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Cardinals players back David Johnson’s decision to skip minicamp

Arizona Cardinals running back David Johnson smiles as he gets ready to put on his football helmet during an NFL football training camp Thursday, Aug. 17, 2017, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

TEMPE, Ariz. – It’s been a while since the Cardinals had contract-related drama during offseason workouts or training camp.

Team president Michael Bidwill and general manager Steve Keim have taken great pains to shed the issues that dogged this franchise for its first two-and-a-half decades in the Valley when high-profile disputes with players such as Anquan Boldin and Darnell Dockett tarnished the team’s public image.

Running back David Johnson threw a wrench in those plans when he was a no-show on the first day of the team’s mandatory minicamp at the team’s headquarters on Tuesday.

ESPN’s Adam Schefter tweeted the news that Johnson was skipping camp while he awaits a new deal. Johnson is entering the final year of his contract in which he will make a base salary of $1.88 million.

This year, the maximum fine amounts for missing minicamp are $14,070 for the first day, $28,150 for the second day and $42,215 for the last day, for a total of $84,435. Cardinals’ Steve Wilks didn’t offer much when asked for his reaction to Johnson’s absence.

“I said I wasn’t going to address players that aren’t participating,” Wilks said. “I try not to focus on that. I’m just trying to focus on the guys that are here; looking to get better each and every day with the ones that are here.”

Johnson isn’t the only star player defined this week by his inaction. Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones, Raiders defensive end Khalil Mack, Rams defensive lineman Aaron Donald and Seahawks safety Earl Thomas are also skipping minicamp, the latter three due to contract disputes.

However it plays out, Johnson’s teammates insist there are no hard feelings.

“Players, we band together, we understand what it’s all about,” safety Antoine Bethea said. “He’s a hard worker, one of the good guys — the great guys — so we’re not worried about that. He wants a new deal. It’s not the first time it’s going to happen. It probably won’t be the last time. It’s a business on both ends. We’re going to support him. He’s going to do what he thinks is right for him and his family. They’ll get it situated.”

With a first-year coaching staff, the players admitted Johnson might have some catching up to do after watching practice last week and sitting out this week, but they don’t view the missed time as insurmountable.

“David’s been here; he was pretty much the entire offseason,” quarterback Sam Bradford said. “He wasn’t here today but I’m not worried about David at all. He’s a tremendous player. Whenever he gets back here, I know he’ll be in shape and he’ll be ready to roll.”

Wilks echoed those thoughts indirectly.

“For the most part, guys have been dialed in since April 3, learning the system, doing the things they have to do in each phase and we’ve gotten to this point,” he said. “David’s not here and we’ve got to keep going. This is the National Football league. It doesn’t stop for myself or any other player.”

Running back DJ Foster said it’s important to maintain a big-picture perspective on Johnson’s decision.

“We all go through our challenges,” he said. “We’re all at a different place in this league when it comes to contracts, when it comes to a lot of stuff. As teammates, we just try to support each other and be there for each other and help guys get through whatever they’re going through throughout their professional career.”

Johnson hasn’t reached out to Bethea for advice, but when asked what he would say to Johnson, Bethea had a simple answer.

“Do whatever you feel is right,” he said. “If you feel as though this is the right thing, do that and just stand behind it.

“I’m pretty sure he’s away studying, so in four or five practices you can miss some stuff, but it’s not going to hinder you from being able to do what we need to do once the season gets here. Let him take care of his business. He’ll be back.”

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