Rookie nose tackle Dan Williams, here at minicamp, returns to the field with his teammates when organized team activities start Tuesday.
Ben Patrick couldn't help but smile.
The Cardinals' veteran tight end wandered through the locker room Monday as his team's new crop of rookies mostly sat around after their offseason conditioning workout with strength coach John Lott, looking tired. Temperatures had reached into the upper 80s, and at least one newcomer decided to catch a catnap on the floor before going to an introductory meeting.
"They've got a long way to go," Patrick said, looking over the scene.
The Cardinals officially begin their organized team activities Tuesday with the first of three voluntary workouts this week. Fourteen of them will be spread across the next four weeks, scheduled to finish June 10.
At that point, the team's veterans will scatter until training camp. The rookies will remain behind for another month or so, working with Lott. Until then, the Cardinals will have some combination of the 85 players on the roster (Deuce Lutui remains unsigned) attending meetings, working out and spending approximately 90 minutes on the field.
"It's a chance to get back on track," Patrick said. "The learning curve is a lot different for the veterans. The rookies are going through the playbook for the first time."
The rookies are going through a lot for the first time. Settling into life with Lott is always an eye-opening experience, especially with the temperatures rising.
Defensive tackle Dan Williams, the team's No. 1 pick, acknowledged those workouts are something he needs. Getting more meeting time about the playbook, along with the conditioning and weightlifting, may be more important than the actual on-field work, Williams added.
"A lot of guys worked out at home for those two weeks, but they didn't work out like coach (Lott) wanted you to work out," Williams said.
Patrick, one of the few veterans to show Monday, tried to do his part. He went outside as the rookies were about to run when rookie seventh-round pick Jim Dray – also a tight end – came over to ask Patrick if he was going to watch them work. Patrick told him he came out to run with Dray and show some support.
Dray admitted "it made me feel a lot better." Said Patrick, "Four years ago, I felt their pain."
Yet there was an underlying enthusiasm amid the exhaustion.
"This is your job now," Dray said. "There's nothing else I'd rather do. I think I speak for all the (rookies), we're all excited."
The veterans' outlook on OTAs might not be exactly the same.
"It just seems like there's no break now," Patrick said. "It seems like one continuous season.
"But hey, as long as I've got a job, I'm happy."
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