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A Busy Week-And-A-Half

Cardinals' Monday night game in Tennessee begins unique stretch


Running back Alfonso Smith, here scoring in the preseason opener, is likely to get plenty of work over the last three preseason games.

NASHVILLE – Three games in 11 days.

That's the schedule the Cardinals face beginning Monday night in Tennessee, when they play the Titans on ESPN's "Monday Night Football." Then comes a game in Chicago Saturday, and the preseason finale the following Thursday against Washington at home.

"Three games in 11 days? I didn't realize that," center Lyle Sendlein said. "That's going to be tough."

The Cards may have finished up with training camp, but life is anything but normal through the rest of the preseason. First will be few days in Nashville, where the team will remain after playing the Titans – even practicing against the Titans two days after the game – instead of flying back to Phoenix.

Even then, the Cards will test out a couple workouts at Arizona State's practice bubble before the Weshington game. Flagstaff is finished, but "regular" life isn't close either.

The few days in Nashville – coach Ken Whisenhunt doesn't like calling it a week because it really isn't – echoes the week away the Cards had in 2008 between East Coast games against the Redskins and Jets. That trip, Whisenhunt likes to point out, turned out to be a pretty good harbinger for the team.

"You break the routine but you're not at home, so you don't have the other things pulling at you," Whisenhunt said. "We still get them together, we are still in a location and meeting at night sometimes, so you still have a little of the training camp feel."

Playing so many games in so few days doesn't mean as much in the preseason, where the rosters bulges at 80 men (save for a handful of injured players) and veterans don't play nearly as much.

"If it was the regular season, that would take a toll," defensive end Calais Campbell said. "It's the preseason. You can live with it."

Perhaps the most interesting scenario over the next week-and-a-half is the idea the Cards will end up practicing against a team it has already played. Many times over the years teams have practiced together in camp before a preseason game, but to go up against a team in practice after battling in a game is virtually unheard of.

It starts with a game on national TV, too, where the dominant storyline will likely be the battle of the two college rival quarterbacks – Matt Leinart and Vince Young. But the Cards want to see other things: How quarterback Max Hall does in his probable debut, how the receiving corps performs in the absence of the injured Larry Fitzgerald and Early Doucet, how tackle Brandon Keith responds to his rough start, how rookie linebacker Daryl Washington follows up his dynamic first showing.

The Cardinals are still learning about themselves. That didn't end with the departure from Flagstaff, it just will be seen through a different kind of preseason prism.

"It's still going to feel like camp," tackle Brandon Keith said. "We've still got to practice crazy, go through some wild scenarios. It's not going to feel like camp is over at all.

"But it'll make us a tougher team mentally. It allows us to bond together, force us to rely on each other even more. Plus being on the road, the start of the season we are on the road the first two games anyway, so it gets us mentally prepared for that."

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