Safety Adrian Wilson pulls linebacker Ali Highsmith while working in the sandpits.
In the summer, running barefoot in the sand might turn a bit dangerous.
But here in early April, it's just fine. The Cardinals put in the sandpits late last summer, but this is the first time strength and conditioning coach John Lott has been able to add them to his workout repertoire. So the players team up in twos, one pulling the other various ways with a bungee-type cord attached at the waist, creating resistance as players run through the sand every way possible.
Some days, it's the sand. Some days, it's plyometrics as players jump from ground to box to ground again. Some days, it's garden-variety sprints.
But the intention is variation.
"We are in the same building every single day, so to get outside, get in a different environment, that's good," running back Tim Hightower said. "(Workouts) sometimes can psyche you out a little bit so it's good to try something new."
Whether it actually fosters more participation in the voluntary workouts is an unknown. The Cards have gotten an impressive turnout now two weeks into the offseason program – the only signed player on the roster to have not participated is defensive end Darnell Dockett – but there are other factors. Many of the higher-paid players have now been getting large workout bonuses put in contracts, so it's worth it monetarily to show up. For the players who will be fighting for jobs, not showing up doesn't help.
As long as the players are going to be there, however, Lott wants to make sure he makes it interesting.
"It's like Christmas trees," Lott said. "We all have fake Christmas trees. You have the tree, and the only thing that stays the same is the angel up on top. And the same skirt at the bottom. OK. After that, you're trying to move your ornaments around."
Some things, Hightower notes, never change. There are going to be powerlifts like the bench press. In the regular season Lott will tailor programs to position and even player but he tries to stay more general in the offseason while everyone gets back into shape.
There is still separation – the linemen work with each other on certain drills, for example, and the running backs, defensive backs and receivers stick together – but with everyone doing basically the same thing, keeping players engaged is crucial.
"We know what our bodies need," defensive end Calais Campbell said. "Personally, I like to do pretty much everything coach Lott says."
Players aren't even restricted to the Tempe facility; Lott's now famous treks to climb Camelback Mountain have been embraced by many players, like running back Beanie Wells and linebacker Clark Haggans.
Lott's biggest push – and the reason keeping workouts varied is so important – is for players to understand there can be no letup. Not when there are always players trying to get your job, or coaches evaluating work ethic.
"Stay eager" is one of Lott's messages.
It's easier to be eager when you don't dread the work.
"Training and football is so mental," Hightower said. "People think it's all about being physical but it is so mental. You can't be so serious all the time. Half the time, your bodies are sore and when you are laughing with the other guys, you forget you are sore even though you're still out there doing the work. You compete, and you get caught up in the moment. It helps the time go by."
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