzgerald and suggest running a "pirate" route on a certain look — except it was the Eagles who used the "pirate" and not the Cards, who call it an "under." "The only way to do it is to be thrown in the fire and hear other guys talking about it," Kolb said.
To translate this all for football fans we would only say -- be patient. It's an adjustment period for Kolb. Don't overreact to anything you see Friday night in Green Bay (unless it's an awesome play like this).
The Arizona Cardinals are in the "dog days" of summer training camp. They've spent a couple of weeks now hitting each other and living in the NAU dorms but they don't seem the slightest bit sluggish from all accounts. Instead we are hearing very positive things about the intensity and the way this team seems to have a chip on their shoulder.
The Cardinals held a morning walk-thru at NAU and will have a public scrimmage Tuesday evening at Coconino High School at 7:00 p.m. One more practice this week on Wednesday afternoon at NAU (3:00 p.m.) before the team heads off to face the defending Super Bowl champs for a preseason game at Lambeau Field.
This week the big news, if you can call it that, is the national media finally catching on to what we here already knew about Larry Fitzgerald's contract.
Surprise! (Not Really) Larry Fitzgerald Will Not Have Franchise Tag - Revenge of the Birds
Of course, for a great deal of Cardinals fans, this was not new. It was a detail about his contract that was made known to the Phoenix area when the last deal in 2008 was in place.
Deuce Lutui has been held out of a couple of practices to get extra conditioning (and weight loss?) work in.
Deuce Lutui's Weight Still An Issue - Revenge of the Birds
On Monday, it looked like Deuce is going to have a struggle to regain his starting role. He did not practice with the team, as he was doing conditioning work with coach John Lott.
Former Packer Daryn Colledge seemed a bit miffed at not getting an invite to the White House with the rest of his former team.
Green Bay Packers Snub New Cardinal Daryn Colledge For White House Visit - Revenge of the Birds
"It's a disappointing fact that they didn't even call guys that helped win to see if they wanted to join them. They said it was a logistics thing, but I believe I had the day off."
And finally, we've gotten a good look at the cap situation. The Cardinals have a ton of room but aren't required to spend up to the cap as they will be in 2013. For now, they can save their money and take advantage if a team needs to dump salary, if someone good shows up on the waiver wire, or to use in a front-loaded new contract for Fitz that saves cap space in future years.
An intersting side note here about Kolb's contract as detailed in this chart by Kent Somers in the AZ Republic.
Taking A Look At The Salary Situation For The Arizona Cardinals - Revenge of the Birds
But with a $3 million base salary over the next two seasons, Kolb's deal is not as loaded as I once thought. It is heavy towards the back end and if he is not playing at a high level, the Cardinals would have only paid out a large signing bonus ($10 million) and the base salary. This is good news for those still skeptical of Kevin's abilities.
Oh, and that headline about the kids and the party? Don't really have an answer for that. It just seemed like fun and camp is fun so there you go.
Light rain on Monday made for some muddy conditions and plenty of puddles around the NAU campus, but Cardinals practice went on outdoors, allowing a good crowd to watch and cheer and say ooh and ah.
The fans were kept out of Sunday's practice when it was moved indoors. Considering what would happen later in the afternoon, a loud thunder clap seemed to be some kind of foreshadowing although the rain somehow stayed away.
OL Deuce Lutui left with a staff member after stretching and did his early work by himself, running with weights and doing other cardio-type exercises, presumably to lose more weight.
WR Andre Roberts made a nice grab after slipping on the grass but reaching up from a sitting position for the catch.
WR DeMarco Sampson brought in a deep pass and ran it in for a touchdown, but on the very next play RB Ryan Williams dropped a short pass in the open field.
Then came the real fireworks. OT Jason Speredon and DE Jeremy Navarre got into a pretty serious fight during team drills. Both grabbed each other's face masks and threw punches under them before finally being separated.
Practice ended with a two-minute drill. That's Kevin Kolb in the photo below dropping back to pass.
And of course, the customary rookie carrying a veteran's pads off the field.
Arizona Cardinals' tight end Todd Heap, who injured his thumb during the Cardinals' 24-18 preseason victory over the Oakland Raiders, seems to be showing progress in his recovery. Heap said today that his thumb "is getting better everyday."
Heap sprained his left thumb during the second quarter of Thursday's contest against the Raiders. He looked good while he was out on the field though, recording two receptions on two targets for 21 yards. Heap's likely back-up, Rob Housler, stepped in and also produced during the game. Housler caught two passes for 18 yards and one touchdown,
Heap himself admitted that the injury was not very serious. According to AZ Central, Heap said that he would have played through the injury on Thursday if it had been a regular season game. The preseason, however, is not about getting playing time for your starters. It is about giving minutes to your reserves and preserving the health of your players.
Heap has been active in practice over the past few days and should be active for the Cardinal's second preseason game against the defending champion Green Bay Packers.
Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt was asked a pretty legit question about what fans can see in Ray Horton's defense that was different from defenses prior to his arrival.
Whisenhunt started the basics. "Well if we could stop somebody, that would be a good start," he said. "That's something that we've got to get better at, obviously. I don't know if on the surface you can be able to put your finger on something that would be different. The biggest issue that we had last year was we weren't on the same page as a defense. We weren't playing together."
That said, the goal is better team defense for the Cards, who finished 29th in the NFL in total defense last season. Enter Horton (below right), who is out to improve things as defensive coordinator.
"A lot of teams can generate that from pressure, from bringing extra guys," Whisenhunt said of how to get a good pass rush. "Other teams can generate it by winning one-on-one matchups. We've got to have a combination of both."
More from Whisenhunt before Monday's practice, which was in jeopardy of being moved indoors again when rain began falling around 1:30 p.m.:
-He's excited about the leadership he's getting from veteran players. But... "let's not color our judgment for last year based on a 5-11 season... When we get to the season, if we win football games, that's the only thing that matters."
-WR Max Komar is expected back to practice today.
-TE Todd Heap's thumb is still sore. "If he'd catch the ball the first time, then maybe he wouldn't have jammed his thumb," Whisenhunt said, drawing laughs. "It's just working through the soreness."
