Off days are rare in training camp, so when Arizona native Christian Kirk gets a chance to decompress at his parents’ house in Scottsdale, he prefers not to talk about football.
Evan and Melissa Kirk honor those wishes, but the rookie wide receiver can see their anticipation building.
The former Scottsdale Saguaro High School star left the state to play college football at Texas A&M but is back after the Cardinals drafted him in the second round in April. He will make his NFL debut in Saturday’s preseason opener against the Chargers at University of Phoenix Stadium, and a “big fan club” will be watching from the seats, led by his parents.
“You can tell they’re excited,” Kirk said. “They’re super excited. They can’t wait to come to the game on Saturday and cheer me on.”
Kirk should see plenty of action as he makes his case for consistent playing time in the regular season. The battle for the No. 2 wide receiver position is still wide open. Kirk was listed with the third team on the first depth chart but it doesn’t seem like much separates the likes of Kirk, Brice Butler, J.J. Nelson, Chad Williams and Greg Little.
Kirk, who is also in the mix to be the team’s punt returner, said such an open battle is great motivation.
“It enables us to all go out there and push each other because we know that’s the spot that needs to be filled,” Kirk said.
Coach Steve Wilks has been happy with Kirk’s progression, and one thing, in particular, has caught his eye.
“The one thing that I love about him is his motor,” Wilks said. “Of course he’s a good player, he’s smart and all that stuff – that’s the reason why we drafted him – but a lot of times you really don’t know what you get until they actually get here and they start going through the routine. This guy goes full speed on every play. Every play. You try to create that mindset, that muscle memory, and he has that. I love that about him.”
SHIPLEY PLACED ON INJURED RESERVE
The Cardinals placed center A.Q. Shipley on injured reserve following his season-ending torn ACL on Saturday. Wilks said rookie center Mason Cole has looked good in the two practices since Shipley went down, and will continue to get help from the veterans around him.
“I’m not going to try to put all the pressure on him,” Wilks said. “It’s going to be by committee. Those guys have to do a great job of communicating, starting with the guards all the way out to the tackles and making sure they put us in the right position from a protection standpoint. He has a lot of confidence, and he should. I’m not going to waver with him being in there.”
Defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche and defensive tackle Olsen Pierre didn’t practice on Tuesday, but Wilks indicated the injuries were minor. He wanted them to have a recovery day in order to be ready for the preseason opener.
Wilks said Chad Williams is dealing with some tendinitis in his knee but it is also minor. Linebacker Deone Bucannon, cornerback Jonathan Moxey and linebacker Airius Moore continued to remain sidelined on Tuesday.
PEDAL STILL TO THE METAL
Wilks continues to push the envelope, as a physical practice on Monday afternoon was followed by a grueling practice in the Tuesday morning heat. There was a goalline drill on Monday in which the starting defense noticeably ramped up the intensity. Wilks believes this exertion could pay off down the line.
“It’s going to be humid at the L.A. Coliseum in the second game of the season, so hopefully we can be able to draw back on these moments and find a way to push through some things,” Wilks said.
Images from the eighth practice of training camp.