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Cardinals let John Lott go

Posted by Darren Urban on February 28, 2014 – 2:09 pm

The Cardinals parted ways with strength and conditioning coordinator John Lott Friday, a little bit of a surprise. The Cards confirmed the move in a statement.

“Coach (Bruce) Arians let John know this morning that he’s making a change and going in a different direction in that role. Everyone at the team is certainly grateful to John for his contributions and wish him nothing but the best moving forward. The search for a replacement is underway.”

Lott still has two years remaining on his contract, so financially he’s got time to search for a landing spot. Lott was just at the Scouting combine, reprising his role as the guy bellowing at prospects to encourage extra reps, after not going there in 2013. Lott was a holdover from the Ken Whisenhunt regime and didn’t have any ties to Arians, which made him different than say, Freddie Kitchens (who played for Arians in college). Lott’s profile shrunk this year as well. Normally out front at the beginning of practice at before games leading stretching, that duty was eliminated with Arians’ belief players needed to prep on their own and not stretch as a team. There was chatter earlier in the offseason Lott could end up with Whisenhunt in Tennessee after Whiz got the Titans job. The Titans, though, retained long-time strength coach Steve Watterson.

Assistant strength and conditioning coach Pete Alosi remains in place. The Cardinals don’t officially begin their offseason conditioning program until April 21.

CombineJLUSE


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Keeping the staff together for 2014

Posted by Darren Urban on January 16, 2014 – 9:45 am

There is often change this time of year for any coaching staff and front office. Coming off a 10-6 season, it wouldn’t have been surprising if anyone was poached from 8701 S. Hardy. But it sure looks like — barring something unforeseen — that the band will stay together for another season.

Bruce Arians already said he was hoping his coaching staff would stay intact. There were rumblings Alabama might want quarterbacks coach Freddie Kitchens for their offensive coordinator spot, but it was clear quickly Kitchens didn’t want to leave the NFL and the Tide went with Lane Kiffin. When Ken Whisenhunt was hired to be the Titans’ new head coach, there was a chance he might seek a reunion with Cardinals strength and conditioning coordinator John Lott — but then came the news that the Titans would be retaining their own strength coach, Steve Watterson. (Now, some assistant coaches are sometimes retained in the wake of a head coaching change only to be let go soon after. That happened with the Cards just last season, when the defensive coaches were kept after Whisenhunt was fired, only to have them let go in the wake of the Bruce Arians hire.)

Vice president of player personnel Jason Licht has interviewed for the vacant general manager jobs in both Miami and Tampa Bay, but the Dolphins keep bringing in new candidates and the Bucs apparently are leaning elsewhere.

And of course, the biggest news for the Cardinals is that defensive coordinator Todd Bowles will be sticking around. The Vikings hired Mike Zimmer to be their head coach, meaning Bowles wouldn’t be getting that job, and he had already withdrawn his name from consideration for the Browns’ vacant head coaching job. Having Bowles around for another season to build on a defense that ended up sixth in the NFL (and No. 1) against the run should put the Cardinals in good defensive shape for 2014. Continuity is always a good thing.

BowlesStaysUSE


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Whisenhunt gets second chance

Posted by Darren Urban on January 14, 2014 – 8:02 am

Ken Whisenhunt gets his second chance. The news came down Monday evening that the Titans had hired the Chargers offensive coordinator and former Cardinals head coach to be their new head coach. It was a surprise on a lot of levels, not the least of which that so many reports came out linking Whisenhunt with the Detroit opening and the fact the Lions are the lone team with a (more or less) established quarterback in place. It’s impossible to know if Whiz chose Tennessee over Detroit or if the Lions never really were that interested in Whiz. It doesn’t mean much now.

It will be interesting however to see how Whisenhunt works with QB Jake Locker. Can Whiz develop Locker, who thus far has not shown enough signs of being a long-term answer? Clearly, the inability for Whisenhunt (and to be fair, General Manager Rod Graves) to figure out the post-Kurt Warner QB situation in Arizona killed his tenure here.

What really struck me about the hire when I first heard it was the link between Nashville, the Titans, Whiz and the Cardinals. That too goes back to the QB problems Whiz had in the desert. Back in the preseason of 2010 — that first go-round of football after Warner retired — the Cardinals had Matt Leinart as the starter, Derek Anderson as the backup and back-to-back exhibition games in Tennessee and in Chicago. In between, there was a few days in Nashville, a joint practice versus the Titans and then a final practice at Vanderbilt.

