Robert Nkemdiche admitted he's already gained a level of fame locally as the first-round draft pick of the Cardinals.
"It's kind of weird," Nkemdiche said. "Trying to be incognito but I can't really be incognito."
That was never going to be an option on the field, where the defensive tackle appeared for the first time as a pro Friday while the Cardinals began their three-day rookie minicamp. The vast majority of the 50-plus players working won't ever make the
team's 53-man roster, but Nkemdiche is expected to play a big role on a Super Bowl contender.
What little coach Bruce Arians was able to see of his top pick impressed him – "All the (talent) we thought we saw," Arians said – although in the non-padded world of the offseason, it will be awhile before the 6-foot-4, 296-pound lineman can truly show his abilities.
"He was killing people in walkthrough and I had to slow him down," Arians joked. "It's a walkthrough and he's bench-pressing linemen already."
"We had to have a little (talk)," Arians added. " 'If I get fined it's coming out of your check.' He slowed down all of a sudden."
Nkedmiche, who was lining up on the left side of the team's base 3-4 alignment, said he was trying to get used to the playbook and the tempo, although he said he was comfortable.
He also shrugged off the idea he couldn't learn much in this time when linemen aren't allowed to do the things linemen do – Arians again referred to it as players "playing soccer."
"You can, actually, from a defensive standpoint," Nkedmiche said. "Getting to your gaps, hand placement, getting off the ball,
pass-rush technique moves. There is a lot you can do, just not the physical part."
Overall, Arians said he was pleased with his team, although the early team drills were marred by plenty of assistant coaches asking various players just what the heck they were doing on a certain play.
The Cardinals have nine eligible veteran players taking part in the minicamp as well as 25 tryout players, in addition to the draft picks and undrafted rookie free agents.
"The guys I expected to look good looked good, but some of the guys I didn't expect to look good looked good," Arians said. "Very few guys looked poor."
Nkemdiche not only looked good on the field but also earlier in the afternoon when he signed his contract, a four-year deal with a fifth-year team option that is worth around $8.6 million. He said he wasn't sure what he wanted to buy first, although he smiled when he was asked about the possible pet panther he had previously mentioned, saying if that were to happen, it'd be down the road.
It wasn't the money that will make Friday stick out for Nkemdiche anyway.
"Being away from football for so long, going through the process of the Combine and the draft and all that, finally getting back to football," Nkemdiche said, "it is a memorable day."
The Cardinals take the field for rookie minicamp