Notebook: Kingsbury OK not hiring friends, Cardinals are making friends

Jul 28, 2022, 8:15 PM | Updated: Jul 29, 2022, 9:25 am

GLENDALE — Much about the 2022 season for Arizona Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury has to do with continuity.

This is his staff’s fourth NFL training camp. Most of the staff — and most of the players — have a grasp of the systems in place.

That’s not lost on Kingsbury, who is happy to retain a group of coaches because it means he’s not fired anyone, nor had turnover due to coaches leaving for bigger roles elsewhere.

“I think I’m just a kind-hearted boss, they want to stick around,” the head coach said, tongue-in-cheek.

“We had a thorough (hiring) process,” he said more seriously of when he filled the staff with his jump from college into the NFL. “(General manager Steve Keim) definitely helped me along the way, but I think we interviewed so many people because I didn’t know anybody. … I think that helped getting the right guys here.”

Kingsbury has remained adamant that defensive coordinator Vance Joseph will earn his second head-coaching opportunity soon and expects many of the Cardinals’ defensive assistants would likely leave with the DC.

But worrying about that can wait another year.

For now, Kingsbury is just happy about how the Cardinals made their staff hires, especially after a six-year run as head coach of his alma mater, Texas Tech.

“I swore I’d never fire a friend again,” Kingsbury said. “I would rather not get in that situation again. Some of the decisions I made there make you not want to coach. It was that type of feeling.”

Workout buddies

Speaking of friends, the start of training camp comes with a few anecdotes about offseason workout routines that players hope will show up as positives on the field.

One such budding friendship is between defensive end J.J. Watt and tight end Zach Ertz.

It’s “budding” despite their pro-soccer-playing wives, Kealia Watt and Julie Ertz, spending a little time together on the Chicago Red Stars from 2020-21.

“Our wives didn’t play together that long, so we didn’t have a chance to cross paths that closely at the end,” Watt said Thursday.

But now, the Watts and Ertzes live close to one another and are both expecting children in the next few months.

The two Cardinals became daily workout partners in Arizona starting in late February or early March. According to Watt, that allowed them to chop it up about nutrition, football and how to help lead the Cardinals.

“It’s been great to work with a guy like that, to hold each other accountable,” Watt said.

It also allowed them to have a tiff over a donut order — that is now squashed.

Another partnership still forming on the Cardinals is between quarterback Kyler Murray and receiver Antoine Wesley.

Wesley is first up on the depth chart with receiver DeAndre Hopkins out of action to start the season. The 24-year-old Wesley is hoping to build on his 19-catch, 208-yard season from a year ago.

He said time spent this offseason with Murray should help — and the other receivers — build on their familiarity with one another.

“That definitely comes from offseason,” Wesley said. “We live exactly 10 minutes away from each other. We (were) even in his backyard just throwing, working the chemistry. That’s one of my best friends right there. We’re real close — and Hollywood (Brown), we’ve all been working all offseason.”

Absences not to worry about

— Starting left tackle D.J. Humphries was sidelined on Thursday for the second of the first two days of camp with an illness that Kingsbury said should not linger.

— Hopkins was not on the field after debuting in camp with behind-the-back catches and received a veteran’s day off. Hoping to avoid more questions about Hopkins’ status down the road, Kingsbury said the receiver was on a personal schedule to keep him fresh because he will begin his own season six games into the schedule due to the PED suspension he received.

Green dot problems

Cardinals safety Jalen Thompson will be wearing the green dot helmet with a headset to help connect his teammates to the defensive playcalls this season. Maybe others will join him.

That honor was previously bestowed on the since-departed Jordan Hicks and is usually handled by middle linebackers. Some safeties across the league wear the green dot helmet, but even more rare is for defensive linemen to make defensive playcalls.

It’s not unheard of though. Watt said he once dabbled in green dot responsibilities with the Houston Texans.

It didn’t go great.

“We tried that experiment one time in Houston and I almost passed out,” Watt said. “The amount of respect that I have for the guy … wearing the green dot, to be able to run down and play in coverage, (a pass that’s) 20, 40 yards down the field, get back to the huddle, listen to this guy screaming into your ear for 15 seconds and then try to relay it to us and then have all of us morons (say), ‘What was the call? What was the call? What was the call?’

“No, I don’t want to do that. I’m just trying to survive out there.”

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Notebook: Kingsbury OK not hiring friends, Cardinals are making friends