Inside linebackers coach Larry Foote instructs Edwin Jackson (45) and Glenn Carson (56) during Tuesday's OTA.
He carries the practice schedule in his hand and he barks out instructions like every other coach on the field, but please, please, don't call Larry Foote "Coach."
Kevin Minter did it for the first time Tuesday and was verbally slapped for it.
"He was like, 'Don't call me coach like that no more,' " Minter said, laughing. "I'm like, 'OK, OK.' "
"Call me Foote,' " Foote said.
It isn't as if Foote isn't Minter's coach, because he is. It's just that five months ago Foote was practicing alongside Minter as the inside linebackers prepared for the Cardinals' playoff game, and now Foote is the position's coach.
Foote, who turns 35 next month, was always kind of a coach even while playing last season. That's how all the other
linebackers saw him. But, on the fence about returning in 2015 to play, Bruce Arians asked Foote in his exit interview for 2014 if he would be interesting in coaching for real.
Other than maybe helping at a high school at some point, Foote had never considered coaching. Even after Arians began saying Foote would be on the staff, a return to play in 2015 wasn't ruled out. Foote wouldn't rule it out again Tuesday, although he sounded a lot like someone who had moved on to the next phase of his professional career, noting that every retired player he had known always said it wasn't until September before a guy would start missing the game.
"Right now I'm coaching," Foote said. "Something happens over the summer, I'm quite sure you'll hear about it. But right now I'm coaching. I'm not even thinking about playing."
(Foote added that whatever the status of currently suspended Daryl Washington, it has no bearing on his playing decision.)
There is much to coach up at the position. There are a couple of veterans, guys like Sean Weatherspoon and the newly signed Darryl Sharpton, but mostly the spot is filled with inexperience, like Minter and Glenn Carson and a host of undrafted rookies trying to fill out an area that has many question marks.
Fresh of the playing field, Foote has plenty he can offer.
"He's got a lot of insight coaches don't have," Arians said. "Things like, 'Hey, things aren't as easy as it seems on the
blackboard.' He's got good communication with the guys."
One of the reasons the Cardinals signed Foote a season ago was to have that leadership in the locker room, something lost after Karlos Dansby departed in free agency. Foote isn't the only relatively recent ex-NFL player on staff – Brentson Buckner coaches the defensive line, Steve Heiden coaches tight ends and special teams – and that carries weight.
"You can tell what he is saying translates to success," Minter said. "You know what he has done over the years, he's won Super Bowls, played on a great defense. You can tell what he is saying will help you. We are definitely paying attention."
All he's doing, Foote said, is passing on the knowledge he has absorbed over the years from guys like former Cardinals defensive coordinator Todd Bowles and longtime Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau. Foote has had coaches tell him over the years he'd be good in the role, but still, he wasn't sure.
Once Arians promised to get coaches home at a reasonable time in the offseason, the idea made sense to Foote. The hours will increase, but there is something about developing a young player that Foote loves, a pride that has emerged while teaching. That wasn't there early in Foote's career, when "you're holding stuff back (because) you don't want guys taking your job."
The hard part, if anything, is having the candy and coffee at the coaches' fingertips while grinding on video all the time without the natural workouts keeping the weight in check.
"It ain't like Ford Motor Company in the factory, all those hours," said Foote, a Detroit native.
As for the "sir" his young players might be inclined to call him, Foote said he wants to make a fine for that too, as he is "trying to break them from those good habits."
"I'm getting it from both sides," Foote said. "Players are on me, calling me a sellout, coaches are being hard on me, calling me a rookie, saying I don't know nothing. I'm taking some abuse. But I can handle it."
His playing days aren't that far behind him, after all -- although that might make him perfect for his current gig.
"You know you got to bust his chops," Minter said. "Foote likes to play, so you gotta go back at him. But we all respect him. We always have."
The Cardinals start a second week of organized team activities