-Asked about Darnell Dockett and his proposed singing career, Whisenhunt said he didn't know Dockett could sing. "If he says he can sing, I'll be excited to see him on 'Idol" or 'The Voice' or any of those things."
"Everybody's got that chip on their shoulder and I'm glad I'm stepping into a team that's like that, rather than a team that won 12 football games last year and they think it happens every year," Kolb said. "The intensity of this camp is better than I've been in before. The focus of all the guys day in and day out, to come off a break and to come off a game and have that practice like we had yesterday, that doesn't happen very often."
The Cardinals were pretty excited about how they practiced Sunday. Indeed it was a fast practice that didn't lack for hustle and emotion. In fact, coach Ken Whisenhunt called it one of the better practices the team has ever had in Flagstaff.
"The challenge is going to be being able to maintain that kind of intensity in practice. We got a lot done yesterday," Whisenhunt said. "You can take it for what it's worth. It was a training camp practice, whatever week we're in. But I would certainly rather have one of those practices than a bad one."
Practice. We're talkin' about practice.
Kolb said his arm feels stronger than ever and he feels quick on his feet, perhaps product of not having offseason workouts. He wants the Cardinals to start fast and then be mentally and physically sharp enough to "steal" some games toward the middle of the season.
More from Kolb:
-On what we wants to accomplish in preseason Game 2 against Green Bay: "Just become more comfortable. Obviously we want to stick it in the end zone and when we step off the field, not only the 'ones' but at the end of the game, shoot, we still want to win."
-On his mobility: "I ran the ball quite a bit in college and the times that I've played in the NFL...Obviously it's not the best part of my game but I like to think I can get around and move if I have to."
-On fighting off the urge to throw to Larry Fitzgerald so much: "It's tough. Obviously with the plays he makes, you want to give him a shot all the time and he wants a shot all the time. But we've got playmakers all around the field and I think that people will be shocked at the way these young guys will step and play and make some big plays for us."
FLAGSTAFF -- Thunder and lightning and pouring rain moved Cardinals practice indoors within the confines of the Walkup Skydome at NAU Sunday, and both footballs and players were flying around.
Too bad for the fans, who can’t go into the dome when the weather forces practice off the outdoor fields.
So we’ll try to give you a snapshot of what happened:
1. Larry Fitzgerald sets the tone. He runs out catches as far as the end zone in front of him, and defenders have to chase until each of them that was in pursuit of Fitz taps him on the jersey or pads so that it is known that they hustled after a play the way No. 11 did.
2. A couple of scuffles broke out in Sunday’s practice, one in which the Cardinals were out to correct some mistakes from the Oakland game. It’s clear that competition for jobs is going to become more fierce, because there are only two preseason games left for most guys to make their case to be on the 53-man team. One tiff involved LB Paris Lenon, who is on the No. 1 defense, and Fitzgerald excitedly jumped on top of the combatants while others were trying to separate players.
4. RB Ryan Williams put a move on CB Bryan Nnabuife that had to be seen to be believed. Williams shifted his hips on a run and left Nnabuife in his wake, which drew plenty of catcalls from teammates watching.
“He’s done something spectacular in practice every time he touches the ball,” Fitzgerald said of Williams, the second-round pick from Virginia Tech this year. “He’s going to help us tremendously, a nice change-up to Beanie.”
6. RB Beanie Wells made a very sharp one-handed grab of a short pass in traffic.
“Coach gave us two days off, that’s unheard of in the NFL,” Fitzgerald said. “The best way to show Coach that we appreciate that is come out and work hard for him. I think guys understood that. They knew that we needed to come up here and give it our best and I think we did that.”
Coach Ken Whisenhunt says he sees a young player willing to work hard, and that Peterson just needs more time on the field. He was impressed with Peterson’s burst of speed coming out of the end zone on the kick return.
"I think we’ll see a lot more of that even in his defensive play as he gets more comfortable with what we’re asking him to do, but very pleased with how he’s going about his business of competing for that (cornerback) job."
Peterson has confidence, but not an arrogant confidence, Whisenhunt said. He sees indications that failures and criticism will only make Peterson a stronger player.
Other highlights from Whisenhunt’s pre-practice comments Sunday in Flagstaff, where the Cardinals re-convened for training camp.
-On FB Anthony Sherman, who shined on special teams: "When we drafted him, we thought he was the best player at his position and we felt like he would make an immediate impact on special teams. That’s high praise for a fifth-round draft pick."
-On the focus of today’s practice: "We’ve got our installation that we’ve adjusted a little bit based on where we are, but we’ve just got to keep pushing with that and then we’ve got to make sure this afternoon’s practice will be all about the corrections from the (Oakland) game." Those include lining up right on both sides of the ball, addressing Beanie Wells’ too-high running style from the game and defensive players’ techniques.
-On CB A.J. Jefferson: "He showed an ability to bounce back. The biggest thing he’s got to work on is consistency."
-On how Kevin Kolb played: "As far as handling the offense, I think we were all pleased with that… he’s driven to be good. He always pushes himself and you can see that that does a lot for the team as well. I know he’s hungry to get into more of the package stuff that we’ll do that is specifically tailored towards his strengths, and that’s what’s going through the next couple weeks of training camp is really about."
-On possibility of trading for a No. 2 receiver: "I don’t ever recall saying we had an issue with our receivers. You tell me, how many receivers had productive nights (in the game Thursday)? I like our football team and the guys we have here competing. That doesn’t mean that if there’s an availability to help make our team better, that we’re not going to look at it."
-On next game vs. Packers: "It’s a great opportunity for us to know we’re going against the defending champions and see where we stack up. We think we have to be realistic enough to understand that we’re not game-planning them, that we’re not anywhere near the team that they are yet, not from a talent standpoint but from a cohesive unit that’s played games together, especially big games…. It’s going to be a tough game for our corners."
-On Todd Heap practicing: "I’m not really concerned whether Todd practices today. I know it’s not a serious injury, it’s just a matter of managing it."
