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Minicamp Ends, Work Continues For Cardinals

Steve Wilks wants players primed for training camp in late July

Coach Steve Wilks watches his players stretch this offseason
Coach Steve Wilks watches his players stretch this offseason

As the Cardinals practiced for the final time of the offseason on Thursday afternoon, they were inundated with music that foreshadowed their looming six-week break.

The three-day mandatory minicamp wrapped to 'School's Out' by Alice Cooper and 'Summertime' by Fresh Prince, melodic odes to the carefree period following the grind of the academic year.

The players looked like students streaming out of home room as they jetted from the Cardinals' facility, but their time off won't consist of lounging around the pool and gorging on takeout.

In the past few days, coach Steve Wilks has lauded the work of the Cardinals since the start of the offseason program on April 3, and in the final post-practice breakdown, he stressed that the progress must continue. That includes trusting players to take home their iPads – today's equivalent of the playbook, complete with video breakdown – during their break.

"Most teams take the iPads back," Wilks said. "Well, I trust the guys to be able to continue to use that information – use it every day to continue to study and get better. Training camp is not an opportunity to come in and get in shape. That was my other challenge to those guys. Make sure we're working out so when we hit the ground running on (July) 27, we're taking the next step."

Wilks has been going non-stop since his hire in January, assembling a coaching staff, preparing for the offseason program and pitching in during free agency and the draft. His family is still in North Carolina and he spends many long days and nights at the facility.

His emphasis on work ethic and perfecting the details has carried throughout the organization.

"When you get a new staff in here, they know of you, but they don't know you as a player," cornerback Patrick Peterson said. "We have to show them how we work, show them that we are students of the game. We want to show Coach that we're studying, because he watches everything. We just want to put our best foot forward and make sure we give the new staff and the new coach leaving with a good taste in their mouths before we come back."

There was a lot on everyone's plate these past few months, as the coaches had to get settled in a new city while simultaneously learning their personnel. The players had to form relationships with their position coaches and get into the new playbook. Wilks felt everything worked in harmony.

"They truly bought in," Wilks said. "New coaching staff, new system, those kind of things. We're looking pretty good. A long way to go, but we're making progress each and every day, so I'm excited about that."

Wilks said the Cardinals don't yet have an identity in any three phases of the game, and that those won't solidify until about midway through training camp. But he is excited about the amount of buy-in everywhere he looks, because a strong work ethic will translate positively in any scheme or situation.

"We all understand and know there is no entitlement," Wilks said. "Every day we come in here we're coaching for our jobs, as well as these players are playing for their jobs. When you have that mindset every day, it's the mindset of getting better."

There is a lot to be determined in Wilks' maiden voyage of 2018, and the focus will become clearer each day leading up to the season. The players are intent on hitting the ground running when they meet back up in late July.

"I'm looking forward to seeing everybody come back to training camp strong," linebacker Deone Bucannon said. "That's a camaraderie thing because you haven't seen everybody for a month-and-a-half, and you just kind of see how everybody grew, how everybody has gotten better. Right away when you see somebody, you can see if they've been putting in the work. It's not even in their body. It's how they carry themselves. They can't wait to show off what they did during that break. I'm looking forward to that. We've got so many playmakers on this team that I'm excited to see it come together and see what we can do."

Images from the second day of mandatory minicamp