TEMPE, Ariz. — The first game, one that counts, is still nearly five months away, yet the flurry of activity inside the Arizona Cardinals’ facility is of a team in mid-season form.
There is one group of players working out in the weight room under the watchful eye of new strength and conditioning coach Buddy Morris, while another group heads outside to the practice field for instruction from assistants Roger Kingdom and Pete Alosi.
Welcome to Phase One of the NFL’s voluntary offseason workout program.
“If you don’t have it in the offseason, you’re not going to have it in training camp; you’re not going to have it in the season. This right now is just as important as showing up for the first game of the season,” defensive end Darnell Dockett said. “This is where you win your championship at.”
For Dockett and his teammates, the work began three days ago, the first day Morris and his staff was allowed to be hands-on with the players.
“It’s our job to help them achieve the highest level of physical preparation using methods and means — when I say means that’s an exercise — that yield the highest possible results at the lowest cost. Low risk, high reward is a win-win every time,” said Morris, named in early March to replace the fired John Lott.
Morris, who had just been hired at the University of Buffalo when the Cardinals called, said he is still learning about the players and spending most of his time teaching them about proper technique.
“I’d rather see things done light and right instead of heavy and horrible,” he said Thursday.
Players work out in groups though each individual workout is different.
Morris said he’s less concerned about building up a player’s strength and instead is focused on improving their movements, getting them to be more efficient so they expend less energy which will enable them to work for a prolonged period of time. In other words, be just as effective in the fourth quarter as they were in the first quarter of games.
The addition of Kingdom, a two-time Olympic gold medalist and world champion in the 110-meter hurdles, is unique. The Cardinals have never had a speed coach.
“Yes, you can take an average person and make that person faster,” he said. “How much faster all depends on where they stand in their genetic makeup.”
It’s all about improved mechanics, according to Kingdom, who is expected to have his greatest impact on the skilled position players.
“He’s a guy that can help me with my running,” receiver Michael Floyd said. “I’m going to take everything in and just learn from him because he’s been there and done it.”
Dockett hadn’t always been a big proponent of the offseason program, choosing instead to work out on his own in Florida. That line of thinking has since changed.
“I realized that over the years you have to bond with your guys in the offseason. It’s very important. We’ve got a few guys that aren’t here that I’m texting them every day; and I don’t care what they say to me, I’m going to literally just blow their text messages up like, ‘We need you here. We need you here; we’re trying to do something important here. The schedule came out, we need you here. OK, you’re not going to be here the first week we expect you to be here Monday,'” he said.
“I’m loving this. We’ve got a lot of guys here that are enthusiastic to work. We’re a long way from where we want to go as far as conditioning and strength and things like that, but the best thing about it is we’re here every day. We’re going to grind every day. We’re not going to take no days off. And we’re going to give the fans what they’re paying for.”
Though early in the program, and keeping in mind it’s voluntary, Morris has been more than pleased with the players’ attendance and commitment.
“They have bought right in,” he said. “They didn’t hire me or Roger (or) Pete to facilitate a program. They hired us to coach athletes and that’s what we’re going to do.”