The Arizona Cardinals are finally settling into a regular season routine as they prepare for their NFL Week 1 game versus the Carolina Panthers. The team roster is down to the players who will be going into battle this week and there's an air of confidence, excitement and determination with this group that is very disappointed with last year's result.
Star defensive end Darnell Dockett mentioned last year's 5-11 record several times when he spoke to the media after Monday's practice.
"Our main focus everyday we step on the field (is to) get better. We just remember what 5-11 felt like," Dockett said. "If you look at the game film from last year year and look at how much we didn't play together, how many mistakes we made, things like that --- it sucks. To have an opportunity to go out and redeem yourself again...A lot of games is personal."
Outside of the team, no one is talking about the Cardinals defense this year and until they deliver on the field, no one should. Inside the team, there's a lot more hope for improvement.
"We think we can be one of the better units in this league so that's the way we're approaching it. We know coach is going to be aggressive and that's the way we like it and that's the way we want to be. Just go out there and win or lose on our own terms," veteran safety Kerry Rhodes said.
Preparations are well underway for the Panthers but with the combination of normal Week 1 unknowns along with a new head coach (Ron Rivera) and a new quarterback (Cam Newton), there's only so much that can be done.
Coach Ken Whisenhunt doesn't mind that too much. He's stressed being prepared for the unknown all preseason, "You don't know if what they've shown in preseason is what they're going to show in regular season. But that's the way it can be every Sunday in the NFL."
Larry Fitzgerald says the offense has been watching the Panthers preseason games to get a feel for their new personnel and have also been looking at film from San Diego. Rivera most recently was the defensive coordinator for the Chargers who were a number-one ranked defense in the NFL last year.
The Cardinals don't have practice on Tuesday but will continue preparation for the season opener after the day off.
- "Whenever you get to the first game of the season it's always an unknown, especially with a new head coach coming in...We know with Cam (Newton) that it's going to be a little bit more simplified so we'll probably approach it that way." -- Kerry Rhodes
- "I have the same focus I've had since the first week of training camp. That's getting better, getting the core group of guys that I knew was going to be here better...We played against Carolina last year and a lot of us were hurt. It was towards the end of the season, nothing was going right...We want to see what they got now." -- Darnell Dockett
- "He's the first pick of the draft for a reason. A great player. I don't go into the game underestimating him. One thing I know about quarterbacks, you give them enough time, no matter who back there, they'll get the ball up. Our biggest thing is going out playing solid football, assignment football, and not get so caught up on who the quarterback is and what they got. We're playing at home so you got to play at our level and that's the mind set that we've got to have." -- Docket on Cam Newton
- "We want to make some explosive plays in the run game and the pass game, defensively, special teams. We feel as if we're capable of making big things happen." -- Larry Fitzgerald