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Cardinals Ready For Rookies

New players arrive for a new kind of minicamp


First-round pick Michael Floyd is fitted for his new helmet Thursday by equipment manager Mark Ahlemeier.

The effort to impress an Adrian Wilson, or Darnell Dockett, or Larry Fitzgerald was always part of the rookie equation coaches had to filter during minicamp weekend.

The entire team would gather for on-field work for the first time during those mandatory practices. Rookies who weren't even sure where each hallway led in the locker room were getting out on the football field without knowing the playbook and trying to keep up with the Cardinals' veterans.

"Now," coach Ken Whisenhunt said, "they can be themselves."

The new collective bargaining agreement has changed many aspects of the offseason. One of the biggest is the construct of minicamps. The veterans' mandatory minicamp now comes at the end of the offseason work, in mid-June. And it creates a rookies-only minicamp first – Friday through Sunday, with five practices – for newcomers to get used to NFL life.

The rookies arrived Thursday to take physicals and receive equipment. Friday morning is their first practice, and as long as their college isn't still in session, they will begin their NFL careers all starting from the same spot.

"It's new territory," Whisenhunt said. "There are two perspectives. You like that you have worked hard with your veteran players to create the right atmosphere and there is probably no better way to get that to the new guys than to have them around.

"On the other hand, it's good to see how these guys handle this situation by themselves, see how they adapt, see who takes a leadership role. It's a great tool."

The Cardinals are expecting to have 49 total players working out over the weekend, which includes seven draft picks, 17 undrafted rookies, a handful of current roster players who qualify for such a camp (such as linebacker Quan Sturdivant and wide receiver Isaiah Williams) and players who will be attending on a tryout basis.

Rookies are able to then remain in Arizona and begin the strength and conditioning program in which the veterans have already been taking part.

While draft picks like wide receiver Michael Floyd and tackle Bobby Massie will eventually battle for starting jobs, the original minicamp is "starting from ground zero," Whisenhunt said. The coaches don't want to overload the new players, and without veterans, there is no reason to install too much.

"You want to give them the basics, so when they get to the first day of OTAs, that's not the first time they have seen the offense or defense," Whisenhunt said. "They will get a chance to learn very quickly from the veterans, how we do things, how we practice, but at least they will have some kind of starting point."

Whisenhunt isn't sure how it will translate on the learning curve, and doesn't know if in the end it will be better than the old system.

But "it's the way it's going to be now," Whisenhunt said. "I'm excited to see how it works."

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