CARDINALS CORNER

There’s nothing voluntary about these Arizona Cardinals OTAs

May 20, 2024, 6:13 PM | Updated: 6:43 pm

TEMPE — In the NFL rulebook, organized team activities are categorized as voluntary. At the Arizona Cardinals’ Tempe training facility, they’re anything but.

Sure, games are distant on the calendar and training camp is still more than two months out, but that did not stop nearly everyone — save for a couple players — from getting after it the first day of organized work.

Even defensive line coach Derrick LeBlanc, who needed Achilles and quadriceps surgery recently after going down while playing catch with his kids, still managed to make it out on the practice field — cast, crutches, cart and all.

“Did you say voluntarily mandatory? The way I see it, that word doesn’t exist to me,” offensive lineman Will Hernandez said on Monday. “If there’s an opportunity to work, we want to work, especially when we got a new guy (Jonah Williams) on the right side. I want to be spending as much time and get as many reps possible with him. I definitely see it as a necessity.”

Monday’s work kicked off the first of three three-day sessions of OTAs across the next three weeks.

During that span, players will get an on-the-field look at how the franchise operates under head coach Jonathan Gannon and general manager Monti Ossenfort, whether that be working through terminology, nailing down fundamentals, testing out any new moves or just about everything else in between.

But of the biggest takeaways from Day 1 of OTAs was the overarching message of accountability being felt throughout the building.

Seeing Monday’s attendance was only further proof that the mindset and standard Gannon and Ossenfort demand from their players are already being met by many.

“You can feel everyone wants to push each other and it’s exciting to be here right now,” Hjalte Froholdt said Monday. “It’s cool to be in the building. All the vets are here, too, that don’t necessarily have to be here. We got (Budda Baker) in here working, we got James Conner in here working, we got (Kyler Murray) in here working like all the guys in here.

“If they’re in here, I need to be in here. And I don’t feel like I’m here because I’m forced to. I’m excited to be here and this is an awesome time of year. I’m pretty stoked right now.”

In year’s past when the first session of OTAs rolled around, it wasn’t all that surprising to hear about a few players not in attendance for whatever reason. Again, they are voluntary at the end of the day.

But with Year 2 loading under Gannon and Ossenfort, everyone is committed to the foundation that can be set with good participation and an even better mindset.

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