Coach Bruce Arians (left) gives some instruction to rookie wide receiver John Brown during Thursday's QB School session.
Kevin Minter sat on the stool next to his locker in a virtually empty locker room Thursday, with a handful of his Cardinals' teammates taking part in a final QB School session in the practice bubble and the rest not due until the next day.
The second-year linebacker knows all about expectations, given his spot as the top guy to replace the departed Karlos Dansby and Daryl Washington. He isn't oblivious to the ones surrounding his team, either.
"You think about a lot because it's, 'Can we live up to the hype?' " Minter said. "We had a nice year last year but it wasn't
good enough to get into the playoffs. I feel like those expectations make us work a bit harder. It'll be a task, but I feel we are up to it and very definitely motivated."
The Cardinals officially begin training camp Friday, reporting to University of Phoenix Stadium for their conditioning test. The first practice is Saturday. The Cardinals open the preseason in the same building, hosting the Houston Texans Aug. 9.
With 10 wins a season ago, the Cardinals have, as Minter noted, attracted some hype. Because of their residence in the difficult NFC West, the Cards have been at the center of much debate from those who endlessly debate such things. Is it a team good enough to make the playoffs this time around?
Coach Bruce Arians embraces the conversation, because it means his team is good enough to be considered. But after last year, when Arians repeatedly noted that his players didn't believe in themselves early in the season, the coach is confident he is not the only one buying in anymore.
"I never going into a fight thinking I'm gonna lose," Arians said. "It's OK to get beat. But you've got to make them beat you.
Too many times prognosticators and talking heads on TV and radio will say, 'You're the fourth best team in your division' without playing any games and then (the team) gives into it."
Arians simply stands on his own experience. Two years ago, many thought the Colts – for whom he was offensive coordinator and eventual interim head coach – could be the worst team in the league. Indianapolis instead won 11 games and made the playoffs.
The Cardinals may have missed the playoffs last year, but few saw a 10-win season coming, given all the change the franchise went through.
"It's a matter of going to work, respecting the process, setting a goal and then forgetting it," Arians said.
Winning the NFC West – which automatically provides a postseason berth, something the Cards understood all too well last year when they didn't get it – is the first step. Interestingly, of the team's six division games, only one – San Francisco's visit Sept. 21 – comes in the first half of the schedule.
How the season plays out, though, is impossible to predict.
"We have our own expectations," quarterback Carson Palmer said. "We have high expectations of ourselves individually and with the team. Whatever anyone else says … that doesn't matter. It comes down to us."
Said Minter, "This could really be a great year for this franchise."