Players on both offense and defense celebrate the made field goal Thursday that ended minicamp and the team's on-field work this offseason.
The Cardinals received a reprieve on Thursday from coach Bruce Arians, finishing their final day of minicamp at 10 a.m. before the blistering Arizona heat had a chance to engulf them on the practice field.
The session lasted only about an hour, and the team's veterans scattered afterward as the offseason schedule concluded, not to be seen again until training camp. But to them, it was not an early start to a vacation.
"Some guys may take a couple days, a week off, but really, this is crunch time where you're going to put in the work,"
defensive end Frostee Rucker said. "We're only six weeks away from training camp, so it's not really a lot of time."
Arians has been pleased with the progress made since the various workouts began in late April. Both sides of the ball are more in sync with a year of experience under their belt, while offseason additions have strengthened deficient areas.
While there is room for optimism, Arians is holding off on complete praise until the pads go on and the hitting begins.
"The physicality of the sport, we'll have plenty of time for that part, and that separates a lot of guys," Arians said. "A lot of guys in the spring look really good, and then the noise level goes up and they disappear. Guys that (look like) just an average guy put the pads on and all of a sudden he flies around and knocks the crap out of people. He's a football player. That's why they call it football, not soccer. We're allowed to hit each other and supposed to hit each other. That part of the game is what makes it. It's not for everybody."
The offseason can sometimes feel grueling, with the season several months away and the temperatures sky-high. Quarterback Carson Palmer said there is always the danger of lackluster practices, but it's something he didn't see with this group.
"It's really easy to be stagnant and status quo this time of year, but we've gotten better every day," Palmer said. "You can
see the improvement every day. Guys are getting more confident, more comfortable, and that's a very, very good sign this time of year."
The entire roster reported for the mandatory mini-camp, which kept distractions at a minimum. Veteran defensive tackle Darnell Dockett has been vocal in his desire for full participation, which he said will pay off when the season comes around.
"You can have the best team in the world on paper, but if you don't have chemistry it will only take you so far," Dockett said. "Right now, we're just building chemistry, getting to know each other, the timing, the communication. We're getting it down now so we can have something to think about when we have four-to-five weeks off before we report to training camp."
While the camaraderie is good, Arians said improvement needs to be made in conditioning, and that the process of getting in shape shouldn't start when training camp opens.
"This is the beginning," Arians said. "This is the first day of in-season. Offseason is over. We're not in condition right now to play for a championship. The fatigue made idiots out of some guys (Wednesday). It'll make a coward out of you quick, but it'll make an idiot out of you even faster."
The Cardinals have plenty of motivation coming off a 10-win season which included a 7-2 record over the final nine games. The schedule looks to be among the league's toughest and the NFC West is again stacked, but the stated goal of a Super Bowl hasn't changed.
For the next month-plus, the Cardinals players might be out of sight, but their minds will not be wandering far from football.
"You can really sense the urge to compete come training camp," tight end Rob Housler said. "It's a vicious offseason in terms of waiting and waiting to get to the point where you can show what you can do, so that'll be in about a month or so. I think we're all excited and ready to get this thing rolling."