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OTAs On Deck

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The Cardinals begin organized team activities Tuesday with the first of 14 workouts over the next four weeks.

They are called "organized team activities," which, by the letter of the law set down by the NFL's collective bargaining agreement, are different than the recent mandatory minicamp.

But other than their voluntary status and benign name, the Cardinals' OTAs – the first of 14 of which takes place Tuesday morning – are at once an extension and a rewind of the five-practice minicamp earlier this month.

"You get to hear everything again," center Al Johnson said, "which isn't always a

bad thing."

The vast majority of the Cardinals' roster is expected to take part in OTAs, including all the rookies – who began their work Monday with conditioning and orientation. The coaches will essentially start over on their playbook installation from minicamp but add to it significantly over the next month, including the team's red zone, no-huddle and two-minute packages.

Rookies will remain at the complex after OTAs end and the veterans leave on vacation for further work. The process begins again at the start of training camp.

"This is the next step in the process," coach Ken Whisenhunt said. "It's just a chance to further evaluate young players, as well as work on some of things we have learned about ourselves through the first year."

While training camp will be much more intense and in-depth, the foundation for training camp is built in OTAs, which can benefit the veterans. Johnson, a center, said he looks forward to the defense installing blitz packages and other twists.

"My job actually works out better, because I can get used to what I will see from the defense," Johnson said.

Whisenhunt emphasized to rookies after the minicamp to study their notes while they were away and to be ready for the next time through.

Johnson said the rookies' biggest challenge heading into OTAs is the ability to recall plays that might not have been practiced for a few days. Whisenhunt said such incidents aren't controlled but simply the progression of the work.

And it's what creates the learning curve for the rookies.

"With the information they have to learn," Whisenhunt acknowledged, "it really piles up on them."

Still, the first-year players should be better off than during their first NFL practices.

"I wasn't sure what to expect in minicamp," said defensive end and fourth-round draft pick Kenny Iwebema. "As far as being ready for OTAs, I feel we are better prepared for what we have to do. We just have to learn the playbook and get started in the weight room."

Actual attendance for the voluntary work will also be a story. Running back Edgerrin James usually misses at least some of the OTA workouts to remain in Florida. Defensive lineman Darnell Dockett and wide receiver Anquan Boldin, each of whom attended minicamp, both could stay away because they want new contracts.

But the veterans also will have an easier time catching up in training camp from any work missed as well.

"If we want to look at a certain player at a certain position, that will be the only time you don't get that look (if players are absent)," Whisenhunt said. "But it's just like in a game, the next guy has to step up." * * * Contact Darren Urban at askdarren@cardinals.nfl.net. Posted 5/19/08.

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