EAGAN, Minn. – The Cardinals will practice this week as usual before a preseason game, it's just that this time they will practice against another team.
And that changes the equation.
"Two straight games and then another game," veteran linebacker Josh Woods said about the trip to Minnesota for two workouts against the Vikings before playing the Vikings Saturday.
"Those two practices are going to be game-like atmosphere," Woods added. "But it's going to be good for us."
Many teams take part in joint practices in the NFL. Coaches like the idea of working against another team that isn't a preseason game and in a controlled environment. Last season, the Cardinals went to Nashville in the preseason's third week for a practice against the Titans (the second scheduled practice was cancelled when then-coach Kliff Kingsbury decided his team was too injured.)
New Cardinals coach Jonathan Gannon said he'd prefer to have joint practices in two of the team's three preseason weeks. Given the heat and logistics, hosting a team in Arizona would be difficult, but based on the rotating schedule, the Cardinals will have two road preseason games in 2024.
This year, though, there is Minnesota and the Vikings.
"Those are really two exposures when we go to Minnesota that are treated like a game," Gannon said. "I really like the plan. We're going to get a lot of good work against a different scheme of offense, defense special teams, which is very valuable.
CARDINALS JOINT PRACTICES SINCE 2000
|2012||Chiefs||St. Joseph, Missouri|
Gannon and Vikings coach Kevin O'Connell have had consistent conversations about the practices dating back to the owners meetings in March, tweaking the two-day plan often and doing it again Monday afternoon.
"Hopefully we get out of it what we want to get out of it, and hopefully they do too," Gannon said. "It's like an even trade. We got something, you got something."
Rookie wide receiver Michael Wilson said the Cardinals will for the first time have back-to-back high-tempo practices against the Vikings, another reason the intensity will be raised.
Intensity can be good. It can also work against the teams. Joint practices across the league this month have generated a ton of scuffles and fights, to the point that a couple of times, a second practice of the week has been cancelled.
"Playing offensive line, that edge with the way you play is kind of part of the game," tackle Paris Johnson said. "At least it's the way I like to play the game and how they play the game here.
"It's not like we are so afraid of trying to fight. But the way you practice is the way you play, so if you get caught in that situation on a Sunday and it could cost your team some yards, it's not worth throwing a punch."
The gauntlet of three "games" this week creates the perfect close to the roster evaluation for Gannon and GM Monti Ossenfort. In a week the team will have to trim to a 53-man roster, and there are still decisions that have not yet been made.
Taking on another team so many times can only aid the process.
"Their nervous system interprets that as a game," Gannon said, "even though it is practice."
Photos of the Arizona Cardinals cheerleaders from the Cardinals preseason matchup with the Kansas City Chiefs, Week 2 of the 2023 preseason