The Cardinals have recently lost receiver Steve Breaston to free agency, but have also signed Chansi Stuckey and re-signed Early Doucet to battle Stephen Williams and Andre Roberts for playing time opposite Larry Fitzgerald. They also signed veteran tight ends Todd Heap and Jeff King. Where Lee Evans fits into the offensive plans is unclear, but what is clear is that Arizona is interested in adding weapons for their newly acquired franchise quarterback, Kevin Kolb.
Evans could be a consolation prize for the Cardinals after they lost out in the bidding for free agent receiver Braylon Edwards, who signed with the 49ers instead. Evans had 37 receptions for 537 yards last season and gave away some targets to rising star Stevie Johnson. Lee Evans eclipsed 1000 yards in both 2006 and 2008, so apparently the Cardinals believe he has something left to offer.
For more on the Cardinals, be sure to check out Revenge of the Birds.
The Arizona Cardinals released their first official depth chart of the 2011 NFL season. Before we tell you all the shocking and surprising things it holds, let us remind everyone who little this chart means.
First off, it's the first one. In other words, it's to early to freak out that Early Doucet is the number three receiver and not number two. Next off, it's early and as coach Ken Whisenhunt likes to say, there's competition at every position (although he did concede that Larry Fitzgerald is probably secure in his role).
"When you go 5-11 you shouldn't be comfortable (with your spot)," Whiz said on Tuesday.
We certainly are not comfortable with our spot and by the looks of this depth chart there's some players who shouldn't be as well. Take, for example, O'Brien Schofiel who came to camp with a new hair do but is on the bench behind veteran Joey Porter who had a horrible season in 2010.
Another big surprise that can't be blamed on 2010 is ILB Stewart Bradley who is listed behind Paris Lenon. Bradley was one of the bigger free agent signings in the offseason and perhaps is being given more time before sliding into the starting role.
Revenge of the Birds thinks that's all part of Whisenhunt's Grand Plan:
Arizona Cardinals Depth Chart Out: Whisenhunt Philosophy Intact - Revenge of the Birds
If there is one trend to be noticed, it is the philosophy that Ken Whisenhunt and his coaching staff believe when it comes to the depth chart -- with rare exception, no one is given a starting job. It must be earned.
Other examples there include free agent acquisitions CB Richard Marshall on the third string and WR Chansi Stuckey buried with the fourth string. It should also be noted that those guys only took the field for the first time on Thursday. We'll see if they don't move up over the next few weeks.
For those of you who are unable to attend Cardinals' Training Camp this year, Twitter has become a great tool to get the blow-by-blow accounts of what is going on. There are several outlets you can follow for these updates, but one that is providing some good content today is @azcsports.
For a taste of what is going on in Flagstaff, here are some tweets:
Wildcat formation. Wells takes direct snap out of shotgun and carries over right end for minimal gain. Kolb with a perfect stance out wide.
Kolb with consecutive strikes to Fitz and Roberts.
Ryan Williams with a decent pick-up block. The coaches will like that. So will the quarterbacks.
Stephens-Howling continues to find holes. It'll be interesting to see if he gets increased carries this season.
Back to 11-on-11. Good run by Wells followed by play-action pass to Heap by Kolb down the seam.
Stuckey is shifty, and I haven't seen him drop a pass yet.
Coaches have not been pleased by the pace of the action today.
That's just a sample of the action. Check out more of the action on Twitter.
For more on the Arizona Cardinals, visit Revenge of the Birds.
Thursday at 7:00 p.m. Arizona time we will get our first look at the 2011 Arizona Cardinals in live NFL action. Preseason games in the NFL take on more meaning than other sports, but then again, everything in the NFL's compressed schedule and heightened media (and fan) environment is more important than other sports. And for Cardinals Ken Whisenhunt, even winning this exhibition game matters.
"It will be a great chance for us to play together as a team and obviously we want to win the game because that's important for us. We're going to try and put our guys in the best position," Whisenhunt said on Monday.
Winning might be important, but game prep for this first preseason game is anything but normal.
Not only have the Raiders changed much of what they do with the addition of a new coach and many new players, the Cardinals are very much focused on their own situation. Without a mini-camp and OTAs to learn how to play with new quarterback Kevin Kolb and new defensive coordinator Ray Horton, the team is playing catch up.
Whisenhunt explains the plan, "We'll refine it, cut it down and give our players a list of the things that we're going to run in the game and work on those in practice over the next couple of days so that when we play Thursday night we'll be able to play fast and be able to adjust to whatever different looks."
The coach says he's excited to see what the team can do but acknowledges it "won't be perfect".
For more on the Arizona Cardinals, visit Revenge of the Birds.
Arizona Cardinals safety Adrian Wilson is not a guy who is going to accept being injured and missing time with a shrug. Wilson is as tough as they come and so it's no surprise when his coach, Ken Whisenhunt, said he's already working hard on his rehab to get back as quickly as possible from a torn biceps tendon injury.
Whisenhunt said the injury occurred early in practice on Saturday when Wilson extended his arm when he tried to make a tackle on running back Beanie Wells.
There's no official timeline set for his return but Wilson is expected to play this season. Whisenhunt repeatedly said it would depend on how the injury responded to treatment and while early signs are positive, it's too soon to say.
"I know this, my number one concern is the health of Adrian. I know he's a very tough player and he'd go out there with one arm if he could. So, we obviously have to make sure his body is healing correctly before we allow him to play," Whisenhunt added.
The Cardinals re-signed safety Matt Ware who, along with Rashad Johnson, will step into Wilson's slot. Johnson is a third-year player out of Alabama drafted by the Cardinals in the third round in 2009. Ware is an eight-year NFL vet who played 14 games with the Cardinals last season. He had eight tackles and three special teams stops.
Whisenhunt said his team will need to simply pick up the slack and move on, "That's football. That happens in the game."
For more on the Arizona Cardinals, visit Revenge of the Birds.
Safety Adrian Wilson will get an MRI on his right elbow after suffering a hit during Saturday's practice. Following the hit, the 31-year-old Wilson was on all fours and had trouble standing up. He eventually did rise, however, and watched the rest of the practice from the sidelines while icing his elbow.
