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All-Access with Bruce Arians: Special teams in focus

Arizona Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians

GLENDALE, Ariz. – Head coach Bruce Arians, now in his third year with the Arizona Cardinals, meets the media each day during training camp.

Here, in this space, we’ll highlight many of the key topics and personnel conversations he has with reporters following the morning walk-through.

“(Sean Weatherspoon) has re-aggravated a hamstring strain.  I don’t think it’s anything serious.  He’ll take today off.  I think he just wants to get in pads; be fresh for pads (on Monday) being a wily old veteran.  Shaq Riddick aggravated his hamstring he had in spring.  He’s in the MRI now, see how severe that is.  And Darryl Sharpton had a little hip flexor but he seems to be very minor.

“I thought it was an outstanding practice (on Saturday).  I think we finished 16 minutes early.  The pace of practice, we set a standard and we set a pretty good standard and hopefully we can maintain that.  There were a lot of young mistakes, but overall I thought it was an excellent first day.”

If you had to pinpoint a couple of things that you’ve got to get better at kick return, what would they be?

“Well, we’ve got to do a better job blocking.  Kickoff return, especially, we got to get somebody that’s just going to pound it.  Get it out and get it past the 20 (yard line).  Quit looking for a home run, just get it past the 20 and good things will happen.  Punt return, we got to do a better job of blocking the gunners, especially when we single them.  Justin Bethel does a heck of a job, and we’ve got enough good corners who should be able to do the other side, and again, take the ball and get it north.  I’m anxious to see those guys in that phase play a little more live football in pads.”

Are you leaning more towards Patrick Peterson in that punt return role?

“We know what he can do.  I don’t need to see him, and he doesn’t need to practice it.  So, it’s a matter of just go back there and catch balls pre-practice and be ready to go at a drop of a hat.”

What did you think of J.J. Nelson catching balls in traffic?

“He had of a heck of day yesterday.  It was nice to him make a jump.  He was playing a little bit slow in the spring.  Played real fast yesterday, and I think he caught the DBs attention also.”

The competition between A.Q. Shipley and Ted Larsen at center

“They both have a lot of experience in this system.  They both look like little refrigerators.  They look a lot alike and they play a lot alike, smart and stuff.  It’ll be one of those things, don’t miss any practice, don’t get hurt.”

What about your offensive line as a whole?

“We got tremendous competition there also, like our defensive line.  Earl Watford had a great spring.  He’s fighting to get on the field, and my job — I got to find him a spot to get on the field because he’s playing pretty well right now, whether it be fullback, tight end, an extra lineman somewhere because he can run so fast for a lineman and catch the ball.  I toyed with the idea of putting him at tight end in the spring, but we had so many young tight ends that we needed to look at.”

How has Tyrann Mathieu looked to you?

“Just doing just like he did in the spring.  It looks like he’s back to being himself and that’s a good thing.  The guys love him, everybody loves him and it’s good to see him have the spirit back because he didn’t have it last year.”

Do you see more balance in the offense this year?

“I would hope so.  You would always like to stay somewhere in the 50-50 range and then let the fourth quarter dictate whether you’re ahead or behind on how the rest of the stats, but the first three quarters we want to be balanced.  I like the competition in the running back room.  Pretty much every position on the field right now there’s quality competition which normally brings success and depth.”

Do you require a lover or a passion for the game from your players?

“You’re not going to be on this team unless you have great passion for the game.”

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