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Posted Jul 26, 2011

Players return to facility, front office juggles free-agent frenzy

Defensive tackle Darnell Dockett flips a huge tire while working out Tuesday in the players' first chance to return to the Tempe facility after the lockout.


The lockout coming to an end, Ken Whisenhunt was waiting for Levi Brown.

“Three or four times in the offseason, you tried to show up at the door trying to get in to work out,” the Cardinals’ coach said he told his left tackle Tuesday, when players finally were able to return to team facilities after an offseason lost to labor strife. “If you didn’t show up the first day, you were going to hear it from me.”

“I was waiting, looking for Levi,” Whisenhunt said. “But he showed.”

On the day the Cardinals and the rest of the NFL turned to warp speed for the shrunken 2011 business window, players had the option to come back to Tempe to work and the front office spent the day on the phones agreeing to terms with undrafted rookies and negotiating with veteran free agents.
With the first training camp practice set for Saturday afternoon, there have also been talks in the quest to get a veteran quarterback.

Whisenhunt said little on that subject, other than the Cards are in discussions for multiple veterans while careful not to name any names.

Philadelphia’s Kevin Kolb and Denver’s Kyle Orton are on the trade market. Matt Hasselbeck and Marc Bulger are free agents. The quarterback carousel began to spin Tuesday, with news the Seahawks weren’t going to chase Kolb after agreeing with Tavaris Jackson and possibly Matt Leinart. The Vikings were reportedly close to trading for Donovan McNabb.

Acquiring a quarterback is a process, Whisenhunt said, joking about how it was supposed to be done already given all the speculation of the offseason.

“Let’s face it, we’ve (reportedly) had a deal worked under the table with one guy, we had another guy over here that we’ve worked out a deal for and worked out, had a deal on the side, trading players,” Whisenhunt said. “If you look at the history of this over the last couple of months (in the media), every player we have talked about having an interest in, we’ve had a deal with.

“Unfortunately, this morning at 7 a.m., all those deals vanished and now we’re trying to get one of them in place.”

A trade can happen now, but no one can actually sign any veterans until 3 p.m. Friday, making the window of getting to Flagstaff on time even shorter in an already-short timetable. Making things more complex is the rule that says any veteran who signs a new deal for 2011 can’t practice until the new league year opens Aug. 4.
 
Describing the activity going on in the football offices, Whisenhunt said “the best way to say it is, whatever you can imagine, it’s probably worse. It’s multi-tasking at its most furious.”

It was a little more laid-back downstairs, where the players trickled in beginning with reserve quarterback Rich Bartel right at 7 a.m. Among the handful of players to make appearances and/or work out Tuesday were Brown, defensive tackle Darnell Dockett, safety Adrian Wilson, quarterback John Skelton and tackle Jeremy Bridges.

“Probably the happiest guy is (strength and conditioning coach) John Lott because he’s been working out by himself for a couple of months,” Whisenhunt said.

Not that Lott has significant time to work with anyone before camp. Players under contract don’t have to return until Thursday before traveling to Flagstaff Friday.

“Everything is going to be rushed,” Skelton said.

Whisenhunt said it will be up to veterans to help with the transition and said coaches will have to exhibit more patience than usual with the rookies, who have yet to set foot on an NFL practice field despite the preseason opener just 17 days away.

“We’ve got great leaders in the locker room,” Bridges said. “We’ve got a veteran team – me at nine (years of experience), Dockett eight, A-Dub at, like, 37. … We got guys who have been here and done it. Even with the lockout, we have guys who can hold it together.”

That’s the hope. But in the joy and bustle of returning Tuesday, reality loomed.

“When you finish last place in the division, you have a lot of work to do,” Dockett said. “I feel like we are a couple of steps behind. The only way we could (catch up) was to have a great offseason, and we couldn’t do that. We have to focus and hopefully we have enough mature guys to get on the field and play catch-up.”

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