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As Cardinals Begin Training Camp, Kliff Kingsbury Ready For 'Uncharted Territory'

Team going through testing, work at State Farm Stadium two weeks away

Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury is facing a much different kind of training camp in Year Two of his tenure.
Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury is facing a much different kind of training camp in Year Two of his tenure.

Rookies are going through hour-long walkthroughs and veterans began arriving Tuesday to begin their coronavirus testing to get cleared to work within the building.

Training camp, as the Cardinals normally know it, is still a couple of weeks away, with the team unlikely to get out to State Farm Stadium until Aug. 9, coach Kliff Kingsbury said. There will be no preseason games. There will be fewer padded practices. There will be hybrid learning, with meetings both virtual and in-person depending on the situation, and that figures to last into the regular season.

"This," Kingsbury acknowledged during a camp-opening Zoom press conference, "is uncharted territory."

As reports from across the league of players opting out of playing a COVID-19 season became public, Kingsbury said he hasn't had a discussion with any of his players about that – "yet." Players can choose to sit out and take a small advance on their salary if they do not feel comfortable playing in this environment.

Internally, the Cardinals have discussed whether they will want to keep quarterbacks Kyler Murray and Brett Hundley separate, in case one were to test positive. In fact, Kingsbury said, there have been such discussions about multiple positions.

But Kingsbury also said he and the rest of the coaches were excited to be back working on football, feeling fortunate to have a job in the current climate and planning to do what they can to have a season but remain safe doing it.

"Nobody has ever been here before," Kingsbury said, adding that across the league it'll mean "every team being flexible and every team understanding there will be some tough times. We all have to buy in and stick together through the tough times."

Players will have the option of staying in the hotel next to State Farm Stadium for camp or commuting from home, one of the agreements through the recent CBA adjustment for the 2020 season. Once the team gets to State Farm Stadium on Aug. 9, Kingsbury said, there will still be a couple more days of conditioning work before starting out on the field.

Before then, it'll be strength and conditioning work at the Dignity Health Arizona Cardinals Training Center in Tempe. And before that – the spot veterans are in now – there must be three negative coronavirus tests before being cleared to be in the building.

Kingsbury praised the work both the NFL and NFL Players Association did to create the best health and safety protocols for everyone involved. But he also acknowledged the hurdles ahead, noting the spike in positive tests for baseball's Miami Marlins after games had begun.

"The protocols here are not meant to have zero positives," Kingsbury said. "It's meant to limit the positives you have and when you do recognize them, to handle that situation accordingly as quickly as you can."

On the good side, Kingsbury said he doesn't expect any player to begin camp on the Physically Unable to Perform list. He expressed optimism for the readiness of quarterback Kyler Murray and the lead veteran Marcus Gilbert has at right tackle – assuming Gilbert proves healthy on the field after his ACL injury.

Kingsbury has also taken a matter-of-fact approach to getting his team ready for the regular season knowing he'll have fewer practices and no preseason games with which to work.

"It lines up similarly to how we had it in college," Kingsbury said. "We're a year removed from that and how we built it, there were no preseason games, you just know what you've got and not what anybody else has, so there is definitely some anxiety heading into that first week.

"It'll be new for everybody. We'll do the best we can to maximize those padded practices. You're trying to get your starters and No. 2 guys ready and at the same time do evaluations on the young guys. I think practice scheduling will be key."

So too will staying as healthy as they can as a group. Kingsbury said he hoped veterans could work with young players to understand the situation, and that everyone should learn from what other sports and leagues have done.

"It's going to take everybody," Kingsbury said.