The 11-year veteran is a central part of the Cardinals' defense and his absence will surely be felt if he misses time. In addition to performing on the field, Wilson has spent a lot of time during training camp and pre-training camp serving as a mentor to several young defensive players. Any time missed would hinder not only his own progress but possibly the progress of several younger players as well.
Wilson has played in every single game the past two seasons. This, however, does not mean that Wilson has been injury-free. Rather, it goes to show that Wilson is very tough and resilient. Last season he battled through a hip abductor injury that was more serious than anyone on the Cardinals' staff realized. He played out the season and then had offseason injury.
Wilson's philosophy seems to be that playing through injuries shows one's teammates just how dedicated one is to them and to the team as a whole. Expect Wilson to fight this injury the same way he fought that hip abductor last season.
The Arizona Cardinals are well into training camp, with the full team (recently signed free agents included) practicing for the third straight day. Overall, the Cardinals' pass offense looked pretty good while the team's defense managed to produce interceptions on poor throws and suffocate the running game.
The connection between quarterback Kevin Kolb and wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald continues to grow. Kolb looked for his favorite target often, even with multiple defenders hanging off of the ever-dangerous Fitzgerald. Though Kolb did throw a few interceptions against the increased pressure, several times Fitzgerald came down with the ball regardless. One of the best highlights of the day came from a 40-yard bomb from Kolb that Fitzgerald caught over-his-head in the endzone.
The Cardinals' tight ends had a good day as well. Kolb found Todd Heap several times for critical gains, including a 25-yard play-action conversion and a couple of third-down conversions. The crowd, it seems, has taken to the Arizona native. Every big gain was greeted with a warm chant of "HEEEAP!" The veteran tight end seems to be enjoying everything too. Asked about his thoughts on practice after it ended, Heap said, "This is just great. I'm loving it."
Meanwhile, quarterback Max Hall has started developing quite the connection with rookie tight end Rob Housler. During one series, Hall found Housler twice as he led the offense down the field, concluding with an 11-yard touchdown strike to the young tight end.
The defense was stifling against the run as running backs Beanie Wells and Ryan Williams had a tough time finding gaps. Defenders swarmed around the middle of the field and prevented big gains. The two backs, however, did an adequate job of gaining short yardage and continuing to move the chains.
The Cardinals will continue to practice as the season approaches. The team's first preseason match-up will be held on August 11th at the Oakland Raiders.
By all measures and accounts, Thursday afternoon was the first real practice day for the Arizona Cardinals in their 2011 NFL training camp. It was the first time the entire team was eligible to take the field with the addition of 24 veteran free agents who had to wait on the sidelines all week for the CBA to be finally and fully ratified.
"Obviously, there was something different in the air," Kolb said after practice ended.
He, like other players we spoke to, reported rust and a lot of work to be done. He also said things got progressively better as the day went on.
While the precise execution might not have been there, Kolb was pleased with the improvisational skills he saw from both himself and his receivers.
"Our better plays today were instinctive plays where I'm not thinking too much. I'm not worried too much about protection and you just go back to playing. That's the stuff you're always afraid you're going to lose...A lot of plays today where we were just playing ball. When you see that going on you know that when a play breaks down we can make some big ones."
Kolb had his first chance to see Larry Fitzgerald make a spectacular play on one of his passes. During a one-on-one drill, Kolb lobbed a ball up to a well-covered Fitz who made a fantastic one-handed grab, "He's special..I feel like he's one of those guys out there I can just chunk it up to him. That's a nice security blanket to have."
The offense overall kicked the defense in the teeth. The practice ended with a goal line stance drill with the two sides lined up against each other on the one-yard line. Pads were popping.
On the first play, Kolb and Beanie Wells missed the exchange on a handoff. Fumble.
From there both the first team offense led by Kolb and then the second team led by John Skelton scored multiple times without being stopped. Kolb made one completion to the tight end but the other plays were straight forward power football with runs by both Wells and rookie Ryan Williams.
Even defensive coordinator Ray Horton admitted that his unit got whooped.
"Offense was outstanding today. You know something, I'm happy for our offense because the more points they score the more we win," Horton said tactfully. But he's not satisfied at all, "We better have an edge (next time) and some meanness and some nastiness."
It was a very intense practice as well with at least two skirmishes between offensive and defensive players.
It's nothing to worry about according to newly acquired inside linebacker, Stewart Bradley, "That's good. I think that you have to have a little bit of aggression in camp or it's no fun. We're all competitive people out here so have an outlet for that. Push and shoving, everyone's still friends at the end of the day."
Several players reported being winded after the intense high-altitude workout. "Football shape is not the same as being in shape," was a common refrain.
Big Deuce Lutui, who stood out on the goal line as a beast on the offensive line, was still catching his breadth when he told us how he's feeling about the team, "It's just improved scale of football and the talent we have for this team. I think we're going to see everybody getting better and do better than last year."
The Cardinals will be back at it on Friday and then Saturday at 11:35 to 1:20 is the Red and White practice. It's schedule for the outdoor fields at NAU, but could be moved into the Skydome if the weather is bad. Unfortunately, due to construction this year, the Skydome isn't open to the public, so pray for good weather.
From 10:45 to 11:10 am there will be an autograph session for kids under the age of 12. Because of time limitations, there will be a one item per child limit and no posed photos will be permitted. Gates for the autograph session will open at 9:45 a.m. and a specified number of people will be then allowed to start lining up in the player lines. Arrive early if you plan on attending this. Big crowds are expected.
For more on the Cardinals, check out Revenge of the Birds.
And it's on -- the CBA has been fully and officially and finally ratified by the NFL Players Association and 24 Arizona Cardinals veteran free agents are now cleared to join their first full practice with the team on Thursday afternoon. Kevin Kolb will take the field and while fan expectations couldn't be higher, head coach Ken Whisenhunt is trying to keep things in perspective. The real hype (and almost equally good news) is that dynamic rookie Patrick Peterson will, in fact, join the return game.
