Cardinals quarterbacks John Skelton (19), Ryan Lindley (14), Kevin Kolb (4) and Richard Bartel (2) run a drill during Tuesday's opening OTA.
Regardless of the heat – it didn't get to the 108 degrees that was predicted for the high, but the temperature topped 100 by the time the players got off the field – the Cardinals held their energy for the first day of organized team activities Tuesday.
Games, even the preseason ones, are weeks away. So too is the preseason. No one is laying claim to a starting position right now if they're at a position that is available. There is something about a practice vibe that changes how a player goes about his work, however, even if it is in May.
"It's all about getting the stuff we were lacking last year on the field and translate stuff from the meeting room to the field," quarterback John Skelton said. "You may not be able to win a job, but you may be able to lose a job in the offseason."
Not all the pieces are available. Running backs Beanie Wells and Ryan Williams are coming off different leg surgeries and aren't expected to do much if anything until training camp. Coach Ken Whisenhunt confirmed that starting tight end Jeff King partially tore his quadriceps tendon during conditioning work with the team recently, forcing surgery (although Whisenhunt said he expected King to return for training camp.) Cornerback Greg Toler got his first work, limited as it was, since tearing his ACL in a preseason game last season.
The starting quarterback battle between Skelton and Kevin Kolb technically has begun, although a decision won't come until training camp at the earliest.
By the time an OTA begins with a basic walkthrough on both sides of the ball to go over plays and then the players stretch, they are only on the field a little more than an hour. With a 90-man roster, that's not a ton of individual work.
"(Players) are always going to compete, even in this forum," Whisenhunt said. "Right now, it's about watching guys execute assignments. It's about the details, the fundamentals."
Some of the excitement comes from the simple fact of returning to the field. Working in the heat isn't always fun, but there was a missing element not only for the coaches but also the players last year with the lockout and the inability for teams to work together.
Skelton called it "night and day" and easily sees the benefits in the future.
"Even the small workouts we have gotten the last few weeks, you can tell the difference coming out here," Skelton said.
Kolb, whose struggles last season were blamed often on his lack of an offseason with a new team, likened the OTAs to "a slow soaking process" in which players could digest four or five plays a day rather than 16 or 20 in a day like the Cards were forced to do in training camp last season.
"It becomes second nature and you can read and react instead of trying to thinking your way through everything," Kolb said. "That's how you become a faster player, a more accurate player."
Work isn't necessarily going to be plentiful, not with all the players, so "if you only get one or two reps you have to be successful," Whisenhunt said.
"The guys who do that are the ones who will get the attention and the guys who will get more of those reps."
The players have been doing some helmet-less position work a couple of times a week the past few weeks, and a linemen-less offense has come together to work on passing routes. But Kolb chuckled when asked if things were different Tuesday.
"Everyone knows when you put the helmet on, it picks up," Kolb said. "You can say what you want about OTAs, but the energy is there. It always is."