School is out for summer.
At least, that’s how it felt as players hustled off the field Thursday morning, ending the team’s three-day mandatory minicamp and offseason work.
“It was an outstanding spring; I thought we got a lot done in all phases,” said head coach Bruce Arians, who kept his players on the field for only a 30-minute practice, rewarding their effort, both on and off the field, over the past ten weeks.
“Right now,” he continued, “it’s very important for us to progress forward from here to training camp, not go backwards or not stay where we’re at. That was the message to the players. We have to continue to improve. We can’t come back and start over. We’ve got to be able to have everything right where it is or better.”
One area Arians wants to see improve is the players’ conditioning.
“We’re not in the best shape,” he said. “We’ve got to get in better condition to play as fast as we want to play, especially offensively.”
Receiver Larry Fitzgerald agreed.
“I don’t think we are where we did to be,” he said. “We still have a lot of things to work on. Once we get to training and guys are really clicking on all cylinders, we’re going to start to get better. Offense takes a little time.”
Defensively, the Cardinals showed an aggressive, attacking-style ,getting their hands on a number of thrown passes, including several interceptions.
“I think we made great progress, as a unit, as a defense,” said Patrick Peterson, who believes the defense under coordinator Todd Bowles can be special. “But like (Arians) said earlier in the team meeting, soccer practice is over. Now it’s time to put the big boy pads on. Now it’s time to see what we’ve really got.”
The Cardinals, because of the collective bargaining agreement, have practiced in only helmets and shorts up until this point. A full padded practice won’t come until training camp.
“I know how good they play soccer right now,” Arians said. “Football is a noise-level game and the noise-level scares some guys. Other guys love it. That’s what we’ve got to find. That’s how we make the football team and that will define us, physicality.”
The Cardinals, who escaped major injury this offseason, are now technically off until all parties reconvene in six weeks in Glendale.
Of course, there is no such thing as being “off” in the National Football League.
“If you’re taking time off, then we’re going backwards,” said Arians, who was pleased to hear his quarterbacks and receivers will continue their work together away from the team’s training facility.
“This is a time to really push forward conditioning-wise and to continue to improve,” he continued. “But other than that, I’ve been extremely pleased with the effort, the participation. I like where our football team is right now.”