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You've Got Mail: Training Camp Arrives

Topics include vaccines, Chandler Jones and the mailbag timeline

MailbagTraining camp

Here we are again. Training camp begins today, not quite as restrictive as it was in 2020 but still plenty of Covid protocols in place. It was good that Kyle got a chance to do a couple of mailbags now that he's moved on to his next phase of life. So for now, you're stuck with me and my mailbag merrymaking. To leave a question for a future mailbag, you can -- as always -- go here.

From Mike Painter:

"Darren, did you see the NFL memo that said if a team has a COVID outbreak and the game cant be rescheduled, then the affected team forfeits and NEITHER team gets paid? Ooooohweeee they are pulling out the big guns! Can you IMAGINE the state of a locker room where a handful of unvaxxed guys get you forfeited and nobody gets paid? Peer pressure. I've never had a political position on this topic, but I was furious from a competition standpoint when I heard how low the NFL vax rate is. Now we're talking player availability. Now we're talking Ws and Ls. THAT is non negotiable."

Why, yes, I did see it. I spent more time than I'd like to admit working and paying attention to work. The NFLPA pointed out that the payment thing isn't different than last season. If a game had been canceled, the players didn't get paid. The difference is that there might be less of an effort to make sure it happens. I don't see a game getting moved to a different week anymore. Players definitely are feeling the pressure with the rules. There is a choice to be made, and it might be a difficult one for some. What will be interesting is how fluid this all might be; with cases rising everywhere, the rules always can change as we move through the season.

From Art Renois:

"Should the Cardinals make a nice fat contract for Chandler Jones or trade him? If trade, what team and for what price?"

Why does it have to be one or the other? The reality is that Jones is under contract, so the Cardinals can have him play out this season and still figure something out after the year, whether it is allowing him to reach free agency, doing an extension after the season or even use the franchise tag. The Cardinals need Jones this year if they want to seriously contend for a division, in my opinion. Trading him doesn't make you a better team.

From Tess Vivisondra:

"Just noticed the Cardinals Twitter has a picture of all the camp dates with Saturday July 31 dubbed 'Back Together Saturday.' Anything special planned that day? Red & White is the traditional Fan Engagement day, but if they are adding a second that would be cool."

The entire league is making "Back Together Saturday" an event. I am not sure yet of details of what could happen -- obviously Covid protocols continue to impact things, and with the Red & White the next week, that will still be its normal setup. But yes, it is supposed to be "more" than a normal practice.

From Original Jon:

"Hi Darren. We have all seen how onerous the league requirements are for unvaccinated players, and are beginning to see some grumblings from players regarding these restrictions. My question is, how is the league verifying whether a player is vaccinated? Are they simply asking for their vaccine cards? Are they having their team doctors administer the vaccines directly to the players so they know firsthand what happened? Or are they just taking the player's word for it? Thanks for the great content, as always!"

The work internally about protocols and player vaccines (and everyone's vaccines in the organization) begins with head athletic trainer Tom Reed. I'll be honest, I don't know exactly how it works, but yes, the Cards find out who is vaccinated. I am guessing that they have to show proof of vaccine, but I don't know for sure. That way the Cardinals can execute the proper protocols, because as you note, those who are unvaccinated must deal with restrictions the vaccinated do not.

From Sebastian Quiros:

"I've heard here and there some rumors of the Cardinals trading for Xavien Howard. That would be great for the team. Have you heard anything about it? Do you see a trade like this possible?"

Rumors? I mean, there was one piece of someone speculating that it might be a good fit. That's not a rumor of a deal. That's pure speculation. Anyone can do that, and to be honest, it's funny sometimes how pure guesswork turns into a "rumor" -- which I define as coming from at least some sort of truth. I never say never, but given Howard's age, I don't know if a first-round pick will be enough. And it's sticky since Howard has a bunch of years left on a deal he just signed and is already upset with the numbers.

From Dave in Kansas:

"I remember reading an article here about how much Carson Palmer enjoyed using the virtual reality tool the Cardinals have to build his abilities to read defenses and sharpen reaction times etc. Does Kyler enjoy doing that also?"

The Cardinals aren't using the virtual reality tool anymore. That was something that Palmer took to that ultimately didn't catch on with most other Cardinals QBs.

