Back to work: Arizona Cardinals begin offseason program
TEMPE, Ariz. – The Super Bowl. It’s what all 32 NFL teams strive for each season.
Under new head coach Steve Wilks, the Arizona Cardinals have made the Super Bowl a goal but not the focus of 2018. At least not yet.
There are way too many steps to take between now and then, and the Cardinals took their first step on Monday with the start of their offseason program.
“Everybody is excited to build something strong or a strong foundation. Everything is focused on the little details. We talked about it today, the big goals are the big goals, those are always going to be the big goals,” left tackle D.J. Humphries said.
“Everybody is trying to get to the playoffs, everybody is trying to go to the Super Bowl but you can’t get there looking into the stars that day. You got to focus on rehab and your technique and your steps and being in shape—all the small things got to add up first. Before you even look at those big pictures, you got to look into the microscope, as he said.”
Win the day, Humphries added later. It’s something his father taught him at an early age.
Linebacker Chandler Jones appreciated Wilks’ opening message to the team.
“He spoke about our journey. He always speaks about, let’s not talk about the Super Bowl and that’s one thing that I admire because you can get sidetracked looking at the Super Bowl. You kind of have to look at the steps to leading to there,” Jones said.
The first steps began early Monday morning.
Per NFL rules, Phase One of the offseason program is a two-week period with activities limited to strength and conditioning as well as physical rehabilitation only, although players are allowed to attend meetings.
For the Cardinals that means work both inside the weight room and outside on the field, all under the direction of strength and conditioning coach Buddy Morris.
“Today was a good day for us. It wasn’t great, it wasn’t average. I saw some great things, I saw some things that make me want to go home and drink heavily,” he said.
“But we got a lot of work to do, obviously.”
So, what had upset Morris?
“Seeing some of our skill guys dragging,” he said, smiling. “Fatigue is always going to be a factor in everything.”
And then Morris, who’s entering his fifth season with the Cardinals, explained again his disdain for personal trainers.
“I’m not a fan of personal terrorists. Everybody knows that,” he said. “People tell me, well at least they’re going to somebody so doing something is better than doing nothing. I’m to the point now I’d rather have them do nothing because you got to correct everything.”
Morris did speak positively about a handful of players coming off injury:
*Quarterback Sam Bradford played in just two games last season after hurting his knee. It was an injury that eventually required arthroscopic surgery.
“I’ve talked to everybody who’s ever trained him and I talked to the current physical therapist who was with him. I think we got a great plan between myself, (head athletic trainer) Tom Reed and obviously Sam just like we did for Carson (Palmer) a couple of years ago,” Reed said.
“I get tired of people telling what I can’t do. I worry about what I can do, so we’re going to focus on what we can do with Sam and we’re going to put him in a position to achieve optimal levels and put him in the best possible position to help us win football games.”
*Linebacker Markus Golden suffered a torn ACL in Week 4.
“It’s a completely different Markus,” Morris said. “I think Markus has turned the corner. I think (assistant athletic trainer) Chad Cook and Tom Reed have a done a tremendous job in rehabbing him where he’s ahead of schedule. I expect—we all expect big things out of Markus and Markus, more importantly, expects big things out of himself.”
*Running back David Johnson dislocated his wrist in the season opener and just recently was cleared to participate in all football-related activity.
“He’s a freak. Let me put it to you that way,” Morris said. “I will never ever take credit for anything David Johnson—and I never take credit for anything any of my guys do. David is very gifted. Along with being very gifted, he has a great wife and a great family at home which drives him. I have to protect David from David, to be honest with you because he always wants to load the bar with more and more and more weight.”
Humphries, too, missed time in 2017, ending the year on injured reserve because of a dislocated kneecap.
“I’ll be ready for the season for sure, that’s 100 percent for certain,” he said.
Eventually, the Cardinals’ offseason program will shift into on-field work—first with the offense and defense working separately and then later with both units together, albeit with limited contact—but for right now, the focus is on getting in shape. Football shape.
Participation is voluntary, though with a new head coach and several new assistants, it’s probably a good idea every player be in attendance.
“No matter how old you are or how many years you’ve played, you always want to impress the new coach,” Jones said. “So if you want to use the word ‘edge’ to impress the new coach, yeah. You want to do all the right things because you want to earn that trust. You want to have that trust in him and he wants to have that trust in yourself.”