Arizona Cardinals ‘locked in’ as they report to training camp
GLENDALE, Ariz. — With the run test done, the Arizona Cardinals are ready to get to work; anxious even to start training camp.
“It truly feels great to be back; to see all the guys, to be around the guys again and get this show on the road,” linebacker Chandler Jones said.
“It definitely does that have that first day of school (feel). I think everyone is very happy to be back,” running back David Johnson said.
The Cardinals became the first team with a full squad in camp when their rookies and veterans reported on Friday.
The first practice is Saturday, one of 18 open to the public at University of Phoenix Stadium.
Coming off a 7-8-1 season and missing the playoffs for the first time since 2013, the Cardinals aren’t facing the same expectations as they did a year ago at this time.
“As a team, and me as an individual, we have to control what we can control,” Jones said. “There’s always going to be expectations, there’s always going to be critics and there’s always going to be pinpoints and pin marks where you should and shouldn’t be. Our job as a team is to do what we can do and that’s to buy in what the coaches are coaching and control what we can control again.”
Because the Cardinals are playing in the Hall of Fame Game — they take on the Dallas Cowboys in Canton, Ohio on Aug. 3 — the team was able to report to camp as early as they did. And that’s a good thing, according to Johnson, as the Cardinals try to put as much distance as possible between them and 2016.
“I definitely want to do as much as I can to get that bitter taste out of my mouth and do as much as I can to learn and improve,” he said.
Last season was the Cardinals first losing season under head coach Bruce Arians.
Was it an anomaly? That’s the hope.
There’s still a lot to like about the Cardinals in 2017. Quarterback Carson Palmer and wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald are back; Johnson is one of the better running backs in the game; and even with the free-agent losses of Calais Campbell and Tony Jefferson, the defense boasts cornerback Patrick Peterson safety Tyrann Mathieu and arguably the league’s best outside linebacker tandem in Jones and Markus Golden.
Many peg the Seattle Seahawks to win the NFC West, again. The Cardinals, however, have the necessary talent to contend, and not just within the division.
“When you’re the favorite you have a certain mindset and when you’re an underdog or whatever you have a different mindset,” Arians said. “I don’t think anybody in our locker room thinks we’re underdogs. I don’t.”
Underdogs or not, there is a focus and renewed sense of purpose among Cardinals coaches and players as they open their fifth training camp in Glendale.
“I just know everyone is locked in,” defensive lineman Frostee Rucker said. “We’re not coming off a NFC Championship Game and our rookies aren’t coming in thinking we’re at the top of the league. Right now we’re saying, ‘we didn’t play well so help us win, help us get to where we want to go.’ This is the foundation, this camp.”
— In his opening remarks to the media, Arians wasted little time in addressing the elephant in the room.
“Yes, I’m healthy. Let’s get that (expletive) out of the way right now,” he said, with a smile. “All that is behind me.”
Arians disclosed in his recently released book, “The Quarterback Whisperer,” that he was diagnosed with kidney cancer (renal cell carcinoma) late last season. He coached the final three games before having surgery to remove a portion of the kidney in February.
— The Cardinals reported to camp in great shape, according to Arians.
“And you would anticipate you’d be in shape on a job interview. We’re one of the few businesses that hire 90 just to fire 37. That’s the NFL,” he said.
Linebacker Deone Bucannon will start camp on the physically unable to perform list, while linebacker Jarvis Jones tweaked his quad during the run test and may miss a couple of days, according to Arians. The team announced later that day the Bucannon was officially placed on the list and Jones was on the active non-football injury list.
— Work harder on the little things and be better tacklers are two of the main focal points of camp, according to Arians.
The Cardinals will tackle more in practice, but “we’ll be very selective when we do it,” he said.
— The Cardinals once again have a handful of coaching interns helping them out in camp. This year that groups includes former wide receiver Plaxico Burress and former defensive lineman Tommy Kelly, who spent the 2014 season with the Cardinals.