From Jeremy Heathcote:

"Hey mate, I have a question on the use of performance enhancing drugs. Why is the NFL so soft. I'm surprised that it's like, six games (yes big chunk of the season) but any sports code over here in Australia, you're gone for two years. Same with some of the other suspension (or non) for criminal offenders - is there a policy on that? Also how many of our players in recent years have been caught out? I know Pat P but anyone else?"

Peterson is the only one in the last decade or so for PEDs. As far as the rules, those all have to be collectively bargained with the players. I don't know the strength of the sports unions Down Under.

From jpr cards:

"I'm sure you've fielded many questions about the team's tight end situation but I just can't imagine that they'll head into 2021 with only the current depth chart at the position. Do you believe they will make an addition prior to opening day? I just don't see that they have any weapons there that can be used as viable receiving threats. Maybe Kliff Kingsbury just doesn't see the need for a pass catching TE? I would disagree."

I do expect a potential veteran addition at tight end at some point. Right now, I wouldn't be surprised if they take a long look early in camp at what they have and then make that add later.

From LNE Gull:

"Hi Darren. Not really a question. More of a PSA/FYI that I'm sure you're already well aware of. After the Suns' collapse in the Finals, the mood and patience for Valley sports fans is less than zero. It's going to be a very toxic year for the Cardinals if they start slow. I know, what else is new? Nah, this is gonna be extra-poisonous because we're wounded. Mute your inbox."

Well, I grew up here and am a big Suns fan so I understand the disappointment, but I'm not feeling "collapse" when it came to the Suns. They played poorly a couple of times, but this team nearly won the title and they lost to a better team with arguably the best player in the NBA playing his best. As far as the Cardinals, I disagree that anything will be "worse." I've covered this team for 20 years. There are plenty of times I should've muted my inbox -- sometimes even when the Cards are good.

From Michael Travers:

"Why are the Cardinals barely over the 50 percent on vaccinations? Even the owner Mike Bidwill, who had COVID and was in the hospital, has communicated the to the organization the importance of being vaccinated. It does not make sense that all of these players are not vaccinated. Is the leadership telling all the players the importance of being vaccinated?"

Yes. It's been talked about multiple times. From the organization to the league and even the union. Guys have to make their own choice. I don't know who is and isn't (although DeAndre Hopkins noted he was not at this point on social media), and I don't know how much it will change. As I noted above, the rules are in place and everyone has to follow them one way or another.

From Jeffery Fowler:

"With the NFC West probably the most competitive division in the league, many experts are already penciling in the Rams as favorites to win the division. I guess with the trade for Stafford, they felt that was the missing piece to put the Rams as frontrunners. Not so fast I say ... for the Cardinals, Seahawks and 49ers in my opinion have improved just as much in the draft and free agency. So I can see all teams winning at least 10+ games. Thoughts?"

I do think if all these teams stay healthy (and the Rams already lost RB Cam Akers) they have a chance at a 10-win season. But that's a big if, and it is not a lock either. Then again, someone has to be a favorite. I can see why someone would pick the Rams.

From Robert Malicki:

"Camp has yet to open and some questions will be addressed. Will our DC focus on the nose tackle to clog up the middle forcing any running play to veer outside allowing our linebackers to contain? The season opener will be a quick test of this approach due to Derrick Henry. He can get his 100 yards as long as it takes him twenty carries."

I have no idea if nose tackle will be a "focus" as you say, but clearly they want and need the defensive line to be better. Derrick Henry is a problem for every team the Titans face, so that isn't going to be unique to the Cards. I truly believe if the Cards lose against the Titans, it would be because they couldn't handle A.J. Brown and Julio Jones more than Henry.

From LifelongMic Jones:

"I know a win is never guaranteed, but what games on the schedule do you see us winning easily? I believe our schedule is way tougher than most the fans will give this team some slack for. Out of the division, the Jags is the only loss I'd be like, 'Welp.' Texans too pending Watson. Bears might get it figured out late in the season, Lions too. This season going to be tough as hell. Go Cards."

I am not the guy to sit here and say there are games any team will "win easily." It's not like it doesn't happen from time to time, but honestly, most games are going to be close. It can be a difficult schedule, yes. I think if this team stays healthy and plays like it is capable, it has the chance to win 10 or more. But winning easily? I mean, even the Jaguars game is cross country, early start in the heat. No such thing as gimmes.

