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Cardinals Get Back To Work

Posted Apr 2, 2013

Voluntary conditioning starts as players talk football with coaches for first time

The running backs, receivers and defensive backs run sprints during the first day of voluntary workouts Tuesday.

When the bell rang on the first day of voluntary workouts Tuesday morning, the new-look Cardinals gathered in weight room.

After a few months away, the returning Cardinals reunited with their old teammates, slapping five, hugging it out, picking up where they left off when last season ended on the last day of 2012. Awaiting them were new faces sprinkled throughout the locker room.

For everyone, it was like the first day of school. Introductions were made, names committed to memory and there were those awkward conversations about where people were from and how their summers went.

“The only thing that’s missing are the backpacks,” new running back Rashard Mendenhall said. “Trying to meet everybody, remember names and things like that, these things happen quick and they happen all the time, so we’re used to it.”

Almost everyone on the current 57-man roster was at the facility for the first day of the Cardinals’ offseason strength and conditioning program, including quarterback Carson Palmer after he was acquired in a trade with Oakland. They went through a series of stretches led by strength and conditioning coach John Lott, then hit the weight room for a spirited session pumping iron, followed by a running workout.

Tuesday was also the players’ first opportunity to talk football with new coach Bruce Arians and his staff. Arians addressed the team,DockLift which then spent about two hours meeting with position coaches. It didn’t take long for playbooks to be handed out and schemes to be installed.

“It felt good to get an idea of what the coaches are like and see how this year’s going to go,” defensive end Calais Campbell said. “I’m a lot more excited now than I was yesterday because I got a sense of what the coaches are really asking of me.”

First impressions are the most important and Arians left his team with a good one, linebacker O’Brien Schofield said. The Cardinals walked away thinking Arians was passionate, inspirational and a player’s coach.

“He’s a tell-you-how-it-is kind of guy,” center Lyle Sendlein said. “I think he’s going to tell you maybe not what you want to hear, but he’ll tell you what you need to hear.

“I’m always open ears. We’re all professionals. We’ll take any advice to get better and to help the team. I don’t think anyone here is afraid to hear how we can do that.”

The toughest part of the day was figuring out who the new faces were.

Nametags were nowhere to be found and since nobody was wearing a jersey emblazoned with their last name, the same question echoed throughout the locker room all day: “What’s your name?”

It’s a work in progress, but they’re trying, Campbell said.

“The biggest thing was just meeting everybody, getting to know who my teammates are going to be,” he said. “That was huge for me. It was cool to get out there and talk to guys and become a team.”

Campbell said it was obvious who spent their offseason working out and who didn’t. The first day of lifting was transparent but lively.

“It’s great to finally get into a competitive lifting spirit once you had a whole team in there,” Sendlein said. “Everybody’s pushing each other and to have that kind of competition on Day 1 is great.”

A sense of renewed optimism floated from locker to locker, from bench press to bench press as the morning got hotter. Last year’s nine-game losing streak became a distant memory when another chapter of Cardinals’ history closed on Dec. 31.

When Arians spoke to the team for the first time, the possibilities appeared to be endless. Super Bowl rings and more banners inside University of Phoenix Stadium started showing up in daydreams.

A master motivator, Arians began converting this year’s group into believers. And with a new system and a new structure come new – and welcomed – expectations.

The new-car smell of the Arians’ era was potent to Darnell Dockett. He’s entering offseason workouts healthy and happy, and that means he can hit the ground running.

“It’s exciting just trying to turn this season around this year early,” he said. “The sky’s the limit. Everybody starts off 0-0 in the (offseason). I think it’s very important to win in the offseason.

“That’s where you win games. Just win today. Don’t worry about tomorrow. Just win today.”


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