Day 1 of Steve Wilks era a noticeable change for Arizona Cardinals

Apr 17, 2018, 3:36 PM | Updated: 7:06 pm
New Arizona Cardinals NFL football head coach Steve Wilks speaks, Tuesday, Jan. 23, 2018, after bei...
New Arizona Cardinals NFL football head coach Steve Wilks speaks, Tuesday, Jan. 23, 2018, after being introduced at the teams' training facility in Tempe, Ariz. (AP Photo/Matt York)
(AP Photo/Matt York)

TEMPE, Ariz. — To call the first Cardinals practice of the Steve Wilks era a contrast to five years of practices under Bruce Arians was not a stretch.

There was music playing, although Wilks did not dance to it like Arizona State coach Herm Edwards. There was limited media availability, with only Wilks, Larry Fitzgerald and A.Q. Shipley addressing reporters inside the media room. And yes, there was team stretching before the first practice of voluntary minicamp at the team’s practice facility on Tuesday.

Arians eschewed stretching on team time, arguing that his players should be loose before they arrived on the practice field.

“I know this,” Arians said, “if a guy starts chasing you with a gun, you’re not going to stretch.”

Wilks is setting a different tone from his pre-practice approach right down to his play calling.

“We’re not going to win a division off one practice but we want to take a step in that direction,” he said. “Just to go through Phase 1, get the guys in the building is one thing. To start implementing the teaching and the system is another, but to be able to get out on the field and get hands-on is very important.

“It’s all about how much they retain. We’ve thrown a lot at them and now it’s time to get out on the field and execute that.”

While Shipley said the main difference between Arians’ scheme and Wilks’ was verbiage, Fitzgerald had a different take.

“It’s all relatively new in terms of system so I was really just trying to hone in on assignments, the splits, the details, the depths, the nuances of what we’re being coached,” said Fitzgerald, who said he studied hard over the weekend. “[Offensive coordinator Mike] McCoy threw everything at us over the last two weeks. Every single day we were installing 30, 40 new plays every single day. You do that for two straight weeks and it’s just like mush in there.

“I feel like I’m in college again.”

Wilks isn’t the first coach to emphasize details, but he harped on it several times in his 10-minute talk with the media.

“The little things are going to matter,” he said. “That’s what’s really going to separate us from everybody else: attention to details, exceptional preparation, consistency in which we operate and our ability to finish.

“They’re getting it. You can see it and I like the communication that is going on.”

Fitzgerald said the first day under a new coach creates a bit of unease with players because they don’t know where they stand with the new staff. Even Fitzgerald was feeling it.

“Stature doesn’t really get you anything,” he said. “It’s a prove-it business. Nobody cares what you did last year or the year before. That’s history. That’s in the past. You’re always trying to accomplish something new every day.

“When you have a new coach, coaching staff, I think they have a preconceived notion of what you are or what you can do from the outside looking in. It’s your job, once you get out there, to prove what you can do.”

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