Work underway at Cardinals mini-camp
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The Arizona Cardinals kicked off their first mandatory team mini-camp Saturday morning at the team’s Training Facility in Tempe. For the next three days the team will hold five practice sessions which will give head coach Ken Whisenhunt and his staff an excellent opportunity to evaluate the personnel.
“It’s still early. It’s very early on Christmas morning. We just started to play with them. You know we have to figure out what toys we like, and which ones are running good,” said Whisenhunt following the morning practice session. “There were a lot of guys running around out there, a lot of confusion especially with the young guys, but that’s part of the process.”
It was just over a year ago when starting quarterback Matt Leinart was taking part in his first mini-camp. With 25 rookies currently on the roster, the second-year quarterback remembers what it was like to be in their position.
“I could just see the nerves when I walked in this morning,” said Leinart. “Everyone just sits at their lockers and doesn’t say anything. But these mini-camps, and I learned this last year and especially for the younger guys, are about mental reps. You have to take advantage of them. You’re not going to get in on every single snap. You may get one or two here and there, but when you do, you have to make sure you know your assignments.”
Although there may have been uncertainty among some of the rookies, practice was still conducted at a very high tempo. That intensity and winning attitude was something Whisenhunt and his staff established in last months veteran mini-camp.
“The tempo was up and very similar to the first camp we had,” confirmed Cardinals Pro Bowl receiver Anquan Boldin. “There were a little more mistakes because we have a lot more new guys, but we expect that a little bit, so hopefully we’ll come out this afternoon and get cleaned up a little bit in our specific areas.”
“We’re looking to find out how well they process the information and how they compete,” added Whisenhunt on his players. “I think the tempo of practice was one thing we established last camp and it has carried over, so now we just gotta work on the focus.”
Among some of the rookies getting accustomed to Whisenhunt and Cardinals staff’s style was first-round draft pick Levi Brown.
“It was fun getting out here and working with the guys and getting a little chemistry with the offensive line,” stated Brown. “But I think the second practice is going to be a little faster paced.”
As Whisenhunt and his staff continue to evaluate the talent on the field, the Cards new head coach made one thing clear; it takes time to make a decision on a player.
"I think a lot of times you will form a quick opinion about somebody, but really what you have to do is make a conscious effort to look at it over the time,” continued Whisenhunt. “One guy may flash at you the first day and you fall in love with him, but he may never play up to that way again. You have to be careful about doing that. I've been with a number of coaches and organizations where that point was emphasized, so hopefully I’ll be able to resist that temptation."
Leinart and the rest of the Cardinals veterans will work to do the same, as they continue to learn a new offense.
“I already feel a better command on what we did,” said Leinart, comparing his comfort level today to last month’s mini-camp. “Everything we did today was the same stuff from last mini-camp and from here on out we’re going to keep adding new things. The expectations are a little higher and they expect us veterans to keep moving forward, keep adding stuff each practice, and keep getting better.”
DE Bertrand Berry (triceps), S Hanik Miligan (knee) were held out of team workouts and TE Ben Patrick was limited with a hamstring strain. RB Edgerrin James was also absent to attend the funeral of a relative in Florida. James is expected to re-join his teammates for the Sunday and Monday workouts, as well as attend optional OTAs later in May and June.