Steve Wilks has brought a physical nature to training camp, but even so, his players know to let up when stars like running back David Johnson, wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald and quarterback Sam Bradford have the ball.
Preseason foes won’t exercise the same restraint, which is why the Cardinals coach will err on the side of caution when it comes to usage for his top players during the exhibition slate. Wilks said that trio will be among the big names seeing the field less than the other starters in the tune-ups to the regular season.
“You want to be able to get the timing down and a certain number of reps, but you also want to be smart,” Wilks said. “There’s a select few guys we’ll definitely get out ahead of what you’d normally do with the count.”
Johnson missed all but one game last season due to a dislocated wrist but has looked good in training camp and does not feel the need to get back into the flow during the preseason.
“Even though I’ve been hurt last year, I know how the NFL works,” Johnson said. “I’ve played enough to where I know the speed of the NFL game and I know what I’m supposed to do. I’ll listen to coach Wilks at the end of the day.”
Wilks was noncommittal when asked if Bradford will play in Saturday’s preseason opener against the Chargers. Bradford has been full-go at training camp except for a couple of scheduled days off – including one Monday -- and has moved around well on his surgically repaired knee, but does have a history of injuries.
While different defensive looks could help get the offense prepared for the regular season, the higher priority for Johnson is health. His goal is to build on that fantastic 2016 season, but only when the action counts.
“I want to prove everyone that I’m back 100 percent -- when the season starts,” Johnson said.
FOSTER IMPRESSING EARLY
Running back D.J. Foster showed his receiving value down the stretch last season, but Wilks doesn’t think he should be pigeonholed as a third-down back.
“He’s a back that can run in between the tackles as well as get outside,” Wilks said. “I don’t think he’s just a receiving back. I think he’s doing a great job in his pass (protection). He’s really stepping up there.”
Foster was listed third string on the Cardinals’ initial depth chart and seems to be battling T.J. Logan for that spot behind Johnson and rookie Chase Edmonds. It’s unclear how many running backs will make the team.
Foster’s goal is to prove his value by being both reliable and versatile.
“It’s the more you can do, and I learned that quick (as a rookie) in New England,” Foster said. “Everyone’s a superstar here. That’s why they’re at the level we’re playing at. I’m trying to learn as much as I can at every position and do everything I can to be a part of this team.”
BUCANNON REMAINS SIDELINED
Linebacker Deone Bucannon (knee) didn’t practice on Monday as he continues to recover from Thursday’s collision with Brice Butler. Linebacker Airius Moore and cornerback Jonathan Moxey also missed practice with undisclosed injuries.
Wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald and guard Mike Iupati joined Bradford with veteran days off. Cornerback Lou Young III returned after a few days due to injury.
Images from Saturday's Red & White training camp practice at University of Phoenix Stadium