GLENDALE, Ariz. — For the Arizona Cardinals, it’s now or never.
At the very least, now is as good a time as any.
Following a 10-6 season that left the Cardinals out of the postseason but gave them plenty of confidence, the goal is not only to win, but also win big.
“I feel like it’s more pressure because you understand how good you can be and only you can set yourself up for a downfall,” defensive lineman Darnell Dockett said following the team’s pre-training camp conditioning test Friday. “It’s one thing to come in here with a new coach and a new scheme you don’t really know, you don’t have this and you don’t have that, but when you look at the roster and you look at everybody else’s roster across the league, you match up just as well.
“It’s all about chemistry and guys coming together. Coach reminds us every day, this isn’t his team, it’s our team.”
Dockett is entering his 11th NFL season, all of which have been spent playing in Arizona. He’s been to the playoffs twice and reached the Super Bowl once. He’s been to three Pro Bowls and at one time was as feared a lineman as you’d find in the game.
All he’s been through has given the 33-year-old some perspective, which is a big reason why he is so focused on the season that’s ahead of him.
“The expectations are as high as the veterans and the leaders want them to be, and myself, going into year 11, my expectations are very high all the time,” he said. “Because I know opportunities are flying by to try to get to the playoffs or try to get the chance to win a Super Bowl.”
It’s a lofty goal, and if the team should accomplish it this season they will be the first in history to win the big game in their home stadium. There is certainly a sense of optimism that this can be a special season.
“They know how tough it will be but they have all the confidence in the world we’ll get it done,” coach Bruce Arians said. “I sense it in the practices, in the meetings. The questions being asked in the meetings now are totally different than last year, so there’s a great sense of confidence to go with optimism.”
And maybe even a hint of desperation.
Some of the team’s key players, including Dockett and receiver Larry Fitzgerald, are in their later years and still have yet to accomplish all they’d like.
“The window in the NFL is always closing, whether it’s year 11 or year five, especially playing the position that I play,” Dockett said. “The position I play is the most physical position on the field, so any time that you go out there the window is closing because you know for a fact you can’t do it 20, 21 years.”
Dockett added that he’s had the same mindset his entire career, saying he doesn’t look at his NFL mortality so much in years as he does opportunities.
Every play, he said, could be the one where he goes down. At the same time, this could be the season where something truly special happens.
While that may not lead to a sense of urgency, it is certainly something that can drive this team.
“Every season should be (approached with urgency) because every one can be your last, as a coach and a player, I can testify to that,” Arians said. “There’s windows for guys, and when you want to put a ring on your finger you build a team and hope that you have a chance to do that, especially with veteran players.
“And we have quality veterans who want that ring.”