Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald catches a pass in a recent OTA.
The Cardinals, like every NFL team, are limited with what can be done in the offseason.
It's a big reason why Bruce Arians, when he took over as coach in 2013, created a two-practice scenario during organized team activities and minicamp. The coaching staff runs dual 11-on-11 and 7-on-7 work during part of the practices, so the young players can get needed reps and top of the depth chart can also get in necessary snaps.
The work can be a grind, though, especially in the heat of the Arizona sun. So, continuing with a process the team introduced last year in training camp, Arians said the team is monitoring the distance the wide receivers and defensive backs run in an effort to prevent fatigue.
"You didn't really feel that way at the moment (during OTAs)," cornerback Jerraud Powers said. "It was kind of like when it was all
over, you're like, 'God, we did a lot.' It's tough. Not everyone around the league does what we do, in terms of two practices and everybody getting reps. Last year, when (strength and conditioning coach) Buddy (Morris) got here, he started monitoring steps. I think after the statistics came in after we were done, it kind of opened some eyes."
Morris is "keen" on watching for fatigue in players, Arians said. Last year, once the Cards reached their seventh or eighth OTA, players began wearing down. Unlike a one-practice scenario where spots could go four- and five-deep to cycle through practice reps, two practices force that much more work.
Cornerback Justin Bethel noted that if a player or two got hurt, "you'd have a couple of guys having to go a lot, practically the whole practice."
Now, Arians and his coaches are told where players are in their workload, and can adjust accordingly.
"Coach Arians has been coaching for 40 years," wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald said. "This technology is about five years old and is really only in the grass roots stage. This sports science, all of this technology at our disposal wasn't available for him most of his career.
"I think it says a lot about him that he would embrace this. It shows he wants his players fresh and ready for the long haul."
There are other factors in play. The Cardinals are starting OTAs at 8 a.m., earlier than before, in a quest to beat the heat. (The team has a practice bubble but Arians prefers working outside with two fields rather than just one given 90 players on the roster.)
This part hasn't been a big deal, Powers said, because "the football gods have been blessing us" with unusually mild May
temperatures at this point.
Players also get Morris reminders about being smart themselves.
"Buddy talks a lot about getting rest," wide receiver John Brown said. "When you are working, he's always putting it in our ear."
Arians said the hope is that the team reduces soft tissue injuries like hamstring pulls, many of which come due to fatigue. The coach acknowledged he is frustrated by the limits of the collective bargaining agreement, which has changed both the offseason and training camp.
The once-allowed two-a-day training camp practices are in the past. In camp, "you are only allowed to practice three hours (a day), so you practice three hours (in the afternoon)," Arians said. "Most injuries come in the last 45 minutes, and it's a fatigue factor because of a dumbass rule."
Arians praised the overall condition of his team after a year under Morris and assistant strength and conditioning coach Roger Kingdom. The Cardinals hope that can only improve as the team delves further into the technology to help regulate their players.
"I think it's a good thing because the season is long and it's starting to become a year-round sport," Powers said. "You get a good month off and you have to start training again. It's just trying to make sure they do everything on their end to protect us."
The Cardinals continue to work on their offseason skills