SAN DIEGO — Before coming out to San Diego for some joint practices with the Chargers, the Arizona Cardinals talked about the benefits of working with and against another team during the week.
The belief was that there is something monotonous about facing off against the same players every day and every practice, and matching up with someone on a different team — who does not know your tendencies nor you theirs — can only be a good thing.
“It’s good, it’s refreshing to have a new look; it’s refreshing to have different numbers,” quarterback Carson Palmer said. “Having to go through all your protection adjustments with different guys in different spots, and competing against a different style of defense, a different style of athletes in one-on-one situations.”
With a pair of practices in the books and a preseason tilt with San Diego set for Friday, was this trip worth it?
“It’s been great with the Chargers; it’s a good opportunity for us as a team to get out there and face some new people,” linebacker Chandler Jones said. “I can’t wait for Friday night.”
It would be foolish to try and ascertain who got the better of who. Players on each team had their moments, and given that no one was keeping score, the goal was to get better.
Jones said he realized his power rushes could use some work, as facing bigger and heavier offensive linemen showed him that he’s not fully equipped to handle blockers like the ones San Diego has.
That kind of knowledge comes only with facing a different opponent, and it is better to learn of that weakness in a practice than a game.
A similar story was told by linebacker Kevin Minter, who spent some time trying to chase down Chargers running back Danny Woodhead, who is one of the better receiving backs in the NFL.
“Having to cover 39, man, dealing with him in one-on-ones and dealing with a couple other guys, trying to cover (Antonio) Gates and stuff like that,” he said. “It’s just different looks. I feel like we really got better on this trip, across the board.”
By all accounts, the time spent with the Chargers will be seen as a success. There were no major injuries, and there was nary a scuffle to be found. There was definitely some hooting and hollering — from both teams — when a good play would be made, but after it was all over, everyone shook hands, hugged and seemed generally appreciative of their time together.
Players on both teams honored the coach’s requests (demands?) to treat everyone as if they were on the same team, which admittedly was not easy.
“It’s kind of tough because you want to go full speed, but at the same time you can’t because you don’t want to hurt their players or you don’t want to have a chance of hurting their players,” Deone Bucannon said. “You want to be respectful.”
Bucannon, who plays the dollar linebacker position for the Cardinals, said players have to go at a controlled full speed.
“So you’ve got to find a good pace,” he added.
While the practices looked more like real football than a normal training camp session, there was still a sense of pleasantness that permeated the fields.
“You’re competing,” Minter said. “You want to let up, but it’s kind of hard not to bring them down to the ground. It’s just the mentality; it’s somebody else in a different jersey, I’m trying to hit him, I’m trying to knock him out. It is what it is.
“We had some great work out here, and we kept practice etiquette as much as we could.”
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