The relationship between Whisenhunt and Leinart was already fraying. In the joint practice, Leinart struggled against the Titans — at the time, Titans defenders started noticing how quickly Leinart went to his checkdown receiver — and the next day at Vandy, Whisenhunt shocked everyone by giving Anderson first-team snaps. Afterward, it became official that Anderson would be starting in Chicago. Leinart was angry. And things devolved from there.

Now Whisenhunt starts it over. Whiz had a very good run in Arizona, getting the franchise to places they had never been. He also made mistakes. It will be interesting to see if Whisenhunt learned from those missteps and apply that with the Titans.

– There is a lot of speculation about Whiz and if he would reach out to try and bring over current Cardinals strength and conditioning coordinator John Lott. It wouldn’t surprise me, but we’ll see how that develops.

– There are still job openings in Detroit, Minnesota and Cleveland, the latter two of which have interviewed Cardinals defensive coordinator Todd Bowles. But I am guessing Bowles stays put in Arizona.

WhizBlogUSE


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Kitchens report underscores staff could change

Posted by Darren Urban on January 9, 2014 – 9:33 am

The day after the season ended, Bruce Arians was asked if he expected to have his entire coaching staff back in 2014.

“I hope so,” Arians said, before acknowledging the head coaching interviews defensive coordinator Todd Bowles was certain to get and later did.

Will Bowles stay? He talked with the Vikings and Browns, although the latest report is that Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer is the leading candidate in Minnesota and the Cleveland search is continuing with, among others, former Cardinals head coach Ken Whisenhunt — who had two interviews in Cleveland last year for the job before Rob Chudzinski was hired. Now comes a report that the University of Alabama, which lost offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier to Michigan, could hire Cardinals quarterbacks coach Freddie Kitchens — a one-time Alabama quarterback — as the new OC. Alabama is interviewing former Raiders coach/USC coach Lane Kiffin for the post today.

It’s an interesting time as the coaching carousel spins. You never know — especially with a staff has big as the Cardinals have now — what other opportunities may change the landscape. For instance, if Whisenhunt gets a head coaching job, how many of his former staff would he try to bring in (and, in regard to the current Cardinals, might he try and get strength and conditioning coordinator John Lott?)  Other things could pop up from nowhere, like the Alabama opening and Kitchens’ potential chance there.

I do think Kitchens, who had an impressive comeback season after his near-death experience of the summer, would like to be an offensive coordinator. Whether Alabama will chase him or whether he would be willing to go back to the college game, I’m not sure. But it’s an intriguing situation.

UPDATE: Multiple reports say Kitchens won’t be going anywhere because he wants to stay in the NFL. But again, will Arians’ staff stay completely intact? We’ll see.

FreddieBlogUSE


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Stretched or not, offseason program is over

Posted by Darren Urban on June 13, 2013 – 11:35 am

It had been noticeable, after six years of watching John Lott gather the players at the outset of every practice and listen to him bellow instructions for a stretch, that the Cardinals weren’t stretching before their workouts since Bruce Arians arrived. The reason was simple. Arians wants his guys stretching on their own and being ready to practice when practice starts.

“I know this,” Arians deadpanned. “If a guy starts chasing you with a gun, you’re not going to stretch.”

Point taken. Obviously, players need to get loose (not that it can be that hard in 105 degrees right now) but Arians’ major point is that they should be professional enough to do it on their own. In the meantime, the Cardinals ended their minicamp today after a brief walkthrough. They were out there for about 30 minutes doing light work before backup kicker Will Batson was given the chance to boot a 48-yard field goal. Good, and the veterans saw the end of their offseason work. Miss, and practice would go on. Batson hit it, to the celebration of all (although I am really curious to know if it would have continued with a miss. We’ll never know.)

So here are some notes, thoughts and observations after an offseason of work:

– The Cardinals are pretty healthy, to which Arians was happy. “You cross your fingers every day,” he said, but rehabbing guys like Levi Brown and O’Brien Schofield had immersed themselves back into all the work by the time it was over. There were some dings but nothing that should be an issue by the time camp starts. That doesn’t include, right now, the very much unknown situation of rookie wide receiver Ryan Swope. Arians already said he was hopeful Swope would be ready for camp. I don’t know if anyone can know for sure right now.

– Arians said his guys have to be in better shape. He emphasized that should come if the players keep working. Carson Palmer already said that should be happening, and Larry Fitzgerald made it sound like he is expecting more Cardinals than ever before to show up at his Minnesota workouts (and also some in San Diego, where Palmer lives.)

– While I will take my pre-vacation guesstimates at lineups next week like I usually do, Arians clearly hasn’t set much in stone. That’s because football “is a noise-level game,” he said, and the noise level doesn’t exist in the offseason in shorts. Some things are guarantees as you would think, Palmer and Fitz and Peterson and Campbell and Dockett among them. But there is wiggle room for training camp upsets.

