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Rookies Already Make Impact With Hospital Visit

New Cardinals hand out stuffed animals, autographs, and many smiles

Cardinals rookies (from left) Christian Jones, Tejhaun Palmer, Max Melton and Marvin Harrison Jr. pose with a patient Friday at Phoenix Children's Hospital.
Cardinals rookies (from left) Christian Jones, Tejhaun Palmer, Max Melton and Marvin Harrison Jr. pose with a patient Friday at Phoenix Children's Hospital.

When the rookies walked into Phoenix Children's and saw their official Cardinals jerseys for the first time, they couldn't contain their excitement.

Yet it didn't even remotely match up to the smiles they provided to kids on Friday, after the team's rookie class visited pediatric patients and their families.

"I'm just really thankful to be here," defensive lineman Darius Robinson said. "You never know what people have going on, so I'm making sure I'm coming in with positive energy and just really enjoying my time with the kids."

Robinson, the Cardinals second first-round pick, expressed a desire to be active in the community during his introductory press conference. This was just the beginning.

Joined by cornerback Elijah Jones and long snapper Joe Shimko, some of the conversations with the patients were about their love for football, activities they do for fun, and even the ongoing NBA playoffs.

McKenna Cave, the Phoenix Children's family centered care impact coordinator, said interactions like these are one of her favorite parts of the job.

"To see a kid that had a little bit of a tough day, their face will light up when these players walk in the room," Cave said. "It's really special and it's really something that only they could bring to Phoenix Children's, so it's amazing that they do."

Few people could light up a room as much as offensive tackle Christian Jones. He, along with wide receivers Marvin Harrison Jr. and Tejhaun Palmer and cornerback Max Melton were handing out stuffed animals and signed posters.

Each time they'd pop into a room with tons of enthusiasm and happiness, the struggles the patients were facing weren't at the forefront of their minds.

"It's bringing a smile on my face just talking about it now," Jones said. "I know everyone was happy about it. It's honestly a privilege to go out and be in the community."

For the majority of the players, this was one of their first interactions with the Arizona community and Cardinals fan base since their Valley arrival a little over a week ago. Melton recognizes the impact a visit like this could have on someone.

"I hope they realize that they can work through anything and I hope we give them that support," Melton said. "Just let them know that they keep going. Whatever they got going on, it's just a trial and tribulation and they can come out on the other side of things."

Years down the line, fans will talk about the on-field contributions the rookie class made and wear their jerseys around State Farm Stadium. They'll likely have the same giddy reaction as the rookies did to seeing the jerseys for the first time.

But it's off the field, on visits like this one to the hospital, where Jones believes the 2024 rookie class is capable of supplying a more meaningful impact.

"Coming together and doing things outside of the facility, it's really building up the bond and the trust and the family atmosphere," Jones said. "Seeing the change in live action and watching the kids smile. Someone just had a pretty heavy surgery and just seeing the whole room go up (when we walked in). It's understanding that this is just a little bit of what we can do and the impact we can bring to the city."

Images from the Arizona Cardinals rookies visiting patients at Phoenix Children's Hospital