"You expect him to make some plays, obviously, but we'll see how it goes," Whisenhunt said about his quarterback.
The only goal for this first practice is to see how much of an understanding he has with the plays and have him control the team in and out of huddles. Whisenhunt expects mistakes and says it will be ugly at times but it's all part of the process.
The team will conduct live goal line drills at the end of practice and with 24 veterans on the field of the first time we can expect the first team to get more reps than normal in an attempt to get caught up.
Peterson Punt Game
Patrick Peterson, who recently said he'd love to return punts or kicks if given the chance, obviously made an impression on his coach Wednesday when he got his first change to field some punts in a drill.
"We'll integrate Patrick in there," Whisenhunt said. "He looks like a natural...it's pretty surprising to see how smooth he is...When you have a guy that's that special in the return game you want to incorporate him."
Whiz said Peterson could field punts and we also could see Patrick and LaRod Stephens-Howling together in kick returns. How much he's involved in the return game will be determined by the number of snaps he's getting as a cornerback.
For more on the Cardinals, check out Revenge of the Birds.
Yes, it is way to soon to start making any decisions about which of the three quarterbacks that have practiced during the first week of Arizona Cardinals' training camp will emerge as the number two guy behind Kevin Kolb. The consensus from observers and outsiders I talk to is that John Skelton will get the nod but head coach Ken Whisenhunt is far from ready to call this race over.
"They're going to be judged more about what they do over the course of the time instead of one week of practice. I've been very pleased with all three of them," Whisenhunt said at his mid-day press conference on Thursday.
The three candidates -- Skelton along with Max Hall and Richard Bartel -- were able to take advantage of the first five days without Kolb. They got more reps while Kolb was prohibited from practicing then they will see moving forward now that Kolb, along with the 23 other veteran free agents, can begin practicing with the team.
Whisenhunt might not be willing to share his candid thoughts on their performance so far, but it's foolish not to think one of them holds a current lead.
In the mean time, Whisenhunt expressed only his pleasure with all three, "I've been very please with how all three of them have handled it. They've looked good at times and they've made their share of mistakes, which you expect."
And while he understandably wouldn't handicap the race this early, Whisenhunt was willing to share his thoughts on the eventual outcomes, "I don't think we're going to have any issue with the guy that's going to be the backup, that's for sure."
For more on the Arizona Cardinals, visit Revenge of the Birds.
This report from CBS Sports says it all:
Players, owners reach agreement on final CBA - CBSSports.com
It's now in the hands of every player in the NFL. The players and owners reached agreement on final details of the CBA late Wednesday night. That part is over. Now, the team reps will detail the CBA to the general membership. Players will conduct the vote, fax in the results, and if ratified, practice can start for everyone at 4 p.m. eastern. And it will get ratified. More to come
And with this, the NFL has not ensured 10 years of labor peace.
When the NFL lockout ended last week we all thought that was the end of any labor strife for the next ten years. But unfortunately, there were some not-so-small details that had to be worked out and according to the NFL, the timeline for those to be done was August 4.
The process is really pretty straightforward in theory, but, of course, any time you leave things up to negotiation between owners and player it has the potential to go bad.
Once the new CBA was agreed to by both sides, the next step was the players reforming the official NFL Players Association which is the legal union authorized to negotiate work place rules. The union would then finalize the last few details and the deal would be actually done.
Until that happens, veteran free agents like Arizona Cardinal's new quarterback Kevin Kolb is unable to practice with the team. Everyone has been assuming that it would all get done and Kolb and the other vets would be on the field Thursday. But according to various media reports there could be a hold up.
Arizona Cardinals kicker and player representative to the union explains, "As of yesterday (Tuesday), I was told it's still going to be tomorrow (Thursday). Hopefully, but we haven't got anything definitive yet.
"There were certain issues that because of labor law you couldn't negotiate until you were a union again. Those issues are anything in the work place. So, drug policies, benefits, enforcement of any penalties that (NFL commissioner) Roger Goodell fines, things of that nature."
It would seem that it's exactly those disciplinary issues and policies that are holding up the pace of progress. Let's just all hope this gets resolved so the teams and players and fans can be done with this mess and football can resume full operations.
Adrian Wilson is motivated by your negativity. He reads what's written about him being too old and that he should retire and he reads the next day when he's called "great". All that matters to the 11-year NFL veteran Arizona Cardinals safety is what goes on between the lines.
"I know what type of player I am. I know I'm a top-50 player in this league. I'll just go out there and do my thing and let my play speak," Wilson said after Cardinals morning practice on Wednesday, the fifth day of the 2011 Cardinals training camp.
Wilson's performance last season took a dip but that turned out to be due to a hip abductor injury that was much more serious than head coach Ken Whisenhunt said the team knew. The Cardinals were award he was sore and banged up but they didn't know he would require surgery in the offseason.
Adrian said that he doesn't reveal injuries and what's important is showing his teammates that he's willing to play through it.
"We're not going to talk about that. We'll see September 11th," he said when asked how he's doing now. "It doesn't really matter. I'll get it back. Trust me, don't worry about that. I'll be fine."
Wilson spent a lot of time this offseason working with the younger players on the team and helping them prepare for training camp. One guy he's very high on is fellow defensive back, Patrick Peterson.
"I think Patrick (Peterson) is pretty good," Wilson said about the third overall pick. "I love the kid, honestly. His confidence level makes me confident. He knows the playbook and he knows the things we want him to do. He doesn't talk back, which is great. He's one of those kids, you can tell, is very well rounded and he wants to be great and that's something that you always want in a kid like him."
For more on the Arizona Cardinals, visit Revenge of the Birds.
FILE - In this Jan. 18, 2009, file photo, Arizona Cardinals safety Adrian Wilson reacts after he sacked Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb during the second half of the NFL NFC championship football game in Glendale, Ariz. Two-time Pro Bowl safety Wilson signed a new five-year contract that runs through the 2013 season with the Arizona Cardinals . Terms of the deal weren't disclosed. (AP Photo/Matt York, File)
Texas rookie linebacker Sam Acho is just a few days into his first NFL training camp. He's got a lot to learn but is excited and getting positive feedback so far.
