Ken Whisenhunt knows when his players can practice when they head up to Flagstaff for training camp Tuesday.
He even knows exactly who his players will be.
Those two not-so-small issues were facing down the Cardinals’ coach when he took his team to Northern Arizona University last year. The lockout made camp a rush of transactions and adjusting on the fly. Every coach wants to have all his details ironed out once the season begins, and it was simply impossible then.
“We know a lot more about a good portion of our players than we did a year ago,” Whisenhunt said. “We also know what is in front of us. We don’t have that big air of uncertainty. We didn’t even know what the guidelines were for practice last year because they were changing daily. The young players, they didn’t know the system.
“We feel like we have a larger group of players, offensively and defensively, that have operated in the system. There isn’t the daily unknown.”
It doesn’t mean the Cards won’t have training camp upheaval. They start practice a few days early because of a fifth preseason game, opening the NFL exhibition slate Aug. 5 against the Saints in Canton, Ohio in the Hall of Fame game. With less than a week between that game and an Aug. 10 preseason game in Kansas City, Whisenhunt chose to stay in the Midwest and practice a couple days against the Chiefs in St. Joseph, Missouri, instead of returning to Flagstaff.
Saving the players’ bodies on some of what would have been a quick turnaround travel was part of the impetus. But Whisenhunt also likes the idea of practicing against another team in the preseason. He did it in 2010 when the Cards stayed in Nashville after a preseason game against the Titans, and liked the idea of doing it again.
Players can improve going against teammates and coaches can see that, Whisenhunt said, but there is a value in letting them go up against non-teammates.
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The Cards won’t be able to ease into anything. The first practice is Wednesday afternoon, and by Saturday afternoon they will have the Red-White practice, which usually features a live goal line situation.
With so much to determine – not the least of which will be the starting quarterback – Whisenhunt embraces an extra preseason game and some extra days in camp because of it. The new collective bargaining agreement essentially took away a week of offseason on-field work. Whisenhunt looks forward to recouping some of that.
“You have enough preseason games to evaluate,” Whisenhunt said. “It comes down to them being able to operate the system as it is implemented -- whether they are in the right spot, or using the right technique, whether they are running the right route or making the right reads. There is always value in being in competitive situations, even if it is against your own team.”