– We are far from setting a roster too. But some of the undrafted guys who made positive impressions include receivers Jaron Brown, Charles Hawkins and Robert Gill, nose tackle Padric Scott and tackle Jamaal Johnson-Webb. We’ll have to see if that can carry through training camp.

– Arians is going to spend a few weeks at his lake home in Georgia during his vacation, which for the coaches starts now as well. Arians will also be hosting his first charity golf tournament June 24-25 in Georgia. He made sure to invite anyone from Arizona who wants to come, so, if you are looking for something to do

– Rookies will stay one more week with Lott. The veterans are out.

– Arians said recuperating quarterbacks coach Freddie Kitchens stopped by the facility. Arians isn’t sure that was the best thing given Kitchens’ health but “he wanted to see his quarterbacks.”


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Rules of the offseason

Posted by Darren Urban on February 8, 2013 – 10:06 am

With new coach Bruce Arians taking over, there have been some questions about when they can get started working with players — the collective bargaining agreement makes it plain they can’t do it right now, and all the coaches who have talked the last couple of days have mentioned how they have been careful to work within the CBA rules in that regard. There has been no official schedule released yet about how the offseason will proceed. Key fact to note: The Cardinals — as you can see below — can’t begin before the first Monday in April. Here’s a quick look at the CBA language about what is to come.

(And yes, a new staff like the Cardinals have are allowed to have an extra minicamp for veterans — as you will see — but it must be regarded as voluntary as opposed to the one mandatory minicamp.)

Current offseasons are broken into three parts. Phase One is two weeks long, and is only strength and conditioning along with rehab. Only John Lott and Pete Alosi — the strength and conditioning coaches — are allowed on the field with players, and players can’t use actual footballs if they are on the field at the facility. In Phase Two, over the next three weeks, coaches can get on the field and run individual drills or unit drills alone — offense or defense, but offense can’t go against defense.

Phase Three, over the next four weeks, includes the minicamp and OTAs, and is the only time players can wear helmets. Live contact isn’t permitted.

As for having a new staff, here are the relevant parts of the CBA:

Article 21, Section 2: If a Club hires a new head coach after the end of the prior regular season, that Club may schedule or conduct an offseason workout program for no more than nine total weeks, with eight of the weeks required to be consecutive and subject to Article 22, Section 3, to be completed over a twelve-week period. All other Clubs may schedule or conduct offseason workout programs for no more than nine consecutive total weeks, to be completed over a ten-week period. In either case, Clubs may schedule no more than four workouts per week for any individual player. Such workout programs shall not be permitted on weekends.

Article 21, Section 2, Subsection C: Each year offseason workout programs cannot begin prior to the first Monday in April for Clubs that have hired a new head coach after the end of the prior regular season, and cannot begin prior to the third Monday in April for all other Clubs.

Article 22, Section 3: Voluntary Veteran Minicamp: Any voluntary minicamp for veteran players must be conducted prior to the College Draft, but no earlier than week three of the Club’s offseason workout program and after at least one week of the two weeks of Phase One activities that the Clubs may hold pursuant to Article 21. 

A couple of key points: The Cards aren’t allowed to get started in the offseason this year before April, and the CBA pretty much spells out that players aren’t allowed to do much of anything with coaches before the start of the offseason program. Players can start working out in the weight room on their own, but coaches can’t do anything but supervise to prevent injury and misuse of equipment.


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Cardinals have their coaches

Posted by Darren Urban on February 5, 2013 – 1:34 pm

The Cardinals finally released a list of their new coaching staff Tuesday. They had already announced, after the hiring of head coach Bruce Arians, the addition of assistant head coach/offense Tom Moore, offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin and defensive coordinator Todd Bowles. Now comes 13 new names, along with keeping four holdover coaches:

– Special teams coordinator: Amos Jones (last job, special teams coach, Pittsburgh Steelers)

– Quarterbacks: Freddie Kitchens

– Wide receivers: Darryl Drake (receivers coach, Chicago Bears)

– Running backs: Stump Mitchell (head coach, Southern University)

– Tight ends: Rick Christophel (head coach, Austin Peay)

– Assistant tight ends, assistant special teams: Steve Heiden (tight ends coach, Concordia University)

– Assistant offensive line: Larry Zierlein (OL coach, Hartford of UFL; was Steelers’ OL coach from’07-’09)

– Defensive line: Brentson Buckner (intern DL coach, Steelers, 2010-12)

– Pass rush: Tom Pratt (consultant, IMG Academy)

