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As Work Begins, Cardinals Don’t Look Ahead

Posted Apr 3, 2018

Steve Wilks focuses on present as offseason program commences

Cardinals defensive end Markus Golden (left) and wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald share a laugh on the first day of offseason work.

The past half-decade was memorable.

Bruce Arians brought the Cardinals three double-digit win seasons, two playoff appearances and countless one-liners. While the team came close in 2015, it never ultimately won a Super Bowl.

It’s Steve Wilks’ turn to try now, but his first message to the team did not center on the pursuit of that ring.

The Cardinals began Phase One of the offseason program with voluntary strength and conditioning sessions on Tuesday -- an earlier start than most because a new coach is in charge – and Wilks had a chance to address the roster between workouts.

With a number of changing parts, it is natural to wonder how this team will look in the fall, but Wilks emphasized a shorter-term point of view, which he hopes will optimize success down the road.

“Everything is focused on the little details,” left tackle D.J. Humphries said of Wilks’ message. “We talked about it today. The big goals are the big goals, and they’re always going to be the big goals. Everybody is trying to get to the playoffs. Everybody is trying to go to the Super Bowl. But you can’t get there looking into the stars that day. You’ve got to focus on rehab, and your technique, and your steps, and being in shape – all the small things have to add up before you can even look at those big pictures. You have to look into the microscope, as (Wilks) said.”

This is the start of it all, as the players reconvened at the team’s practice facility in Tempe after months apart. There was plenty of smiling and laughing in the weight room as the group reconnected. Defensive end Chandler Jones was asked if he dreaded the return of offseason work, knowing the time for relaxation was over.

“I didn’t actually dread it,” Jones said. “I was more excited than anything, just to get back in the facility with the guys.”

It is a gradual ascent in the offseason, as the Cardinals will begin with workouts before moving on to football-related activities in subsequent weeks. Strength and conditioning coach Buddy Morris called Tuesday a “good” start.

“It wasn’t great, it wasn’t average,” Morris said. “I saw some great things. I saw some things that make me want to go home and drink heavily.”

Morris said the lack of conditioning from some of the skill guys concerned him, and he quickly delved into his dislike for the personal trainers some players employ when they are away from the team.

“People tell me, ‘Well, at least they’re going to somebody, so doing (something) is better than doing nothing,’” Morris said. “I’m to the point now I’d rather have them do nothing, because you have to correct everything.”

While Morris sees things he would like to get straightened out, he acknowledged there is time to do so. For the returning players, at least this portion of the offseason is familiar, as Morris is a holdover from the Arians era.

The on-field work could look considerably different, and the players are trying to get up to speed on a new playbook and a new coaching staff. Safety Budda Baker introduced himself to an assistant on Tuesday and then couldn’t remember his name hours later.

 “It’s Day One for me,” Baker said. “It’s pretty hard.”

The Cardinals are still in a state of transition, with new coaches and a fluid roster. But the 2018 journey has officially begun, as roots underneath the ground begin to take hold so the flowers can bloom later.

 “We’ll get some things rolling, try to get this thing headed toward the promised land,” Humphries said.

EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS FREE AGENTS INK DEALS

The Cardinals’ four exclusive rights free agents – defensive lineman Olsen Pierre, running back Elijhaa Penny, offensive lineman John Wetzel and cornerback C.J. Goodwin -- signed their one-year tender offers on Tuesday, putting them under contract for 2018.

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