Kylie Fitts has been fortunate in his NFL mentors.
In Chicago, he was able to learn from Khalil Mack. Now, he's getting advice from Chandler Jones.
"It's helped me tremendously," the linebacker said Thursday, as the Cardinals' training camp came to a close.
The Cardinals are set at their starting outside linebackers with Jones and Devon Kennard. The depth was something that was a question mark in an offseason where the team had no summer work, but both Kliff Kingsbury and defensive coordinator Vance Joseph sound more confident where the roster stands – in part because of Fitts' play.
"We've really been impressed with Kylie," Kingsbury said. "I think last year he bought into the system, the scheme, what we were asking him to do, whether it was on scout team or when he got his live reps and he's come back and he lost some weight, looks quicker, looks more explosive and has really done a good job throughout camp."
Fitts said he weighed about 267 pounds last year, when he was signed to the practice squad before the season after being released by the Bears at the end of the preseason. Going into his third season. Fitts thought he needed to be quicker in Joseph's defense, so he dropped about 12 pounds.
"I came (to camp) prepared," he said.
Kingsbury also said Haason Reddick, who moved from inside to outside linebacker late last year, looks more at home at the position. Joseph said Fitts has had a "great camp" and that Reddick and special teams ace Dennis Gardeck also can help – although with the latter two, Joseph admitted it being their first full year outside they "aren't there yet."
Reddick had said at the end of last season he was excited to get a chance to play on the edge, where he earned stardom in college. Gardeck too said he is more comfortable on the edge – it was his college spot – as opposed to the inside role he had previously.
Fitts has been off the edge the whole time. His transition with the Cardinals was more about his name – when someone says "Fitts" aloud in the locker room, it's usually meant for a future Hall of Famer instead.
"Last year it took me a little while to get used to," Fitts said with a smile. "Now, I'm like, OK, they're not talking to me."
LARRY FITZGERALD GETS SOME REST
Larry Fitzgerald hasn't practiced this week, but Kingsbury said Thursday it was about resting the veteran wide receiver, who turned 37 on Monday and is going into his 17th season.
"He is more than anything just resting," Kingsbury said before practice. "He has a great grasp of our system. He's been asking us to practice. We've been telling him, 'No, we don't need you to practice.' We're going to get him to the weekend and get started on San Fran game week and go from there."
But at practice, Fitzgerald took part in the Cards' final work of camp. Also returning was running back Kenyan Drake, who had missed a number of practices with an undisclosed injury. Wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins did not participate in the open portion of practice.
SIMMONS GOES FEET-FIRST INTO LINEBACKER LEARNING
Linebacker Isaiah Simmons worked in an individual drill with cornerbacks earlier in the week, Joseph said, but that was about helping the first-round pick with his footwork "in order to liven his feet up a little bit."
What it wasn't, Joseph emphasized, was expanding Simmons' role, because the newbie isn't ready for that.
"He's a linebacker right now," Joseph said. "Being a rookie and not having an offseason, we can't give him a lot of assignments right now. I want him to use his speed and use his length. I don't want the information to slow him down."
Joseph said the goal with Simmons is "making his eyes linebacker eyes."
"It's going slow with him, but he's a bright guy, he wants to get better, he wants to be coached every day, and he's been open-minded to everything," Joseph added.
Images from Wednesday's practice at State Farm Stadium, presented by Hyundai.