The Cardinals opened their offseason strength and conditioning program Monday.
The Cardinals were split into different groups, in part because of the times they chose to work and in part because new strength and conditioning coach Buddy Morris wants multiple sessions going at once.
However Monday's official start of the offseason strength and conditioning program was dissected – and it included some offensive and defensive meetings as well – the locker room was filled with an initial step toward the 2014 season.
"It's nice to get back with the guys and get in the flow with them," tight end Jake Ballard said. "You form those bonds now. You become friends and you know you can count on them in crunch time, and that starts now. That's part of the master plan."
The vast majority of the current 69-man roster was on hand for the first of many voluntary workouts. The initial week includes sessions Tuesday and Thursday as well, with the Cardinals holding their annual charity golf tournament Wednesday.
Learning was part of the Monday work. Inevitable as Morris and new assistant Roger Kingdom (along with holdover assistant Pete Alosi) break in their new program, the work seemed to go smoothly as Morris went over his philosophies of football-centric exercises.
"A workout is a workout, but between him and (former) coach (John) Lott, it's a little different," linebacker Daryl Washington said. "This will be more technique, rather than just conditioning. The first day was good. I think it will help us in the fourth quarter."
Wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald said it was too early to really assess Morris' program – "Maybe going into Phase 2 (in early May)," he said – but the chance to get back into football was welcome.
"It is good being back seeing the guys you know and meeting some of the new guys as well," Fitzgerald said. "It's nice coming into the offseason with familiarity of the system. Now I can focus on the nuances and minor details that will help me improve."
Only the minicamp June 10-12 is mandatory. All the rest of the offseason work is voluntary, although the Cardinals have had good attendance in recent years. Phase 1 runs for two weeks and includes only on-field work with strength and condition coaches Morris, Alosi and Roger Kingdom. In Phase 2, which will begin May 5, coaches are allowed to instruct players on the field although helmets and contact is not allowed and the offense cannot go against the defense.
Phase 3 is the beginning of organized team activities, which means helmets, one-on-one drills and limited contact. Those 10 OTAs start May 20 for the Cardinals.
It's the time when optimism reigns, especially for a team that won 10 games a season ago. But the year, without the playoffs, also left a sense of emptiness that a new year could help erase.
"We know we did some good things last year and had a fairly decent record," cornerback Jerraud Powers said. "We didn't play well enough to get into the playoffs and that was nobody's fault but ours. You still have that taste in your mouth. We didn't get over the hump. We are still considered at the bottom of this division. People may see us as a team on the rise but Seattle, San Fran, they are still at the top."
The offseason is designed to help close that gap.
"When you are a competitor, you are anxious to get back on the field and moving around, learning plays," Washington said. "That's the fun part. Now is just the grind."
Images of the Cardinals beginning their 2014 offseason workouts.