TEMPE -- Boxes of takeout food, suitcases and staff running around the locker room packing equipment bags -- and the occasional club employee in shirt and tie -- mean only one thing on a Friday early afternoon at Arizona Cardinals headquarters, or really any NFL team's facility.
It's time to pack up, get on the bus to the airport and fly to a road game at least two time zones away.
Such was the scene at Cardinals headquarters as the team made ready to fly to Washington, D.C. for Sunday's game against the Redskins.
"This is an East Coast trip, which has historically been a little bit difficult for a lot of teams in the West," coach Ken Whisenhunt said after practice. "We're going to stay true to the way that we've been preparing for it and we'll see how we play on Sunday. I think our guys are fired up about playing and seeing if we can do a little bit better than the way we played last week, especially defensively."
Washington poses a challenge having won at home at FedEx Field (which by the way has the worst press box vantage point in all of the NFL, end zone and low, thanks Dan Snyder) last week. It's a huge stadium and fans are devoted.
"You've got to learn how to go in there and play well in these situations, so it'll be a great opportunity for us," Whisenhunt said.
One of the keys for the Cardinals is veteran leadership going into the first big road game of the season.
"We've got some good leaders that will hopefully get this young guys up to speed quickly. We've got a mix of older guys and young guys, jelling that team is a process," Whisenhunt said. "But we made progress this week."
Rookie cornerback Patrick Peterson is one of those young guys. He said the biggest thing he worked on this week was taking what he learned from practice leading up to last Sunday's game and putting it to use this week.
"Continue to have that confidence level through the sky and continue working hard and not letting one play get you down," he said.
Peterson imagines that his first NFL regular-season road trip will be much like a preseason trip, but just a little more intense.
"Knowing that we have to win, because winning can definitely predict what's going to go on in the future," he said. "Just want to go up there and get a road win, because good teams get road wins."
Whisenhunt said LB Daryl Washington, who didn't practice all week including Friday because of a calf injury, is improving but a decision on his availability won't come until game day. LB Joey Porter (knee) practiced in full Friday and is probable, and RB LaRod Stephens-Howling wasn't able to practice for a third straight day because of a hand injury and is questionable for Sunday.
Peterson watched his LSU Tigers beat Mississippi State Thursday night. When asked about it, he looked at teammate Kerry Rhodes and said, "What I told you, Kerry. We won by 13. We beat them by 13 every year, dog. For real!" Peterson said there was only one year during his time in college (sophomore season) when LSU didn't defeat the Bulldogs by 13. A little research, however, shows that LSU never beat Miss. State by 13 points in the three years Peterson was there, but the Tigers did win all three games.