TEMPE, Ariz. — There was no sense of relief that the season was over or dread over what was possibly to come.
For the Arizona Cardinals, Monday was about reflecting on what happened this season and thinking about what could happen in the future.
“I’m very, very proud of the 2013 Cardinals,” coach Bruce Arians said. “The shame is that a lot of them won’ be back to be the 2014 Cardinals. That’s just the NFL.”
It is that very transient nature of the NFL that allowed the Cardinals transform from a five-win team last year to a 10-win team this year. Rosters change from season to season, with teams only able to keep a handful of players around on a long-term basis.
It’s how the Cardinals were able to sign players like John Abraham and Eric Winston on the eve of training camp, and why they were able to bring Karlos Dansby and Carson Palmer in without giving up much.
“It’s always tough, but that’s the business of the NFL,” safety Yeremiah Bell, himself a free agent, said. “That’s how it goes. Nobody stays together, no matter what team you have. You kind of wish you could, to try to come band and see what happens next year.
“Obviously things probably won’t happen the same way; they could be better. You’d like for guys to stay together but we’ll see what happens.”
No matter what happens, there was a sense of optimism permeating through the locker room the day after the team’s season came to a disappointing close.
“Overall, like I told the team yesterday,” Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said, “it was really not an end. It was a beginning.’
The Cardinals finished Arians’ first year with the club 10-6, which is tied for the best mark the team has had since moving to Arizona. They won seven of their last nine games and finished the year ranked sixth in the NFL in total defense and first against the run.
Though it stings to miss the playoffs, the Cardinals are in a much better place than they were just one year ago, when the day after the season was spent making sweeping changes.
The difference in tone was both expected and noticeable.
“You don’t want to think about last season, but obviously this year was a great year — it could have been even a better year,” linebacker Daryl Washington said, pointing to games the team lost that it could have won. “But you can’t think about the past, you’ve got to think about moving forward. This is the beginning of a new year. We played a lot of good football. We didn’t win enough games to get to where we needed to be, and that’s the playoffs.
“Next year I’m excited, the defense is excited. I was talking to Carson, he’s excited about coming back and making a run.”