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First-round pick Nkemdiche goes through first practice as a Cardinal

Robert Nkemdiche lines up during rookie mini-camp Friday, May 6. (Photo by Adam Green/Arizona Sports)

TEMPE, Ariz — It was just day one of rookie mini-camp and no one was wearing pads, so it would admittedly be difficult and maybe even a little unfair to grade the performance of anyone who plays in the trenches.

Still, first-round pick Robert Nkemdiche made an impression, with head coach Bruce Arians saying he saw too much of the No. 29 overall selection.

“He was killing people in walk-through and I had to slow him down; it’s a walk-through and he’s bench-pressing linemen already,” he said. “But yeah, he’s got great first-step quickness, all the things we thought we saw.”

Arians said he had a chat with Nkemdiche about settling down some, joking that he told the rookie if he gets fined for making practice too physical it’s coming out of the rookie’s check.

“And he slowed down all of a sudden,” Arians added with a smile.

For the 6-foot-4, 296-pound rookie who is known to possess great strength and athleticism but has had his motor questioned, his effort Friday — even if it was a bit too much at times — had to be a good sign.

Arians noted it’s better to have to tell a player to ease up than play harder, and for a player whose position calls for incredible physicality, it’s understandable why he may have struggled with the nuance of a practice like this one, where it’s more about working on technique than anything else.

Yet, even if he couldn’t quite be the player he wants to be, the first-year player still had a good time.

“It was exciting working with the guys and just working together and practicing, getting back to football was fun,” he said.

As for the differences between college and the NFL, Nkemdiche said the biggest thing is learning different terminology in a new defense.

“But for the most part it’s just playing football and just really getting comfortable, getting used to being coached by different people,” he said.

There is plenty of learn, though, as Nkemdiche noted there are a lot more calls in the NFL than in college.

“You just have to get used to each one and really got to just pay attention to detail because you can mess up the whole defense,” he said. “It’s a really good league and everybody’s technical so you really just have to be technique-sound and really got to know what you’re doing.

“Just really paying attention to detail and knowing the playbook is really the biggest thing and then your football sense will just take you from there.”

All signed up

Prior to taking the field Friday Nkemdiche signed his name on the dotted line and officially became a Cardinal. Now, draft picks signing quickly nowadays is not nearly as impressive as it used to be, when rookie contracts were not capped and slotted, but still, it was a big moment for the 21-year-old.

“It was fun,” he said. “It was a dream come true and I’m happy that’s over with and (I can) pay attention to the future and keep moving forward.”

The idea of spending some of his money on a pet panther led to some laughter from the rookie, who said that might be a possibility down the road. As for what he might actually want to spend some of his newfound wealth on now, though, he said he really hadn’t thought about it.

“Maybe charities, maybe,” he said. “That’s about it.”

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