Cardinals left tackle Jared Veldheer participates in a blocking drill against Chargers outside linebacker Melvin Ingram at the joint practice on Tuesday night.
SAN DIEGO – Chandler Jones had just parroted the narrative coach Bruce Arians had given his players for the next couple of days, that while the Cardinals practiced against the Chargers it was to be treated like they all belonged to one giant 180-man roster.
Moments later, the linebacker couldn't help but correct himself.
"They say these are our teammates but honestly you go out there and … it's different jerseys," Jones said with a smile.
"It's cool the NFL does things like this, practice against other teams and play them on the last day. Maybe we'll just save it for the last day."
Since Arians arrived as coach in 2013, he has hoped to put together training camp practices against another team. It finally came to
fruition this year, with the Cardinals and Chargers holding an open practice at Qualcomm Stadium Tuesday night and then a closed session Wednesday at the Chargers' facility. Friday, the teams will play their second preseason game at Qualcomm.
It's the fourth time since 2000 the Cardinals have had training camp work against another team. In 2000, they came to San Diego for a few days of practice. In 2010, the Cardinals played the Titans in Tennessee and then spent the week there, holding one joint practice with the Titans before flying to Chicago for a preseason game against the Bears. In 2012, the Cardinals worked in St. Joseph, Mo., against the Chiefs before a game in Kansas City.
Arians has had a lot of experience with camp joint work, coaching in Kansas City once upon a time when the Chiefs took part in the now-defunct Wisconsin "Cheese League" against the Packers, Saints and Bears.
As the NFL has evolved, more and more teams have moved training camp either back to the team facility or into their stadium – like the Cardinals – in part to better accommodate the fan base and in part to ease camp logistics.
But getting a chance to see other teams and break up camp monotony has become en vogue. There are 10 instances of joint
practices during training camps this preseason. Multiple teams are doing it twice.
"These two days, you'll get more reps than you will the whole preseason, probably," Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers said. "So I think they're real valuable."
Jones, who spent the first four seasons of his career in New England, hasn't had a training camp in which he has not gone against another team.
Arians said he sat with Chargers coach Mike McCoy at the NFL meetings this March and discussed the possibility. Arians also said that the Cardinals were hoping to build a second field outside of University of Phoenix Stadium – the Cards practiced on one outside field Sunday and Monday this week – and lure another team to visit with inside and outside work during training camp, possibly even next year.
In the meantime, there are these two days, and the Cardinals love the idea of a new defense and new offense to go against. No more will the plays be able to be predicted, as they often are intrasquad.
"Some guys cheat on certain drills," wide receiver Michael Floyd said about seeing Cardinals' defensive backs over and over. "These guys (on the Chargers) don't know what we're bringing. It'll be a better look."
Being in the San Diego weather, Floyd added, "changed the attitude of all of us."
Both Arians and McCoy are confident the work won't devolve into fisticuffs – Arians has made no bones over the years about how much he despises camp fights – but there will be a game Friday.
"We are 180 guys on the same team for the next three days," Arians said. "Then we will play a game, and all bets are off."