Wide receiver Andre Roberts (12) tries to nab the practice playsheet from Larry Fitzgerald (11) as Michael Floyd (15) and director of football administration Mike Disner wait for Monday's practice to transition from special teams to regular work.
The last two times the Cardinals have played on Thursday night, the results have been the same even if the long-term effect was not.
In 2008, the Cards went to Philadelphia on the short week for a Thanksgiving night game and were battered, 48-20. The next week, the Cards clinched the NFC West title at home and later went on to play in the Super Bowl. Last year, the Cardinals went to St. Louis as a 4-0 darling of the league, only to lose 17-0 – the start of a 1-11 finish to the season.
"Obviously we weren't ready last time," center Lyle Sendlein said, "and that was the beginning of the end."
The plan is for a different result this week when the Cardinals play Seattle on a short week, in part because it's a different plan. Hosting the game makes a difference – no climbing on a plane Wednesday – and so does having a new coaching staff.
The schedule is compressed where Monday's work is what would normally be done Wednesday, with Tuesday as the Thursday and so on. But for coach Bruce Arians, practice is practice in name only.
"You don't practice, you walk through," Arians said.
That's just the way it is, Arians said. "Their bodies cannot practice," the coach said, and indeed, defensive tackle Darnell Dockett had a few choice words for the need to get back on the field about 24 hours after going toe to toe with the 49ers.
The coaches are also in a time crunch. Arians deadpanned that the coaching staff started working on the Thursday night gameplan "last summer," and while it drew some chuckles, it was true.
"You break them down as much as you can," Arians said. "You have young coaches breaking down this year to make sure it's as similar (to what you saw in the summer) as possible and you look at new things.
"We had coaches working last Wednesday and Thursday (before the San Francisco game) on that so we could have practice ready today, in the can, ready to go."
Some players donned helmets for Monday's work but very few.
"You go out on Sundays and really beat your bodies up," safety Rashad Johnson said. "The recovery this week is really important. You have to take the extra steps. You can't overdo it physically but mentally you have to get it down and physically rest your body."
Not stepping on a plane is a big help, Sendlein emphasized. He remembered the Philadelphia game in particular, which came on the heels of a brutal home matchup against the powerful New York Giants that the Cards lost and then dealt with various injuries during the week.
The parallel is similar to the game the Cards just played against the 49ers. And like the Giants and Eagles of 2008, the Cardinals are facing two teams back-to-back on a short week that likely will make the playoffs.
"There are some plusses," Sendlein said of the short week. "We have a little more time to rest before our next one."
First, the Cardinals would like to get a win and get back over .500 on the season. The Cards have lost their first two division games this season, although both have been on the road. They have to get ready one way or another to avoid 0-3.
"We are all professionals," safety Yeremiah Bell said. "At this point, you definitely should know how to take care of your body. You have to study more because practice isn't as physical as normal. There are a lot more mental reps, a lot more tape study and you have to take care of your body."