The players are coming back.
The Cardinals, thanks to this being the first season for new coach Kliff Kingsbury, begin their offseason program on Monday. It'll be the first time Kingsbury can interact with the players on a football level in the meetings they will hold, in addition to the strength and conditioning work that will start.
The teams in the NFL who do not have first-year coaches, can begin April 15.
"(It helps) just the more you can get around these guys," Kingsbury said at the recent NFL owners meetings. "I haven't even met the team yet. So just them understanding what we're about, them learning to trust us and know where this thing's heading. So, I think the more time you spend with those guys during OTAs, they can learn how you coach, how you do things, the quicker you can kind of start bringing that thing together."
Other than a mandatory minicamp in mid-June, every part of the offseason program is voluntary. It's broken into three phases:
-- Phase One, which is where the Cardinals will be next week, is strictly strength and conditioning. The only coaching on the field and in the weight room can come from the strength and conditioning staff. Players are also allowed to take part in meetings.
-- Phase Two, which begins April 29, allows football work on the field. But players cannot use helmets, and offense and defense must practice separately.
-- Phase Three is when players can wear helmets and offense and defense can practice together. But there are limits on contact, both at the line of scrimmage and with pass coverage on receivers. This is when teams take part in their Organized Team Activities (OTAs). The first OTA will be held May 20.
Minicamps are also governed by Phase Three rules. The Cards get an extra veterans minicamp because it is Kingsbury's first year, and that will be held the week of the draft, April 23-25. The mandatory minicamp starts June 11.
Teams with new coaches had the option to begin work this week, but half the eight teams with coaching changes – including the Cards – decided to hold off a week. Kingsbury said it was to avoid having a week off during the offseason program. Last season with Steve Wilks, the Cardinals started on the earliest date and then took the week of Memorial Day off.