Quarterback Kevin Kolb (4) is ready to huddle up for real Thursday night when the Cardinals open the preseason in Oakland.
OAKLAND, Calif. – They are words not often uttered by NFL veterans, but Kevin Kolb didn't hesitate.
"Thank God for the preseason this year," the Cards' new quarterback said.
The Cardinals play in Oakland Thursday night to begin an exhibition schedule that should prove to be different than any other. After a lost offseason because of the lockout and the resulting compressed training camp information overload, the first game will be an exercise in evaluating the unknown.
Kolb, for instance, has had his playbook for all of two weeks. He, like 23 of his other veteran teammates, has been actually practicing for exactly one week, putting into motion what he has learned – a process that normally would have begun in April.
And while the most important offensive player is just learning his playbook, everyone on defense is going through growing pains because new defensive coordinator Ray Horton is installing a fresh system.
Calling it "impossible" to have a normal training camp because there is so much to teach, coach Ken Whisenhunt is tempering his evaluation of everything right now – and that includes the game against the Raiders.
"You know there's going to be a situation in the game that will probably be the first time we've even worked on it live," Whisenhunt said. "It's kind of daunting with as little practice time you've gotten to catch up."
Kolb's performance will obviously be at the forefront of the Cards' showing. Kolb said that, even with his limited practice time, he'd like to play as much as possible. Whisenhunt acknowledged Kolb will probably play a little more than a first-string quarterback would normally at the outset of the preseason, because Kolb needs the work in the offense.
The goal, as it was in the Red-White practice Saturday, is for Kolb to be able to be comfortable enough calling plays that he can organize the huddle and run the offense up to the snap in an efficient manner. The rest, at this point, will be a bonus.
"It is hard because I put a lot of pressure on myself and I want to be perfect from the word go," Kolb said. "It frustrates me beyond belief whenever I have a tough time spitting out a play. That's not my style. But I also understand I am going into Day Five, and I have to calm myself down. I still want to chase that perfection every day."
Whisenhunt said he was "not too concerned statistically" how Kolb plays. Even if Kolb gets it down, there are enough other new pieces that mistakes are inevitable.
"I am sure there is going to be confusion out there," Whisenhunt admitted.
Whisenhunt isn't just curious about Kolb, even at that position. Noting that his other three quarterbacks – John Skelton, Rich Bartel and Max Hall follow Kolb on the depth chart, respectively – have little experience, all three need to get playing time as well.
The Cardinals have new parts on the offensive line – with Daryn Colledge and Rex Hadnot manning the guard spots – to integrate. Defensively, the Cards want to take a look a young players like outside linebacker O'Brien Schofield and safety Rashad Johnson, along with free agents who expect to move up the depth chart, like inside linebacker Stewart Bradley and cornerback Richard Marshall.
Whisenhunt said he doesn't need a game that's cosmetically pleasing. As long as he sees progress and flashes of playmaking, he will be OK.
His players understand the reality as well.
"It's going to be perfect," safety Kerry Rhodes said, grinning. "Nah, nah. It's going to be tough, even for guys like myself who have played for a while. There is nothing like getting on the field and actually playing a game. Thursday is going to be, going to be …"
Rhodes paused, searching for the right word.
"Interesting. To say the least."