Some sort of football is happening right now. Players are in the testing protocol, sooner rather than later the strength and conditioning work will ramp up, and the Cardinals (and NFL) will try to make this all work in this coronavirus world. Don't forget, you can send along a question for next week's mailbag right here.
From Keith Kamakani via azcardinals.com
"Darren, do you think the league will allow an expanded practice squad or a pandemic squad? Where every team could carry extra players in case some players in any given week could get COVID-19 and have to be isolated? Maybe 10 to 12 players on the practice squad? As always, you and the rest of the Cardinals media group are doing a great job!"
I appreciate the kind words, Keith. There indeed will be an expanded practice squad of 16 players this year (the new CBA agreed to prior to the pandemic already had boosted the practice squad to 12 players this year.) The rule also will be the teams can "protect" four of those guys every week too, so they cannot be signed away like the rest of the practice squad players can. Extra bodies, I'm thinking, will be important.
From Michael Travers via azcardinals.com:
"Hello Darren, thanks again for your forum about the Cardinals. After watching the Peter King feature illustrating the Minnesota Vikings and how they are planning for the players return and the efforts being taken to protect the players, are the Cardinals doing a similar protocol? If yes, then the players will be safe as long as they follow the guidelines."
Yes, every team will have similar protocols to keep players and staff safe. I haven't read about the specifics of the Vikings plans, but I have seen enough of what the Cardinals will be/are doing to know a lot of time and effort has gone into making it as safe as possible for everyone involved. Unfortunately, that doesn't mean it'll go perfectly -- the Vikings' athletic trainer, in charge of all that you mentioned, tested positive recently.
From Joy Brooks via azcardinals.com:
"In (last week's) mailbag, someone asked you a question about Isaiah Simmons changing his number. Your response about him being able to choose any number in the 40s, 50s, or 60s surprised me. Hasn't No. 40 been retired and no longer available? If not, why not?"
First, a linebacker can be in the 40s, 50s and 90s. When I said he could be in any of those ranges, of course, the number would have to be available. Simmons can wear No. 55 for instance, but not if Chandler Jones has it. That was my point. As for No. 40, yes, it is retired because of Pat Tillman. No one can wear No. 40.
From Bruce DeNorch via azcardinals.com:
"How can the product even remotely look like the NFL we love when the veteran players seem to be demanding everything be done with their way or no go? No preseason is a joke especially for rookies and second-year players. Two games almost seems essential just for true orientation. I'm not interested in seeing the veterans perform like Hollywood while the rookies get set back a year for their benefit. Talk about greedy owners? How about greedy players? Do you think at least one preseason game is essential?"
Not sure what "perform like Hollywood" means. Do I agree that preseason games help normally? Sure they do, and there aren't any veterans who would argue that. We are far from normal. It's not like veterans are asked to play a lot in preseason. They weren't arguing against them because they are lazy or don't want to play them. It's because bringing players together for tackle football in games which results mean nothing makes little sense given the risk you create by having teams come together in that way. Or even traveling when it really isn't needed. The way baseball is already having some problems, trying to hold off on games until they count seems prudent to me. Is it going to cost opportunity? Yes. Is it going to likely make for more ragged play early in the season? Yes. Still is the right decision.
From Justin Duran via azcardinals.com:
"Any idea when the Cardinals will announce their plans for fans in the stands this year at State Farm Stadium?"
I am hoping soon. I wish I had a more concrete answer for you.
From @brilof via Twitter:
"Big year for the team to show improvement. Will the head coach call any defensive plays this year or leave it all to the DC? And will Isaiah Simmons get snaps at LB positions?"
I would expect the vast majority of Simmons' snaps to come at linebacker. That's where he has always been penciled. As far as the defensive play calls, that will remain Vance Joseph's domain. I'm sure there are times when Kliff Kingsbury might have some input on philosophy on a given play, but mostly, he's going to let Joseph do his job.
From @Arodriguezz23 via Twitter:
"With all the new defensive additions and a returning DC, could you see Jordan Hicks making the jump to the Pro Bowl now or all-pro? (Better players around Hicks, familiarity with the system, etc)."
There are a lot of high-profile NFC linebackers Hicks would have to surpass in the pecking order. And of course a lot of it has to do with how the Cardinals do as a team. Hicks had a good year last year. If he plays the same again and the Cardinals are in the playoff chase, he could be in the conversation for Pro Bowl.
From Jonathan Madrid via azcardinals.com:
"So with Patrick Peterson aging, we should sign another cornerback to play on the other side of him. Logan Ryan had four interceptions. He could be a really good cornerback and could help this defense. Can you sign him or do we need to do something to get him?"
I don't want to speak for Patrick but dang, to be "aging" at 30. I mean, technically, we're all aging, but I'd love to see 30 again. Logan Ryan is one of those intriguing guys on the street, but you know he's only a year younger than Patrick? Unless you are ready to move on from Robert Alford (and they are not), it doesn't make sense when you already figure to have Peterson, Alford and Byron Murphy.
From Jen Nichols via azcardinals.com:
"Hi Darren. Simmons got his deal signed, so does that imply he's in town? Or does that just mean the Cardinals flew out to meet him, I assume in Kansas or wherever he lives? Also I noticed a lot of first-round players got signed on the same day, along with Simmons. That was weird to me. I was under the impression that COVID-19 had delayed signings. But with many 1st rounders getting signed at once, it almost felt coordinated, or having a different reason behind it, non-COVID related."
Yes, Simmons is in town, going through the testing protocols, and getting ready to start some strength and conditioning work next week along with the rest of the draft class. All the photos are taken from inside the Dignity Health Arizona Cardinals Training Center. As for being coordinated around the league, it wasn't, but it was very much COVID-related why they all happened at the same time. Teams were waiting to hear what the rules and protocols were for handling testing as players arrived. Once that happened -- which was about the time rookies were going to show up anyway -- it cleared the way for those rookies to take physicals and sign contracts.
From Ariana Reyes via azcardinals.com:
"During the football games, can we take pictures with the players before the game starts?"
Under normal circumstances, that can happen on rare occasions, if you get to the game early enough and a player who has come out for early solo warmups feels like wandering over to the stands. But we are not in normal circumstances this year. If there are fans at games, they will not be able to interact with players. Heck, I won't really be able to interact with players this year, at least not face to face.
From Broncy Con via azcardinals.com:
"Atlanta Hawks got new uniforms today. Add them to the list. At this rate the SuperSonics will return to Seattle before the Cardinals get new uniforms."
But think of it this way, Broncy: The Sonics will probably just use their old-style unis when they return, so the Cardinals will still have a more recent uniform change. (I do like what the Hawks did, btw.)