From Wyatt Holland:

"I'm a regular writer to the mailbag and a mystery which has always dogged me was 'Why is Darren always a week behind the news?' We sign somebody, cut somebody, something happens, etc. the mailbag never gets to it until next week, even if the even happened the weekend before the Tuesday mailbag. I got my answer last week when Darren mentioned he grabs the questions for the mailbag last Wednesday or Thursday. Meaning he misses out on everything that happens Friday-Monday. The obvious question is WHY? My brother, this ain't rocket science. Why can't y'all not just grab the questions Monday night, answer them Tuesday morning, then post it to the site that afternoon? I love the mailbag. Cardinals really are one of the most fan engaging teams out there, across any sport. But all the same, it's asinine that you grab the questions almost 5 days ago and thus are constantly behind the news."

Well, Wyatt, it's lovely that you like the mailbag. Can't say I love being ripped for my "asinine" handling of it (and I actually took out one instance of asinine because you were repeating yourself.) But believe it or not, the mailbag is not the only thing I do -- especially once camp starts -- and it's hard enough for me to get it done in the time I do without waiting totally until Monday. I don't have the time. I get to a few questions here and there, and the reason is part to get to all the questions. If you notice, the mailbags, especially in-season, have a ton of questions. If you all prefer for me to do fewer, then I can make it a Monday only thing, and I can pick and choose questions much more carefully. You guys can let me know. But for my work flow, this is far from an asinine approach from my perspective.

From Bill Keay:

"Hi Darren, may I ask what happened to Dan Arnold? I thought he was a good player and a nice target to have in the red zone because of his height. I know he signed elsewhere but why didn't the Cards sign him particularly when they need tight ends? Thank you very much! Go Cards!"

I think the Cardinals liked Arnold well enough. I just don't think they saw him as someone worth $3M a season, which is what he got from Carolina. Can't blame a guy for going where his best monetary offer was.

From Duane Wisner:

"In Detroit the punter did the kickoffs for Matt Prater. He only had 18 last season and only had 66 since 2013. Obviously, Andy Lee won't be doing it and I don't see the Cardinals using a roster spot for a kickoff specialist. I see this being an issue for the special teams, what is your opinion? Thank you, have a nice day!"

My guess is that they considered that before signing Prater, and know he is capable if he needs to get it done. We'll see it if becomes a problem, but given the state of kickoff returns overall in the NFL these days, I'm going to say it's not a big deal.

From Bill Leyland:

"OK, I have meant to ask this question for awhile but forget to. I notice that Kyler is really into wearing the tall knit hat. That seems like it would be very hot in Phoenix in summer, but maybe I just don't get it. I can't help but wonder if it's to make him look taller, or if it's a style/comfort thing."

I am going to guess Kyler likes the look. It's just a hat -- it has nothing to do with him trying to look taller.

From Jacob Lagang via

"Hello sir. If Corey Peters doesn't come back would you see Geno Atkins or Everson Griffen coming over because of familiarity? I have also noticed that N'Keal Harry is out in the market. Would trading Andy Isabella a seventh for 2022 and a seventh for 2023 work for Harry? Also would the Suns' Finals run affect Larry's decision? I could see Kliff being like Monty Williams where no one liked him until he shocked people and J.J. Watt having a CP3 affect and A.J. Green being the Jae Crowder. Could that happen for us? I'm not sure if others will get mad about this last question sir but if you, Kyle Odegard, Mike Jurecki, Craig Grialou and Paul Calvisi had the chance to be GMs for the day who would be the winner? Have a nice day and go Cards!"

  1. I think they are OK on the defensive line unless someone disappoints them early in camp.
  2. I have no idea what the price might be for a Harry trade but I don't see the Cards making a play at this point.
  3. I don't think the Suns' run will have anything to do with Fitz's choice, and while it's fun to make parallels what the Suns did to what the Cards can be, they really have little in common. The dynamics of the sports are just too different.
  4. I'm sure all of my co-workers would have arguments for their GM success, this is my mailbag and I'm me so of course I'm going to say I'd be the best GM. Duh.

From Jason Beckum:

"Hi Darren. What are your thoughts if Larry Fitzgerald did come back for one more year, but came back and played tight end? He is already one of the best blocking wideouts in the league. This would also fill a void of having a veteran in the tight end room, plus he can catch. Could you imagine an 01 empty backfield or 11 personnel. Can't wait till the season starts!"

My thoughts are that Fitz isn't nor will ever be a tight end. (FYI, Fitz is 6-3, 218. The average Cardinals TE is 6-5, 251.)