The absence of coaches and veteran players has lowered the volume at the Cardinals’ training facility, but it’s not completely quiet.
The rookies remain through the end of next week, continuing their assimilation into the NFL. It’s been an all-consuming experience since the week after the draft, and they hope the fruits of that labor will become apparent in training camp. So the work continues.
To understand what it’s like to be a rookie at this time of year – before the glitz and glamour of the regular season – azcardinals.com shadowed running back Chase Edmonds on Thursday morning through the fourth-round pick’s regular routine:
6:01 a.m. – Good Morning
The plan is to meet at Edmonds’ hotel room in nine minutes, but as I pull into the parking lot, doubt creeps in. Will the 22-year-old over-sleep, or worse, forget our excursion completely? A vibrating cell phone interrupts the speculative crisis.
“Will meet you in the lobby,” Edmonds texts. “Roommate still sleep.”
As I walk in the front door of the hotel, he’s there, clad in a black-and-white striped tank top and gray adidas shorts, ready to roll.
“In college we were always told if we’re on time, we’re late, so it was always five minutes early,” Edmonds said. “It ingrained itself in my head and that’s what I always do.”
6:06 a.m. – The Ride
The rookies can take a shuttle to the Cardinals’ practice facility if they don’t have transportation, but Edmonds strides over to a white Lexus IS. It sure beats his old car, a 2002 two-door Honda Civic. He agrees it’s a nice perk of getting drafted.
“I leased this one, though,” Edmonds said. “I always told myself I was never going to buy a car. I feel like I get tired of cars anyways. Three years is enough for me, and then I’ll just trade it in. It’s just cheaper.”
We head over without any other passengers, although Edmonds often gives rides to his teammates. He has grown close with quarterback Josh Rosen, guard/center Mason Cole and a host of undrafted rookies.
Last weekend, Edmonds, Cole and Rosen hiked Camelback Mountain. The iconic peak earned its name because it resembles the head and hump of a kneeling camel, but it was a bear for the rookie trio.
“That was no joke,” Edmonds said. “I didn’t think it was going to be that rough. It was borderline rock climbing.”
6:18 a.m. – Treatment
The first stop at the facility is the training room, where Edmonds gets his back worked on. It gets sore because of the way he sleeps, but he’s good to go after a short stint with a heating pad and a handheld massage tool.
“I just like loosening it up (before workouts),” he said.
Edmonds and head athletic trainer Tom Reed share their vacation plans. Both, coincidentally, are going to Disneyland over break. Off days are on the mind, but they aren’t here yet.
6:40 a.m. – Breakfast
Edmonds sits down with Cole and second-round pick Christian Kirk. The Cardinals employ nutritionists who put players on specific diets if they need to gain or lose weight, but Edmonds is happy where he is, so he eats the standard fare -- eggs, hash browns and bacon.
Halfway through breakfast, he gets a call from an ex-teammate at his old college, Fordham, which is located in the Bronx. The conversation eventually turns to the blazing heat in Arizona.
“The sun is beaming, bro,” Edmonds says.
Edmonds and his fellow rookies will be feeling it later, when the temperature hits 94 degrees during their 9 a.m. workout.
7:13 a.m. – Time To Lift
Edmonds is one of the first players in the weight room, backing up his assertion about punctuality. There is confusion on when, exactly, the players were supposed to show up. Edmonds thought the session began at 7:30, as did a host of other rookies, but it apparently got bumped back a half hour.
He splays out on the floor and makes small talk with the others while they wait. When the clock strikes 8, strength and conditioning coach Buddy Morris takes command of the room, instructing the players to stretch.
A lackadaisical morning gets some juice as the sounds of Tupac, Kanye West, Notorious B.I.G., Outkast, Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg invade the ear drums.
Thirty-four minutes into the session, Edmonds loops a chain through a 25-pound weight and ties it to his waist. He grips two handles and does 14 pull-ups on his first set and 13 on his second -- an impressive showing to everyone except offensive tackle Korey Cunningham, who watches from a bench-press machine 10 feet to Edmonds’ left.
“Chase!” Cunningham jokingly bellows. “That’s it, bro?”
9:02 a.m. – The Field
The players file down a long hallway, through double-doors and onto the practice field, breaking off by position group. Edmonds joins the rest of the skill guys for a regimen tailored to their needs. He doesn’t shine early, when everyone is fresh, but as the sun beats down and the repetitions increase, others falter while Edmonds remains strong.
He consistently finishes at or near the front of the pack in sprints, push-ups, and other exercises. As he drinks water during a break, assistant strength and conditioning coach Vernon Stephens walks over and gives him a fist-bump. At 5-foot-9, Edmonds is the shortest player on the team, but Stephens says pound-for-pound he is one of the strongest.
“I’ve always tried to be the hardest worker,” Edmonds said. “One thing I always tell people is, even though I’m a professional athlete now, I treated myself as a professional athlete beforehand. The way I approached the meetings, the way I approached the practices, the way I approached all my film in college, it didn’t matter to me. In my mind, I was already a professional, and I had to prepare like a professional so when this moment finally came, I’d be ready for it.”
Edmonds said the workout routine with the Cardinals is different than at Fordham. Morris is more focused on flexibility than heavy lifting.
“I like him,” Edmonds said. “He knows his s*.”
9:57 a.m. – Player Development
The players are off the field at 9:55, and two minutes later Edmonds is in the auditorium. No time to change clothes if he wants to be early for the 10 o’clock meeting.
While NFL players enjoy the benefits of fame, they are also under scrutiny. The goal for senior director of player development Anthony Edwards is to combat any potential pitfalls that might come the rookies’ way.
Edwards hosts a pair of guest speakers to educate the players on domestic violence, driving under the influence, sexual assault and firearm safety, and Edmonds sits in the middle of the second row. He finds great value in the daily classes, particularly the sessions on financial responsibility.
“They really care about guys not going broke, because it is a problem,” he said. “It’s a problem that’s avoidable.”
11:10 a.m. – Back On The Field
Edmonds plans to grab lunch and go back to the hotel after the player development meeting, but Rosen asks if he wants to head back outside for extra work. Edmonds agrees, and they are joined by Kirk and undrafted quarterback Chad Kanoff.
The quartet works on intricacies of the passing game, with Rosen directing Edmonds to different spots on the field. Even though he is a running back, Edmonds prides himself on his receiving ability, and has plans to continue chemistry-building after the rookies scatter.
“I think I might go up to L.A. with Josh where he stays, just to keep my feet under me and everything,” Edmonds said.
11:41 a.m – Heading Home
The quartet calls it a day, and Edmonds sits with Rosen for a quick lunch. It’s only shrimp on his plate, and he gobbles it up.
As the clock passes noon, it’s time to depart, and Edmonds heads out to his Lexus. He makes the quick drive back to the hotel, careful to park in a spot away from trees after a recent unfortunate bird-dropping incident.
On the elevator, a member of the hotel staff – one who has no doubt seen many rookies filter through over the years – asks him about practice, and Edmonds is happy to tell her that everything is going well.
He gets off on the second floor and slides into his hotel room, one day closer to his NFL debut.
Chase Edmonds' Daily Routine
Images from the rookie running back's work day on Thursday