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Cardinals Follow The Leaders

Key veterans provide plenty of guidance for team as 2015 takes shape


Cornerback Patrick Peterson talks to fellow cornerback Damond Smith at a recent OTA.

Bruce Arians wasn't particularly thrilled with the start of the first OTA following a four-day weekend, and while his Cardinals rallied Tuesday, he made sure to let his players know he'd rather see everyone motivated from the beginning each day.

"That's not my job," Arians said. "That's the veterans' job."

A singular OTA start notwithstanding – divots are going to happen while prepping for training camp, after all -- leadership should not be a problem for the 2015 Cardinals. It is difficult to win in the NFL without such leaders, and with 21 wins in two seasons, the Cards have had their share.

When players leave, others arrive. Karlos Dansby was an important defensive leader in 2013, replaced by Larry Foote in 2014.

Foote is gone, but new linebacker Sean Weatherspoon has already showed vocal tendencies. On the defensive line, new end Cory Redding walked in the door with a sterling reputation as a leader, at a position where Frostee Rucker and Calais Campbell already have carved out roles.

And on offense, the mere fact quarterback Carson Palmer is back and (nearly) healthy means a lot – especially with him already taking part in OTAs.

"When we come together there is a certain respect everyone has for one another," Palmer said. "There is not a guy or a couple of guys, like teams I have played on or other guys have played on, where a guy just doesn't get it, or a guy just isn't part of the group. Everybody meshes well and fits well.

"I think that has a lot to do with leadership and a lot to do with young guys who are looking for someone to show them how. They aren't coming in thinking they are the man, they have it all figured out. The young guys have done a good job buying into what we are doing, following the vets and hopefully one day step in and do the same."

That's part of the key, of course. It's one thing to have leaders. It's another to have the rest of the team willing to be led. It's an understanding, like what the Cardinals went through last season after Palmer's injury and the ascension of Drew Stanton to the lineup.

"Drew came in and took his place, and he became the new captain of the team," second-year safety Deone Bucannon said. "Everyone understood he had control of the team and accepted it. Everybody knows their place. Everyone knows who the leaders are, and we have a lot of them. We listen to our veterans. That's what makes it work."

Wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald isn't much for piping up but has long been a leader in the do-as-I-do mold. Those types are just as important, Fitzgerald said, having players like Campbell and Patrick Peterson leading through work ethic and performance as much as a Palmer or Rucker might be more talkative in their roles.

"You can't have a lot of rah-rah guys and too many leaders not lead by example," Fitzgerald said. "I think we have a good mixture."

One of Arians' popular themes in the offseason is that the Cardinals aren't the Cardinals until the preseason ends and final cuts are made. Until then, it's about every guy trying to fight for his own job and a place on the roster.

The team is already a team in some respects, however. Certain players have to lead the way. The Cardinals have those guys in place.  

"Everyone learns a different way," Rucker said. "As long as we have every angle covered."

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