Arizona Cardinals head coach Ken Whisenhunt thoroughly enjoys the teaching element of the game of football. So, when the veteran coach held his first practice of the season Friday — with rookies only — the feeling on the field was special.
“It was interesting,” Whisenhunt told members of the media following practice. “It was in a lot of ways fun. The enthusiasm was great. The effort was great. I didn’t quite know what they were doing all the time.”
Whisenhunt felt privileged to have this sacred time back on the field with his team’s hopefuls, an opportunity he missed out on during last season’s lockout.
“I think you’re trying to get to know them a little bit, too, and how they respond to some things,” Whisenhunt explained. “You’re able to build relationships and work on details and fundamentals and that as a coach is really fun and exciting and gratifying.”
Whisenhunt got his first glimpse of this April’s incoming draft class, but doesn’t place any expectations on the newcomers this early into minicamp.
“I think it’s more about orientation especially because you don’t have veterans that can help teach them the way, show them how to do things,” Whisenhunt said. “It’s a learning process for all of us, getting acclimated just so when we start OTA’s in two weeks, we’ll be able to hopefully integrate these guys smoothly.”
The new collective bargaining agreement has altered aspects of how the minicamps are operated. It now allows for a rookies-only camp, which will run Friday through Sunday. Whisenhunt said it’s important to get isolated time with the youngsters.
“You can devote more time to them, they’re getting more reps, you get to see how they react to a situation,” Whisenhunt explained. “I enjoyed spending time on the field with these guys today.”
Whisenhunt’s been encouraged by the effort put forth by his young players thus far.
“Not trying hard enough is not a problem in this camp,” Whisenhunt said. “There are quite a few guys here that are trying to earn a spot on the 90-man roster.”
And while the Cardinals’ coach knows the pressure to compete for a spot on the team can weigh on his players, Whisenhunt’s hoping his troops will stick to the basics.
“If you want to make a good impression, don’t make mistakes and do it right from a technique standpoint,” Whisenhunt said. “If you can work on those things and get better over the course of the days then you’ll standout.
“Then you’ll have a chance to get reps when the [veterans] get in here and you’re working with them and that’ll give you a chance to make the team.”