Running back Jason Wright bench presses dumbbells Monday during the start of Cardinals' voluntary workouts. For a photo gallery, click here.
No phone calls or texts were necessary.
The full complement of defensive backs were among those Cardinals attending the first official day of the team's voluntary offseason conditioning program Monday, and Pro Bowl safety Adrian Wilson expected nothing different.
"If I'm here, they're here – as you can see," Wilson said, a grin crawling across his face.
That in-house accountability was a theme inherent in the players who came the first day. Some already had been coming for sessions at the Cards' Tempe facility before Monday. Restricted free agents Steve Breaston, Gabe Watson and Lyle Sendlein – all of whom still had another couple of weeks to seek an offer sheet from another team – chose to sign their tender offers and forgo any further free-agent opportunity to begin the workouts.
And key players like Wilson, new starting quarterback Matt Leinart, running backs Beanie Wells and Tim Hightower, veteran linebackers Joey Porter and Clark Haggans and the vast majority of the offensive line all were in attendance.
"It's voluntary, so to speak," new safety Kerry Rhodes said. "But if you're not here, people notice. Not even just coaches, players see when other guys aren't here, and some guys take that a certain way. This is when you set a direction as a team. That's why it's important."
Coach Ken Whisenhunt stopped down to the weight room to welcome back the players to what is ostensibly the start of the 2010 season.
"The season doesn't begin in August," Leinart said. "It begins in March and April."
Whisenhunt was pleased with the turnout, understanding no team will ever get every player to show. He called such team bonding a "lost emphasis" in the NFL.
The Cardinals' program continues through the end of organized team activities June 10. The team will get on the field for the first time for football-related work at the three-day post-draft minicamp beginning April 30, although Leinart was already on the field Monday throwing passes to receiver Ed Gant while being taped. Leinart will later go back to analyze his mechanics.
"Today was a different feel compared to last year with the Super Bowl," Whisenhunt said. "This year we lost in the second round and that kind of stuck in some of our guys' throats a little bit. The intensity seems to have picked up a little bit, it appears, even though it is early in the offseason."
There are adjustments to make. The roster has undergone a significant makeover – former Pro Bowl special teamer Sean Morey was the latest to leave Monday when he signed with Seattle – and it's easy to tell in the locker room. New quarterback Derek Anderson has taken over Kurt Warner's stall, Porter has moved into Karlos Dansby's and Wilson took the opportunity – with Antrel Rolle departing – to slide down his home to the end of the row.
It's March, but the offseason felt over.
"You have a little time off and it is just a little time off," Rhodes said. "But when you come back, football is right around the corner. It seems like a long way now but in a minute it'll be July and training camp. This is the time when you develop the relationships and the chemistry."
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