Now playing the role of team punching bag, Deuce Lutui. The big guy is back in Cardinals' training camp and once again we are talking about his weight. After signing a big free agent deal with the Cincinnati Bengals, Lutui was bounced back to Arizona for failing his physical and came right back to the team that loves to love him.
Deuce, as always, had a lot to say to the media when he spoke right before lunch and in typical Deuce-fashion he lofted some great one-liners.
"Having that burden coming into this world as a 13-pound baby, it's one of the crosses I've got to carry," Deuce said.
It's not all fun and games of course, which head coach Ken Whisenhunt made perfectly clear, "There's a lot of things you see that you just shake your head at...especially when you have a close relationship with someone like Deuce and the relationship he has with his team. It hurts to see him not realize the potential that you know is there."
Whisenhunt made it clear that the Cardinals aren't going to have a lot of patience with Lutui. They are setting up a plan for him with an ultimate target weight along with interim goals. Key to the plan will be maintaining the weight once (if) he reaches it.
"Deuce and I have talked a few times --- and none of it was over a meal," Whiz said. "I'm not by any stretch angry or upset because we want Deuce to be successful. Not only selfishly for our football team but also because of the personal relationship you develop with players."
Lutui guaranteed that he has "a renewed commitment" and that he considers making weight a matter of integrity, "I'm not doing this because you're telling me, it is for my whole self, my health and everything like that."
Deuce had a message for the Bengals team that cut him as well, "Just understand what's leaving the door and I'll see you guys this Christmas." (Cardinals vs. Bengals, Week 16, Dec. 24.)
The Cardinals starting right guard from last season, however, also seemed like he almost wanted this result.
Asked how he'd respond to fans who would say they could keep the weight off with millions of dollars at stake, he gave an interesting answer, "I look at the situation over there in Cincinnati with the quarterback situation, going in there after the CBA is handled and trying to learn a whole new playbook before the season...I know I've left a lot over there but I see this as an opportunity."
That kind of sounds like a guy with regrets about leaving in the first place, or, maybe like a guy rationalizing his inability to make weight. Whichever it is, he doesn't mind the criticism, "The good Lord made me this big so I could take a lot of blows."
The bottom line, Deuce says he's motivated to not only make weight but to raise the level of his play on the field, "I'm a nasty guy and I'll take the trash out on the field."
Other great Deuce quotes:
Deuce Lutui at an as of yet undetermined weight, talks with Craig Fouhy, Sports Director for ABC15 in Phoenix. August, 2, 2011. Photo via Seth Pollack's cell phone.
Among the many free agent moves that the Arizona Cardinals have made this offseason, they recently signed veteran tight end Todd Heap. Heap is a local product, having attended Mesa Mountain View High School and Arizona State University, but it will be the first season of his pro career not playing for the Baltimore Ravens. He played in Baltimore for 10 years. On Tuesday, he was introduced to the media for the first time as a member of the Arizona Cardinals.
"It feels real good," said Heap about putting on a Cardinals hat. "Obviously I've been a Cardinals fan ever since they've been in town, so I'm excited to be back -- excited to be home."
His happiness was evident throughout the news conference, as he was smiling the entire time. He told the press that he and his wife made a list of teams he thought would be a good fit and a possibility for him to land. Of that list, Arizona "was definitely the top."
Now, historically, Arizona teams have seemed to be a sort of magnet for players in the twilight of their career. Many have not been terribly productive. Heap does not believe this will happen to him. "I've got a lot left," he explained. "I feel like I've got a lot of years in front of me. My body feels good, so I'm looking forward to see what we can accomplish."
Among the scores of players in the league, Heap worked out with Larry Fitzgerald in the offseason. How did Fitz react to the acquisition of Heap? He told Heap on the phone, "Hey, you can't be stealing my catches. i need at least 90."
Heap's reaction? "That's all right, because all I need is 75."
The addition of Heap give the Cardinals their first genuine threat at the tight end position since Jay Novachek left to become an All-Pro for the Dallas Cowboys. That threat in the middle an only help Fitz and especially Kevin Kolb, who will lead the Cardinals at quarterback.
The short offseason has been seen as a successful one for the Cardinals thus far. All that is left for them is to see that success translate into performance on the field. That is always easier said than done.
After just a few days as the quarterback for the Arizona Cardinals, what stands out about Kevin Kolb is his dedication and desire. Of course, anyone in that position is going to say the right things and project the right image to his new team and fans. Matt Leinart talked about being dedicated to football and working hard but that didn't turn out so well.
With Kolb, however, it does ring true when he talks about how frustrating it is having to watch while the rest of the team is on the field practicing.
You see it even in practice where some of the other veteran guys restricted from starting practice by league rules until August 4 are off somewhere else or grouped together on the sideline, Kolb is getting as close to the action as possible. He's standing with the coaches as they run QB drills. He's paying full attention to what's happening on the field.
Kolb says he's picked up a lot studying the playbook, reviewing film, talking to the coaching staff and sitting next to Larry Fitzgerald in meetings but it's still not the same as being on the field.
"The big thing now missing this time during the offseason is catching up on your speed of the game and making sure you can read and react as quickly as you need to. I'm anxious to get back out there," Kolb said in a mid-day press conference.
"The problem is, each day it's compacting on the day before. By the time I get out there it's going to be eight or 10 installs that are going to packed into my head. I just have to make sure that we slow it down. It's just kind of frustrating when you're leaving the field every day you go, 'man, I'm another half-a-step behind now from the rest of the group and of course the rest of the NFL."
Kevin wants to play in first preseason game against Oakland on August 11 but understands and expects mistakes. He stresses that the important game comes in Week 1 against the Carolina Panthers on September 11.
Kolb excited about Todd Heap and tight ends
One thing that may be different about the Cardinals offense this season is the use of tight ends. Typically, it's not been a featured position in the Arizona passing attack but the team obviously wanted to change that so they went out and added some quality players at that position.
It started with drafting Rob Housler in the third round of the NFL Draft and then adding veteran free agent TE Jeff King who's known more for his blocking and run support and Jim Dray and Stephen Spach are also back in camp. Topping it all off on Sunday was the signing of Todd Heap.
