Wide receiver Early Doucet negotiates the gauntlet during OTAs.
In years past, coach Ken Whisenhunt has used one of his organized team activity days to allow his players a team-building day of bowling, and some of his guys were hoping that would come Thursday as the Cards wrapped up their final OTA.
It didn't, not in a year when OTAs were trimmed from 14 to 10 occurrences and not after last year's offseason when there was no work at all.
Whisenhunt worked his guys until the end, and with one final week of a mandatory minicamp still to come next week – five practices over three days – the work is important.
With less time, it's tougher to judge any player standouts, Whisenhunt said, and so "it's really more about getting them prepared to compete in training camp."
Other than multiple practices Tuesday and Wednesday – along with more hours allowed on the field – minicamp won't be much different than OTAs in terms of the work. Pads are still not allowed. One of the two-a-day workouts on the first two days must be a walkthrough.
The "full" practice Wednesday will be the one held at University of Phoenix Stadium that night for Fan Fest, Whisenhunt said, with the Cards working on red-zone situations and using the chance to be on the actual playing field to their advantage.
After the minicamp, the Cards are done on the field until training camp begins July 24.
"It seems like it has come and gone pretty quick," Whisenhunt said, adding, "I'm glad we still have minicamp left."
DEFENSE OOZES CONFIDENCE
The numbers were there over the last nine games of the regular season for the Cards' defense: Third in touchdowns allowed, first in third-down defense, tied for third in sacks, first in red-zone defense. It's no wonder that, regardless of the defender talking these days, the confidence seeps through every word.
"It's knowing the defense can work, because of where we finished last year," defensive end Calais Campbell said. "When we are jelling and we do it right, the offense has no chance. They only make plays when we make mistakes and we haven't made a lot of mistakes lately. Our confidence is high. I can't wait to get in there that first game."
Whisenhunt said such confidence is only natural after the down-the-stretch success, but "they have to build off of that."
"They have to show they can do it again," Whisenhunt said. "The hardest thing in the league is to repeat or get better. But there is a good feel with this team. I think as this defense continues to grow and know where they can cheat certain places and take calculated chances, they have a chance to be good and hopefully that's how they feel."
HEAP FEELING GOOD, WANTS BETTER SHOWING
Veteran tight end Todd Heap missed six games a year ago with a bad hamstring and was limited in a few others because of the problem. Now, though, Heap said he's "feeling good, running well and that's what these offseasons are about."
The Cards have a lot of options at tight end – Rob Housler figures to get more time this season and veteran Jeff King played well last season – but Heap is anxious to do better than the 24 receptions he had a season ago and acknowledged his preference is to be an every-down player.
Heap is going into the final year of his contract, although he pointed out that in the NFL – without guaranteed deals – every year is a contract year.
"I thought I had a contract going into last year but obviously it was a contract year the year before that," Heap said, referring to getting cut by the Ravens after the lockout last summer and just a couple days before training camp. "Every year you have to prove yourself, show what your value is."