The Cardinals are counting on veteran John Abraham, among others, to be a leader after injuries and a tough loss in New Orleans.
TAMPA, FLA. – Larry Fitzgerald was talking about leadership, about veterans being in charge, and then he talked about football in the rain.
It was the Cards' first day of practice in Sarasota, and constant storms had left the practice field at IMG Academy in Bradenton a marshy mess.
"Guys easily could have said, 'To heck with it, it's wet out here, it's raining, we don't want to be out here,' " Fitzgerald said. "But we got a good day's work in. We got better when it easily could have been a throw-away day. (Thursday), we got better. That's what being a team is about, dealing with adversity."
After a home win got them even a couple weeks ago, the Cardinals (1-2) made a sharp turn the wrong way getting beat up in New
Orleans a week ago. It made the upcoming week in a hotel, away from home, that much more difficult.
In the NFL, it's when coaches turn to their players.
"This is when veteran leadership stands up," coach Bruce Arians said. "On the really good teams, the veterans don't let them lose two games in a row."
Good teams lose two straight sometimes, obviously. But Arians' point was made, and it's the same one he makes sure his players have heard throughout the week. Arians has always kept a realistic view of what he wants from the road – three or four victories, which should be enough for playoff contention if the team wins like it should at University of Phoenix Stadium.
The Cards need to get one against the Bucs (0-3), who have struggled offensively and are turning to rookie quarterback Mike Glennon for his first NFL start. The benching of Josh Freeman ends weeks of drama in Tampa, culminating in the news this week the Bucs had been hoping to trade for Carson Palmer in the offseason to be their quarterback.
Instead, the Cardinals got Palmer and he will be playing against the Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium.
"(I'm) not very happy with our performance up to this point," Tampa Bay coach Greg Schiano said. "I think we have a great group of guys in that locker room. They are busting their tails in practice to get better. That's all you can do. There's no magic pill. You keep getting better, and hopefully, you improve enough that it's good enough to win games."
Problems are unique to the Bucs, though. The Cards have had their own issues after the Saints' game, thanks to a rash of injuries in the team's linebacking corps that will force defensive coordinator Todd Bowles to get a little more creative.
Veterans Matt Shaughnessy and John Abraham figure to be the starters, but Arians said the mix-and-match potential on the defense is going up. It isn't lost on the Cardinals that Schiano chose now to insert an untested quarterback, either.
"We won't be lulled to sleep by their record," Fitzgerald said. "Coach said it, they are looking at their schedule, they see Arizona coming to town, they think they are going to try to get healthy on us."
That's an idea that leaders on the team can push to their teammates. During the week, Arians said, he thought some players had gotten a little more vocal to the team and the overall effort had intensified.
"I like where we are at," Arians said.