Beanie Wells goes through the gaunlet during minicamp this weekend.
As minicamp ended Sunday morning, coach Ken Whisenhunt tempered his reaction.
It's difficult to have it any other way. It's just May. The players aren't in pads, and there is still a long time before any football counts.
"When you get to the fifth practice and you've installed a lot and you see their heads are spinning, you see the challenge in front of you," Whisenhunt said. "You don't come out of it too high. I am excited about our young players and what they can do for us. (Minicamp) is a great evaluation tool but it's one step in the process. You get excited for the OTAs because you can build on it."
Besides the rookies – who sat off to the side when it was over Sunday, getting a lengthy lecture about how to study notes and take care of their bodies since they won't return until organized team activities begin May 18 – Whisenhunt was watching other spots closely.
One was cornerback, where the Cards are reshuffling the depth chart after the trade of Bryant McFadden. Whisenhunt wanted to use minicamp to see where the team was at the position, but no determination has been made.
Whisenhunt said the team will "look at" adding a veteran cornerback but, "I don't know if we have to do that at this particular time."
"I think there will be opportunities to do that going forward if we feel we need to do that," he added.
Whisenhunt said there has not been a decision on whether to sign cornerback Justin Miller, who participated in minicamp on a tryout basis. And he wants to watch the players go through some of the OTAs, when the Cards install more three- and four-receiver sets and the cornerback spots will "shake out."
"I like what I saw from the standpoint of the numbers of guys who I thought looked like they have the ability to play," Whisenhunt said.
CATCHING A FOURTH
The departure of Anquan Boldin and Jerheme Urban has left the Cards' fourth wideout spot open. The team drafted Andre Roberts in the third round, but they also have a pair of holdover practice squad players – Onrea Jones and Ed Gant – who hope to fight for a spot.
Jones in particular seems to just show up and make enough plays to be noticed, although he acknowledged he is "under the radar."
"I am glad coach Whiz and (passing game coordinator) Mike Miller and (receivers) coach (John) McNulty are giving me the opportunity to show my talent," Jones said.
Whisenhunt said Gant and Jones would impress with the scout team last season, raising expectations. Then when they would get a chance in the regular offense, "it's not what you think because of what you see them do when there isn't the pressure."
Seeing more plays from both in minicamp was encouraging to Whisenhunt, who noted it was about this time when Steve Breaston emerged as a top receiving candidate in 2008.
Jones just wants to keep working on it. "I am never in a panic mode," he said. "If I play my game, hopefully everything will go in the right direction."
A DINNER TO REMEMBER
Whisenhunt, owner Bill Bidwill and president Michael Bidwill hosted a rookie dinner at Fleming's Saturday night, in what has turned into an annual event. The Cardinals bring in former players to talk about making it in the league, and the rookies are taught a bit about the franchise's long history and how it came to be owned by the Bidwills.
"It's something where they get a good meal and socialize," Whisenhunt said. "Even some of our (current) players who have done it before, they want to do it again."
Nose tackle Dan Williams, the team's No. 1 pick, met former defensive lineman Michael Bankston, who gave Williams his phone number and offered the rookie advice whenever he needs it.
"I really enjoyed myself," Williams said.
NO BEANIE BOW-OUTS?
Unlike last season, when Beanie Wells was forced to miss all the OTAs because Ohio State's semester had yet to end, Whisenhunt said he believes the Cardinals will have all their rookies back. The team is awaiting a clarification on quarterback John Skelton, who went to Fordham. But Whisenhunt said even if Skelton does miss time, it will only be a week.
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