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
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