Heap has everyone from the coach to Larry Fitzgerald to Kevin Kolb excited. He's expected to arrive in camp late Monday evening. There are already signs of change with Cardinal's blogger Jess Root (at camp in Flagstaff) seeing more formations with two tight ends.
For Kolb, playing with a talented tight end is familiar, "It means a lot and it can mean a lot to this offense just in the few days I've spent in it. I got to where I relied on (Philadelphia Eagle tight end Brent) Celek a lot. Him and I had a good relationship and he can be a safety valve, tight end can be a safety valve for you."
For more on the Arizona Cardinals, visit Revenge of the Birds.
The Arizona Cardinals had a busy day on and off the field. As we covered all the Sunday action off the field, the team put on the pads and spent two-hours of a partly sunny Flagstaff afternoon running through a variety of drills. It wasn't always pretty but at least tomorrow the complement of players will include all the team's rookies who are now signed and in camp. Patrick Peterson even took the podium for a 6:00 pm press conference.
Peterson is understandably excited to get the contract stuff out of the way and practice on Monday for the first time in a Cardinals uniform. It won't, however, be the first time he's lined up opposite Larry Fitzgerald. Like many players this offseason Peterson worked out with Fitz in Arizona during the summer.
"He told me he's going to get me better," Peterson said. Guarding the best receiver in the league in practice will prepare certainly help prepare the rookie for NFL Sundays.
As for practice, "It was good to get out here on the field in pads and see some of these guys. I like the intensity and effort but a lot of the little things you're seeing -- guys lining up offsides, missing the count, being in the wrong place, making mistakes. A lot of the things you see early in the offseason that you get your players comfortable with you're going to have to fight through."
Linebacker Clark Haggans agreed that this training camp has been a challenge, "It's a lot different than what I've seen before with all this activity. We've crammed six months worth of stuff in four or five days. It's flurry. It's kind of exciting especially for you guys just to report. There's news happening every 10 minutes something big and breaking."
The Cardinals will have two practices on Monday with the early work out (9:05 am) being a walk-thru only. (Full practice schedule here.)
For more on the Cardinals, check out Revenge of the Birds.
The Arizona Cardinals got underway with their first day of practice in training camp for the 2011 NFL season. Head coach Ken Whisenhunt said he was pleased with the effort and intensity but, "you could tell it was the first practice ever for this group."
Whisenhunt said his guys were in "pretty good shape" but stressed there's a difference between that and being in football shape. One guy not at practice today was third overall pick, Patrick Peterson. That's about to change though, since Peterson and the Cardinals have agreed to terms on a five-year deal and he'll be in camp Sunday night.
Larry Fitzgerald was just happy to get back on the field, "It was good to get back on the field. It's great to be back here in Flagstaff in front of our fans. I know they've been waiting for football, we've been waiting for football, so it's an exciting day for us all."
The star wide receiver is also pleased with the direction the team is headed, "This is the most active I've ever seen the team in free agency and I think that's really exciting. We addressed a couple of needs. We lost some guys in free agency and obviously a starting cornerback but I think the team is doing a good job addressing the needs that we have. We're going to continue to make acquisitions, that's what they say."
The best part of practice was watching Fitzgerald do his thing. The ball sounds different going into his soft hands and while he said after practice that he has a lot of work to do, there's at least one play caught on film that disputes that.
In the first part of the clip, Beanie Wells -- the default number one back with free agent Tim Hightower and rookie Ryan Williams not yet in camp -- breaks off a nice run in a low-contact, 11-on-11 scrimmage. In the next play we see John Skelton under throw a ball to Fitz on the sideline but...well, you know how that's going to end.
Just about three hours before the Arizona Cardinals took the practice field for the first time in the 2011 NFL Season Training Camp head coach Ken Whisenhunt addressed the media in a cozy meeting room near the dinning facility on the campus of Northern Arizona University. Aside from a light rain, it was a shame to even be inside at all and hopefully, that rain will clear in time for practice.
"Get through it without rain," Whisenhunt responded when asked about his goals for Saturday afternoon. Should the rain come back (it's stopped now) the team will move inside the NAU Walkup Skydome which will prevent the fans from watching their team work out.
The town of Flagstaff is thrilled to have camp here again and the fans that come to get close to the team are happy the lockout is over. Whisenhunt appreciates that relationship as much as anyone.
"It's a very important relationship between our fans and our players and obviously, this is a great venue for that to happen," Coach said.
The first practice itself, as with many things at this training camp, will be a little different due to the lockout.
"When we go out on the field where we go for our individual drills, where we line up for stretch, where do all those things -- we haven't done that. We've always already had the opportunity to do that. Getting through this practice in a semi-organized manner and able to run plays and play defense and really getting a feel for getting started."
Making the confusion even more...confusing...is the roster situation.
Whiz wasn't even sure how many players he had in camp and how many would be available to practice on Saturday. He guessed there were about 70 total players but many veteran free agents like Kevin Kolb and Daryn Colledge won't be able to take the field for several more days.
Colledge for his part, admitted that he had a lot to learn in a short period of time. The biggest issues for him are communication, terminology and chemistry on the O-line. The focus for his training camp will be getting with center and tackles and making sure everyone is on the same page.
"For me, it's going to be getting rid of the habits of what I would do to make adjustments to defenses in my old game and make adjustments here and make sure everybody's on the same page. Like I said, there's dude's behind us who's lives are probably on the line, I need to be doing that right," Colledge said.
A running theme for this training camp will be how quickly the team overcomes the challenges that come with the lockout and how fast they can get on the same page and start working on the more advanced skills needed for the season. Whisenhunt puts a lot of burden for that task on his veteran players who will have to help the coaching staff show the new guys how the Cardinals do their business.
For more on the Cardinals, check out Revenge of the Birds.
