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Cardinals Tread Line Between Recharge And Regression With 4 Days Off

Players return Monday to practice to get ready for Sept. 12 opener

Linebacker Chandler Jones and safety Budda Baker chat during some downtime at a practice this week.
Linebacker Chandler Jones and safety Budda Baker chat during some downtime at a practice this week.

The removal of a fourth preseason game had a butterfly effect on a number of operations across the NFL and with the Cardinals.

Final cuts could be done well in advance of the first practice on Labor Day, the practice squad built out rather than players walking in the door as Game 1 prep had already begun. It also allowed for a mandatory four-day bye for players – Thursday through Sunday – to get a break before the regular season got underway.

In some ways, it's not a lot different than before, given that players essentially were given Friday through Sunday off after the Thursday night preseason finale. But after going hard for five weeks, an abrupt break is not exactly what a coach always loves.

"I'm not sure how we feel about it just yet," coach Kliff Kingsbury acknowledged. "As a coach, you ramp up and you don't really want four days to back back down, but it is what it is, so we will deal with it."

Wide receiver Christian Kirk said Cardinals strength and conditioning coach Buddy Morris likens the break to running your car into a wall.

"We get on a schedule and right now it's all muscle memory," Kirk said. "When you just stop and do nothing, it can really have negative (affects)."

The time off is like playing a Thursday night game, tackle D.J. Humphries said, and the Cardinals actually will have one of those this season when the Packers visit Oct. 28. There is a rest and recovery aspect to the down time, but there is still reason to get a sweat in.

Players who spoke to the media this week – including linebackers Devon Kennard and Markus Golden along with second-year defensive lineman Rashard Lawrence – said they will be working out over the next few days. Most said they would be coming to the facility as well.

"I want to feel fiery," Humphries said. "I don't see myself taking this like a Cabo vacation. I'm past that point, my wife knows, of that time of year. The furthest you could get me now is Sedona and I don't even think I'm going to Sedona right now."

Given that the Cardinals had their final preseason game cancelled, there is the element of having such an extended stretch without a game. Then again, almost all the key players who will be trying to beat the Titans wouldn't have played the preseason finale against the Saints anyway.

Conditioning isn't the only thing to be concerned about when it comes to a longer break, however.

"I trust the guys, we've got to be safe," Golden said. "With the Covid, you get even more nervous … but a lot of guys, talking to them, they're still going to be coming in (to the facility) every day."

The Cardinals are relatively healthy going into the first week of practice. Having his group recharged and ready for the weekly grind – the Cardinals' in-season bye doesn't come until Thanksgiving weekend – is the (only) result Kingsbury would like to see from the time off.

"If we use it correctly," Kingsbury said, "it can be a real plus."

Images from Wednesday practice in Tempe.

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