New quarterback Kevin Kolb scrambles from pressure during his first practice Thursday. He managed to complete a pass to Larry Fitzgerald on the play.
FLAGSTAFF – It was just 7-on-7 in what will eventually be a forgotten practice in the middle of training camp.
Yet maybe it could have meant a little bit more, as new quarterback Kevin Kolb's pass found Larry Fitzgerald it the back of the end zone, where Fitzgerald snagged it one-handed despite the blanket coverage of rookie cornerback Patrick Peterson.
As Fitzgerald came down with the ball, Kolb turned and, subtly, gave a little fist pump, the first mini-victory of his Cardinals' career.
Twenty-four players finally got on the field Thursday, having waited for the collective bargaining agreement to be ratified and their contracts to kick in and allowed them on the field. No one garnered more attention than Kolb.
Admitting he was worried in the morning with CBA uncertainty because "I built myself up to be out here today," Kolb sounded satisfied, given that it was a first practice, yet understanding what lies ahead.
"I learned a lot," Kolb said. "Where's the notepad?"
Kolb mentioned the difficulty about dealing with the foreign language of the playbook, interesting since coach Ken Whisenhunt earlier had said that was the most important thing he was looking for from his quarterback in the first practice – the ability to cleaning take the playcall and get in and out of the huddle with it.
"If he can recite the play smoothly and get in and out of the huddle, you know he has an understanding of what he is saying," Whisenhunt said. "Obviously he has to perform once he does that, but if you have a player who is struggling to get the play called in the huddle, you know he is struggling with the terminology and the concept. ... If you are struggling just to make a call, then it hampers your ability to process the things you need to make the play successful."
That wasn't an issue Thursday.
"I'm just amazed," center Lyle Sendlein said. "Our plays have a lot of verbiage to it, a lot. I don't think he screwed up calling one. That's half the battle."
"I'll blame one of my (screwed-up) cadences on him, and I'll do that right away because he makes more money than me," guard Daryn Colledge said. "I thought he did a good job. But I think he'll say, just like us, he's got a long way to go too."
Kolb did say that a couple of times. What he was most pleased with was what he called "instinctive plays" – for instance, the play-action touchdown pass to tight end Jeff King during the live goal-line session – because that was a part of his game he felt would show rust.
Kolb didn't look too rusty however, and his connections with Fitzgerald and Andre Roberts showed an early chemistry.
Fitzgerald certainly didn't sound worried that Kolb wouldn't be able to make up for the lost offseason. Calling him "a student of the game," Fitzgerald said Kolb "drives me nuts" in meetings asking questions but admitted that's the kind of quarterback he wants leading the team.
"You can see the fire in his eyes when he breaks the huddle," Fitzgerald said. "He's passionate, and when you look at his eyes, you can tell he really wants it. We will all follow his lead."
The Cards' offense did flash a few times, with running backs Beanie Wells and Ryan Williams (who looked good with the second unit on goal line) and the introduction of tight end Todd Heap to the mix.
Heap said Kolb had a good grasp on the offense. "It's only something we can improve on."
That's the ultimate message coming from Thursday's work. Improvement has to come, and a few completions at a practice certainly don't guarantee victories or success.
"I know we have a lot of work to do. To be as good as I think we need to be, as good as we want to be, we have a long way to go," Kolb said.
"But," he added, "it's a starting point."