Arizona Cardinals' quarterback John Skelton arrives for NFL football training camp, Friday, July 29, 2011, at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, Ariz. (AP Photo/The Arizona Republic, David Wallace)
The Arizona Cardinals have released their full training camp schedule for the 2011 trip to Flagstaff. All practices are open to the public if they are outdoors. Due to construction, practices that have to be moved inside to the Walkup Skydome due to weather will be closed. Outdoor practices will be held on the fields near the Skydome with free parking for the public.
There will be a special Red & White Practice from 11:35 am - 1:20 pm on August 6. Weather permitting, there will be an hour-long full-team autograph session for kids 12 and under. That will take place from 10:45 - 11:10 am.
The Cardinals will also have a night practice on Tuesday, August 16 from 7:05 - 9:10 pm at nearby Coconino High School.
Here's the full practice schedule as it stands with all times subject to change.
Saturday, 7/30/11 3:05-5:00 PM
Sunday, 7/31/11 3:05-5:05 PM
Monday, 8/1/11 9:05-10:30 AM / 3:05-5:05 PM
Tuesday, 8/2/11 3:05-5:00 PM
Wednesday, 8/3/11 9:05-10:30 AM / 3:05-5:00 PM
Thursday, 8/4/11 3:05-5:00 PM
Friday, 8/5/11 9:05-10:30 AM / 3:05-5:15 PM
Saturday, 8/6/11 11:35 AM-1:20 PM
Monday, 8/8/11 3:05-5:00 PM
Tuesday, 8/9/11 3:05-5:00 PM
Thursday, 8/11/11 PRESEASON GAME #1 at Oakland
Sunday, 8/14/11 4:20-5:20 PM
Monday, 8/15/11 3:05-5:00 PM
Tuesday, 8/16/11 7:05-9:10 PM (Coconino High School)
Wednesday, 8/17/11 3:05-5:00 PM
Friday, 8/19/11 PRESEASON GAME #2 at Green Bay
Monday, 8/22/11 3:35-5:15 PM
Tuesday, 8/23/11 3:05-4:55 PM
Wednesday, 8/24/11 9:05-10:20 AM / 3:05-5:00 PM
Thursday, 8/25/11 9:05-10:30 AM
Saturday, 8/27/11 PRESEASON GAME #3 vs San Diego
Thursday, 9/1/11 PRESEASON GAME #4 vs Denver
Darnell Dockett can be a funny guy at times but he was all business on his first official day back at the Arizona Cardinals Tempe training facility. He got in a workout and caught up on things with his coaches. When asked about his team the game face came on.
"When you finish last place in the division, you know you have a lot of work to do and I feel like we're a couple of steps behind and the only way we were going to be able to do that was to have a great offseason but that didn't happen. Right now we just have to focus in and hope that we have enough mature guys to go on the field and get it done and play catch up," Dockett said.
He sees the key to a successful camp resting on team leaders like himself who need to make sure the players stay focused and don't fall back on excuses. According to Darnell, after seven months off there's no reason for guys complaining about being tired or sore -- "Just get the job done."
While he says that he's in shape and ready to get back to work, the defensive tackle is not so sure that everyone will be.
"Just hoping that my teammates have been taking the initiative to get the job done and been working. That's the biggest thing that I was concerned about was everybody else doing their job, everybody staying in shape."
The most important sign that Darnell is ready was revealed by this answer,
"My alligator's in Florida. I miss him too. I was going to ask coach can I bring him to training camp but I was pretty sure he was going to say no so I just wanted to save myself the hassle."
No alligator. All business. Darnell Dockett reporting for duty.
Audio: Darnell Dockett 072611
TEMPE, AZ - JULY 26: Defensive tackle Darnell Dockett #90 of the Arizona Cardinals speaks to the media as he reports to the team's training center facility on July 26, 2011 in Tempe, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
The Arizona Cardinals will head up the mountain to start their 2011 training camp in Flagstaff on Friday with the first practice coming Saturday afternoon. But with only 41 players under contract until free agents can sign on Friday, this is going to be much different than most years. Coach Ken Whisenhunt addressed the media for the first time this season at the team's Tempe training facility and talked about the challenges his team will face.
"There will be a lot of guys learning a lot of new things, that's for sure. Whether it's rookies or free agents and we don't have a lot of time to do that," Whisenhunt said.
The Cardinals' head coach estimated that he would have about 70 guys available for that first practice but that likely won't include the team's new starting quarterback. According to the league timeline, drafted and undrafted rookies can start practicing with the team immediately but veteran free agents don't take the field until August 4. That would include a player traded -- say someone like Kevin Kolb.
Whisenhunt admitted that it will be difficult for any new quarterback they bring in but hopes the experience level of the guys they are looking at will help mitigate that. He anticipates limiting how much of the offense gets installed early in camp which will put the Cardinals behind other teams with more established systems.
The combination of a new quarterback and a lot of new, young players will be difficult.
"I think you have to be a lot more patient with these guys," Whisenhunt said. "It's going to be a lot tougher for these young men to come in here and learn something and try and compete. I think about our first game here in a couple of weeks (August 11), that's going to be a real eye-opening experience for these guys."
Despite the challenges, Whiz said he's excited about the opportunity to see how the young players on his team grow and mature, "Hopefully, the additions that we add will allow us to come together pretty quickly and form a team that's much better than the team we had last year."
Practices in Flagstaff at NAU are open to the public and the weather is forecast to be in the high 70's.
Whisenhunt on how hectic things are right now:
"I think the best way to say it is that whatever you can imagine, it's probably worse than that. There's multi-tasking at its most furious. We have a number of players that we're trying to resign on our own team, we're also looking at a number of free agents, we're trying to make moves to improve our team. We've got a lot of different guys making contact with players and agents trying to get deals worked out. From not doing a lot to 100 miles an hour."
Whisenhunt on what kind of shape the players and in:
"The guys that I've seen today look pretty good. Obviously, we haven't run one step in a competitive situation. I think going up to Flagstaff and when they get started, that will be one of the most critical assessments that we have to make -- what kind of shape is our team in and what do we have to do to get them ready to go."
Press Conference Audio: Ken Whisenhunt 072611
For more on the Arizona Cardinals, visit Cardinals blog, Revenge of the Birds
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