Cardinals pass rusher Markus Golden works out this week during the Phase One program.
With many of his teammates listening to the barked instructions of strength and conditioning coach Buddy Morris nearby on the Cardinals' first day of their offseason program, Markus Golden was going through his own protocol.
Six months and a day from the overtime that cost the pass rusher a torn ACL and the rest of his 2017 season, Golden ran alongside assistant athletic trainer Chad Cook. He wore a brace on his surgically repaired right knee, and his stride wasn't as smooth as it will be in the months to come. But it was the first time Golden really ran since the injury, and, Golden said later, "oh my God it felt good."
"To be on the grass on the field where it felt natural and I was doing it myself, man, it makes me want to go out and run forever," Golden added.
The injury to running back David Johnson has grabbed many of the offseason headlines and, in-season, the loss of now-retired quarterback Carson Palmer was painful. But the Cards were hurt when Golden went down, as much from an emotional standpoint as a statistical one.
He doesn't have a timetable on his return yet nor does he get into predictions whether he might make it back for at least part of training camp.
"When the games start and we start counting the wins and losses and we are battling to get to the playoffs and get to the Super Bowl, I want to make sure I am on the field," said Golden, who led the Cardinals in sacks in 2016 with 12½.
While the running was a huge milestone, the work has been constant. There have been plenty of miles logged on the elliptical machine, some jogging in the pool.
"It's a completely different Markus," Morris said. "One thing I always used to talk about Markus last year was durability and resiliency. You can do the things you like to do, which is become a great pass rusher, but to do the things that support general physical preparation will help you become that great pass rusher.
"I think Markus has turned a corner. I think Chad and (head athletic trainer) Tom Reed have done a great job rehabbing him and he's ahead of schedule. We all expect big things out of Markus and Markus expects big things out of himself."
When Golden does return, it may just be at defensive end. The Cardinals are switching to a 4-3, and while there's always a chance Golden could be still used at linebacker, coach Steve Wilks said at the recent owners meetings that both he and Jones would have their "hand in the dirt" more, as a defensive end.
As for a potential position change, Golden doesn't even see why it's a topic.
"Football is football to me, whether you are in the three-point stance, whether you are standing up," Golden said. "You can do all the technique you want, at the end of the day, you have to beat that man. I played defensive end in college. And I set the edge. I have got it on film in the league. I've got film setting the edge and getting around these guys. To be real, it's just not difficult at all. I'd be lying if I said it'd be one percent difficult. It's football."
Perhaps that's the best mindset to have for Golden, who likely won't get a lot of time to work on and shift during the offseason. Rehab comes first, and there are still hurdles to clear. That's Golden's focus now.
"You've got teammates depending on you, family back home, your kids," Golden said. "You can feel sorry for yourself a little bit, but then you have to get back to work."