Reps Kevin White gets on the practice field often end with a conversation.
Sometimes wide receivers coach David Raih or fellow receivers guru Jerry Sullivan make a point to the veteran wideout. Sometimes, White approaches Raih or Sullivan with a question.
The learning curve is steep for White, who is going into his fifth NFL season.
“Throughout my career and life, I’ve learned a totally different way -- Sully would say bad habits,” White said after a recent Cardinals’ OTA. “That’s been years, so it will be hard to break the bad habits, but every day we are getting closer. It’ll take time, but I’m sure by the time the season comes I’ll have everything down.”
The Cardinals have Larry Fitzgerald and Christian Kirk. They drafted Andy Isabella, Hakeem Butler and KeeSean Johnson. But the true unknown of the wide receivers room is White, the one-time seventh overall pick of the Chicago Bears. White turns 27 next month, but injuries have kept him to only 14 regular-season games in his career – and nine came last season as White’s time in Chicago was clearly ending.
He is 6-foot-3 and 216 pounds. He ran a 4.35 40 at the Scouting combine. He put up giant numbers at West Virginia. He was the perfect receiving specimen, at least until a stress fracture in his tibia kept him out his entire rookie season. Then a fractured fibula ended his second season. Then a fractured shoulder blade ended his third.
White has just 25 catches for 285 yards in his NFL time, with no touchdowns. He was healthy all of 2018, but sometimes a healthy scratch. Starting over was necessary, so he signed a one-year, incentive-laden deal to come to Arizona.
Anger accompanied the injuries, White acknowledged. But now, White speaks measured and eloquently about his path, emphasizing he uses it as “fuel to push me forward.”
“Something like that is something you can’t ever forget,” White said. “I think it shaped me into the man I am today, mentally and physically. Do I wish things were different and I didn’t get hurt? Of course. I’d be more successful. But I think it showed me some things within myself, and with the people that are truly in my corner, how much this means to them and to me.”
The Cardinals were an ideal spot. Not only is there opportunity at wide receiver give depth issues, but Kliff Kingsbury is the coach. Kingsbury has shown he can run an offense in which receivers can thrive, and besides, Kingsbury broke into coaching when he was hired by Dana Holgorson at the University of Houston – the same Holgorson who coached White at West Virginia.
“They speak the world of (White),” Kingsbury said. “That’s what we have seen: hard working, focused, wants to be great. He has a lot to prove obviously, but he has a great skillset. That big and that fast, we’re excited to see what he can be.”
White’s draft status no longer means anything. The contract he signed makes it easy for the Cardinals to let him go at the end of the preseason if he isn’t working out. But for a team that needs receivers, White remains intriguing. White sees the same, whether it be Kingsbury’s presence, opportunity, or the chance to work with and learn from Larry Fitzgerald.
“Everything fits like a puzzle,” he said.
With the trio of rookies and his own backstory, White knows it’s easy to forget about him. That’s only natural, he admitted.
“I don’t take it personally,” White said. “If a player missed a year, that player is forgotten about. Out of sight, out of mind. For me it was three years in a row, and then last year happened.
“You’ve got to be careful for the ones you don’t see. I’m just working and grinding, and I try to use a lot of things to fuel me.”
Images from the third OTA of the 2019 offseason