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Rush Sam Bradford? No way, new Cardinals coach Steve Wilks says

The Cardinals' Steve Wilks said it has been an adjustment becoming a head coach but he is sure of one thing: He'll ease Sam Bradford into practices. (Photo by Omar Soussi/Cronkite News)

TEMPE, Ariz — Being a head coach in the NFL demands more than just teaching the Xs and Os of the game. From scheduling to managing players to making sure they’re healthy, a learning curve exists.

Especially for a new coach.

That’s the situation the Arizona Cardinals’ Steve Wilks faces with his new quarterback.

Sam Bradford, who hasn’t played a full season since 2012, played only one game last year after suffering a right knee injury. That didn’t stop the Cardinals from giving him a one-year, $20 million deal. When meeting with the media Tuesday, Wilks said that the team has a plan in place for him and they won’t rush it.

“The biggest thing we’re going to do with Sam is make sure that he’s ready to play 16-plus games,” Wilks said. “I’ve seen what he can do over the years. I’m not concerned about trying to get him out there as quick as possible to throw the ball.”

Wilks, 48, has never been a head coach in the NFL — he was a collegiate one in 1999 for Savannah State — and said the the biggest difference is the added focus on him, whether it is setting up the travel schedule, “laying a solid foundation” within the team and the organization or being in communication with everyone in the building.

“It’s been an adjustment for me just dealing with every aspect of operation,” Wilks said.

He isn’t in this by himself, however.

Wilks said he has a “tremendous” staff that helps make this transition easier, plus plenty of veteran leaders who can serve as an extension of his voice in the locker room. He also praised the presence of wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald and running back David Johnson.

“He’s everything as advertised,” Wilks said about Fitzgerald. “A true gentleman, a pillar of this community, not only this community but a pillar of this league and it’s great to have him back, not only for his performance on the field but the things he brings off the field as well.”

He called Johnson “an outstanding individual.”

“Works hard, dedicated to his craft,” Wilks said. “He’s so excited right now just to be back … I’m excited to get him back on the field. He’s a major part of what we’re trying to do. He’s going to be a major part of our success.”

The Cardinals are coming into this season with a team that will face stiff competition within its division. Wilks’ words came during a press conference that took place in the second week of the the team’s voluntary offseason strength and conditioning program.

“I want those guys to understand my vision, my expectation for us moving forward,” Wilks said. “We talked about several things, but the most important thing is about really winning the day and our long term goal and I said it in my press conference, it’s about winning the World Championship …

“But before we can do all of that, lets worry about the details, the everyday aspect of really coming in here and trying to get better as a player.”

With the offseason in full swing, Wilks said that it’s an exciting time with his team coming in for the workouts. He said the guys are “focused, locked-in, very attentive in the meetings.”

For many fans, the offseason is usually a time for excitement about what’s ahead. Only time will tell if this season and a new coach will translate to success for the the Cardinals.

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