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No Talking Zone

Posted Mar 4, 2013

CBA rules mean new coaches, players have yet to have dialogue about football

Center Lyle Sendlein practices fundamentals on the first day of offseason on-field work last season.

His workout/rehab over for the day, Lyle Sendlein would have loved to pop upstairs at the Cardinals’ Tempe facility, find new offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin or new assistant offensive line coach Larry Zierlein, and talk about their plans for the unit.

Instead, the Cardinals’ center got cleaned up and left. That’s all he could do.

“We are champing at the bit just like the coaches,” Sendlein said. “We’re all anxious to at least see a tidbit of what we are going to be doing.”

Sendlein smiled. “The only thing we know about the (offensive) schemes is what the media says and, you can’t really trust them all the time,” he added.

That’s the reality for the players right now, thanks to the new collective bargaining agreement from 2011 that forbids football conversation between players and coaches until April. Last year, it wasn’t a big deal. Coach Ken Whisenhunt was still in place, most of the players had been in his system, and there wasn’t much new to learn.

With Whisenhunt’s departure and the hiring of new head coach Bruce Arians, however, everything is different. The entire staff is new. Players start from scratch. The offseason skews short for a new staff anyway, and so the process feels even painfully shorter now.

“That’s why we are so anxious,” Arians said. “It sets you back as a new staff. We’ve watched all the film, did the evaluations, but we can’t ask why you did what you did.”

It goes beyond the field. Players are delayed in even forming a relationship with their new coaches, the men with whom they will be constantly working. The sooner that trust can be built is better.

The layout changed once the new CBA went into effect. It was different when Sendlein came into the league in 2007. But the cutbacks in the offseason were part of the bargaining process, some of what the players got for their side as the owners took back a percentage of the money being earned. The players had to get something out of the deal, but it has a downside.

Arians has already been through it once. The Colts had a new staff last season and Arians, working under head coach Chuck Pagano, made that work. Of course, the guy they knew was going to be their quarterback – Andrew Luck – wasn’t even drafted until late April, well after the team’s offseason was underway.   

The CBA says a team with a new staff can get started two weeks earlier than teams with holdover staffs. That means the first week of April for the Cardinals, which begins with straight strength and conditioning work with coach John Lott – and the muzzles removed from at least talking football with the rest of the staff.

“We are all ready for April first,” Sendlein said.

That’s still nearly a month away.

“The hardest thing right now is to not be able to talk to your players about football,” Arians said. “All it is is, ‘Hey, how are you doing?’ You really want to talk football. The (players) want to talk football and try to get you in trouble. But you can’t. So you wait.”


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