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A Meal To Launch The Season


Running back Edgerrin James talks with a pair of fans and signs an autograph during Wednesday's annual Kickoff Luncheon benefitting Cardinals Charities. 

Adrian Wilson waited in a hallway of University of Phoenix Stadium Wednesday as he and his Cardinals' teammates prepared to be introduced at the team's annual Kickoff Luncheon.

"It's cool," Wilson said as the players began their walk to the stage. "It's always cool to interact with the fans, always cool to see the support for the Cardinals."

The luncheon, attended by the team prior to its flight to Denver for Thursday's preseason finale, was to benefit Cardinals Charities. The club's charity arm supports programs that improve the quality of life for children, women and minorities in the state of Arizona.

But while the intent of the lunch is to raise money for a good cause, it also gave sponsors and fans a chance to mingle with the team and hear some inspirational talk.

Team president Michael Bidwill, coach Ken Whisenhunt, quarterback Matt Leinart and safety Adrian Wilson all took a turn at the microphone speaking to the fans, who numbered about 650.

"We talk a lot about building a championship team on the field," Bidwill said, "but we have this stadium and we are building a fan base."

Bidwill noted the Cards' season ticket holders include representatives from 49 states along with the District of Columbia, Canada and Mexico.

"People realize," Bidwill said, "we are turning the corner."

Whisenhunt, as he has said throughout his tenure, said he wants his team to be able to run the ball, play solid defensively and "win special teams."

"If we can do those things, we have a chance of playing here in February," Whisenhunt said in a somewhat surprising nod to Super Bowl XLII, which will be held at University of Phoenix Stadium Feb. 3.

Wilson, representing the defense, was quick to caution those who might be concerned about his unit's uneven play thus far.

"We are holding a lot back," Wilson said. "Don't be too worried about the preseason games."

Leinart, representing the offense, said the potential is there, although he jabbed at his coach and his running back by saying Edgerrin James got Whisenhunt to talk about how much the Cards will run the ball.

Whisenhunt played along, joking that "Edgerrin paid me a lot of money" to do that.

Still, basic football is what Whisenhunt believes in, and what he thinks will win over fans like the ones in attendance Wednesday.

"What we want to do is put a team out here," said Whisenhunt, "that we can get this city behind."

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