Rookie running back Beanie Wells takes one of his final reps at Sunday's last minicamp practice before heading home for a while.
Dennis Keyes went through it, and it wasn?t easy.
The Cardinals safety was undrafted a year ago, hoping to make an impression on the team. But because he attended UCLA ? and his school?s quarter meant school didn?t let out until mid-June ? Keyes came to minicamp and then couldn?t return to the Cards? training facility until all four weeks of the organized team activities had ended.
Keyes knows what is facing Beanie Wells, the team?s No. 1 draft pick who also is scheduled to miss all the team?s OTAs because of Ohio State?s academic schedule.
?The advice I?d give to him is get with some of the vets, the older running backs, and see what?s getting put in and stay on top of it,? Keyes said. ?But it is still going to be hard, not getting the reps.?
Keyes, who was cut in training camp and later brought back to the practice squad, was a long shot to make the team in the first place. Wells, who still will have a shot to become the starter at running back, has no such issue. He will be an important member of the offense, even if he doesn?t get any more on-field work until training camp in Flagstaff.
The rule to keep players in school is a long-standing one, a nod from the NFL to colleges, and both sides benefit from players earning their degree. The rule extends to everyone, even to players that are no longer attending classes.
Normally, because OTAs don?t usually start until mid- to late-May, players are mostly unaffected. But a few schools that remain on the quarter system ? UCLA and Ohio State are the most recognizable as producers of football players ? do run late.
Last year, the Jets took Ohio State pass rusher Vernon Gholston, who struggled all season. Part of his problem was blamed on his inability to do much offseason work because of Ohio State?s late end.
Wells brushed off any concerns. He said he just needed to stay up to speed on the mental part of the game, because he could quickly catch up physically. It may be hard for Wells, who has had exactly five on-field workouts before going home Sunday, to accurately judge that right now.
?As a rookie, you just need every bit of learning experience,? running back Tim Hightower said. ?I have already talked to him. I?ll do what I can keeping him updated with texts, and he?s going to have to do some of it on his own. As a rookie, you don?t want to miss any time, but school comes first.?
Running back Curtis Modkins said it was obvious Wells is talented and willing to be coached. That was a good first step.
?It?s going to take some discipline on his part,? Modkins said. ?We?ll do all we can to make it easy for him, do things over the phone with him on a daily basis. We?ll do the best we can to keep him up to speed.
?The best thing he can do is continue to be in shape and be ready to go when he gets back.?
Wells figures to run with the second unit in training camp, behind Hightower on the depth chart. Coach Ken Whisenhunt acknowledged Wells will have catching up to do. The voluntary OTAs aren?t generalized workouts; the coaching staff actually does installation of various packages ? like red zone, two-minute and two-tight end sets ? that will be new to every rookie.
Wells will also miss out on some bonding time with teammates until he returns to finish out the strength and conditioning program after school ends.
?You do lose a little bit of that,? Wells said. ?But since I?ve been out here I have had a chance to bond with the guys and I am sure I will get everyone?s phone numbers.?
The most important ones will be those digits of Modkins, Hightower and veteran running back Jason Wright. They will be Wells? lifeline to bridge him to training camp. Keyes can tell Wells that.
?It?s like coming in for minicamp all over again,? Keyes said.
Contact Darren Urban at firstname.lastname@example.org. Posted 5/3/09.