ARIZONA CARDINALS

QB Sam Bradford patient, trusts plan in place by Arizona Cardinals

Apr 19, 2018, 6:03 PM

Arizona Cardinals quarterback Sam Bradford looks to pass the ball as players run drills during a vo...

Arizona Cardinals quarterback Sam Bradford looks to pass the ball as players run drills during a voluntary team activity Thursday, April 19, 2018, at the Cardinals' training facility in Tempe, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

TEMPE, Ariz. – First off, the knee is fine.

Arizona Cardinals head coach Steve Wilks made that quite clear, when he was asked about quarterback Sam Bradford.

It appears the Cardinals have loosened the reins some on Bradford. He was seen handing the ball off as well as throwing, albeit light tosses, during Thursday’s 20-minute media availability of what was the team’s third and final day of voluntary mini-camp.

Bradford, who had a sleeve on his left leg, completed quick-screen and roll-out passes.

“Nothing is wrong with his knee,” Wilks said. “I thought he threw the ball well. We talk about ball-handling, he handed the ball off, he rolled out, boot-legged; all those things. So he’s doing everything that we’ve asked him to do. We just want to make sure we don’t put too much on him too soon.”

The Cardinals have a plan in place for Bradford — and they would be “foolish not to have a plan” Bradford acknowledged Thursday, given his injury history — but specifics of that plan have not been discussed publicly.

The Cardinals look to be limiting Bradford’s offseason work, hoping to keep him fresh for a full 16-game regular season.

Bradford went out of his way to praise the Cardinals’ training staff when speaking with reporters.

“It’s frustrating (to be held back) but at the same time, the end goal is to play 16 games and the end goal is to be healthy for an entire season. And, I think, with that in mind, you understand that you really lay the groundwork for that starting now,” he said.

“You have to patient and trust the plan. Obviously, this isn’t the first time that I’ve gone through something like this in an offseason. You have to reasonable expectations and know that — it would be nice to be out there and to take every rep — but the goal is to play 16 games. That’s what everything is geared towards and that’s really what my mindset is right now, trying to make sure that I give myself the best opportunity to do that.”

Mini-camp invaluable

For Wilks, the past three days were, in his words, invaluable in that the players were able to take what they learned in the classroom out on to the field.

How much did the players retain? Do tweaks to the system, both offensively and defensively, need to be made? Those were just some of the questions Wilks and his staff hoped to have answered this week.

“We got a great start on the expectations moving into OTAs,” he said. “The most important thing, once again, we got some quality reps on film to be able to teach off of.”

This week also gave the players a brief taste of how Wilks wants to practice.

“I believe in the high intensity, the good tempo; trying to really get into a rhythm of how the game is going to be,” he said. “Most importantly, the same thing with the offense was the operations there. And it really puts the defense at edge, too, to get those guys ready to play, so that’s important.”

Count linebacker Deone Bucannon, who the Cardinals plan to have call the defensive plays this season, as a fan of the increased tempo.

“I love it,” he said. “These last three days have been a real learning experience for me; just being able to understand what the coaches expect and putting a good product on the field.”

Players who have caught Wilks’ eye

Without prompting, Wilks singled out defensive end Chandler Jones for his hustle throughout the three-day voluntary mini-camp.

“I thought Mario Addison practiced hard in Carolina,” said Wilks, who spent last season as the Panthers defensive coordinator. “Chandler Jones, man, he just has a different motor. And it’s exciting to see that as a coach, a guy turning and running 20-to-25 yards down the field chasing the ball. Those are the expectations that we expect, and for him to be able to do that early on and set the tone is outstanding.”

Staying with the defense, Wilks mentioned he had to tell defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche several times to slow down, especially since the team was not yet in pads.

“Robert is going to be tremendous for us this year,” Wilks said. “He’s locked in and he’s focused. He came back in shape, he’s ready to go. He said, ‘Coach I’m committed to excellence this year’ and so far, man, he’s been a plus on the football field, so I’m excited about him.”

Offensively, Wilks called running back T.J. Logan an intriguing player.

“I really think he can really help us, not only on offense but you see what he can bring for us in the kicking game (punt return) as well,” Wilks said, adding he talked with running backs coach Kirby Wilson about Logan, “He thinks that T.J. has a chance as well, so I’m excited about that.”

Logan missed all of last year after dislocating his wrist in the preseason.

Cornerback help arrives

Addressing one of their many needs this offseason, the Cardinals signed cornerback Marcus Williams to a one-year contract on Thursday.

A veteran of four seasons, Williams, 27, split last year with the Jets and Texans.

With 49 games, including 14 starts, under his belt, Williams immediately becomes the second-most experienced cornerback on the roster, trailing only Patrick Peterson.

“Any time you can get a guy that has skin on the ball, has been in that situation before, you want to see what he can do,” Wilks said. “So we brought him in and we’ll see exactly how it goes the next couple of days.”

Williams’ addition helps offset the free-agent losses of Justin Bethel (Falcons) and Tramon Williams (Packers); the latter of whom started nine games in 2017.

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