– Linebackers: Mike Caldwell (linebackers coach, Philadelphia Eagles)

– Outside linebackers: James Bettcher (special assistant to head coach, Indianapolis Colts)

– Defensive backs: Nick Rapone (defensive coordinator, University of Deleware)

– Cornerbacks: Kevin Ross (safeties coach, Oakland Raiders)

– Defensive assistant/assistant defensive backs: Ryan Slowik

– Offensive assistant: Kevin Garver (offensive assistant, University of Alabama)

– Strength and conditioning: John Lott

– Assistant strength and conditioning: Pete Alosi

An interesting note: the offensive line doesn’t have a offensive line coach per se. Duties teaching the line will be split between Zierlein, Moore and offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin, who has spent his coaching career as an offensive line coach.

Kitchens had been coaching tight ends under Ken Whisenhunt, but moves to quarterbacks, a position Kitchens played in college. Slowik was outside linebackers coach on the last staff, and of course, Lott and Alosi remain in their former jobs. The staff of 21 is four more coaches than was on Whisenhunt’s staff. Arians said he preferred to have extra coaches on staff, and said he likes the diversity of experience and youth. The group moved into offices and began their meetings today. More in a bit on azcardinals.com, including more background on the new group. (And here it is.)


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Staff starts coming together

Posted by Darren Urban on January 19, 2013 – 11:10 pm

There have been no official announcements yet from the Cardinals about additions and changes to the coaching staff, but multiple reports from many places have noted that new head coach Bruce Arians — who said Friday he was hoping to have his staff set by Sunday — is starting to do just that.

To the surprise of no one, former Eagles defensive coordinator Todd Bowles is the pick for Ray Horton’s replacement as defensive coordinator. Bowles took over in Philly for the fired Juan Castillo last year as the Eagles season went from bad to worse. Bowles played for Arians at Temple and later played for the Redskins and 49ers. Here’s an interesting coincidence too — Bowles was interviewed for the Cardinals’ defensive coordinator job in 2011, the spot that eventually went to Horton. He worked as the assistant head coach and interim head coach while in Miami, but his part-season stint in Philly this season was his first as a coordinator.

For offensive coordinator, Arians will go back to his Colts’ ties to bring in Harold Goodwin, who was the offensive line coach in Indianapolis. Arians already said he will call his own plays. But having Goodwin on staff — along with whomever is the going to be the offensive line coach — will give the Cards extra eyes on a unit that needs to improve. Arians already said he is a big believer in technique on the line. Goodwin’s brother, Jonathan, is an offensive lineman for the 49ers.

(It may be worth noting, after a lot of talk of late that after the head coaching hires around the league did not include a minority, both Cardinals’ coordinators will be African-American.)

The Cardinals do need a lot more spots filled. It looks like Arians will move on from the bulk of the holdover coaches. Special teams coach Kevin Spencer joined former boss Ken Whisenhunt with the Chargers Saturday (Whiz was named offensive coordinator and the Chargers hired Frank Reich, who was just the Cards’ receivers coach, as the quarterbacks coach).  The Cards reportedly only are keeping tight ends coach Freddie Kitchens — Kitchens played quarterback in college for Arians when Arians was the offensive coordinator in 1997 for Alabama — and strength coach John Lott. That would mean moving on from defensive line coach Ron Aiken, linebackers coaches Matt Raich and Ryan Slowik and defensive backs coach Louie Cioffi.

Again, there have been no official announcements yet. Whether the staff is all in place by tomorrow is in question, but as coaches and scouts head to Mobile next week for the Senior Bowl work, it seems that Arians will have a good chunk of his work done (and Mobile is often a place where coaches can interview prospective candidates, too.)

 


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A little less Fitz

Posted by Darren Urban on May 23, 2012 – 9:35 am

I guess this is what happens when you are at the top of your game — or maybe why you are at the top of your game — but wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald admitted that, yes, he indeed is overweight.

Wait, what?

“A couple of pounds” is what he said he needed to lose, although it’s tough to tell. He’s a far cry from the guy whose body was overhauled when strength and conditioning coach John Lott first arrived.

“I am a little heavy,” Fitzgerald said. “I have to get back into football shape before I can start telling guys what to do.”

The subject came up when Fitz was asked what advice and/or tutelage he was giving No. 1 draft pick Michael Floyd. Floyd is staying at Fitz’s house for now — although Fitz said he “could not deny nor confirm” that to be the case — and when Fitz was asked about Floyd’s potential impact, he dug up a time “many moons ago” when he was a ballboy for the 1998 Vikings.

“They had Jake Reed and Cris Carter and Robert Smith and they drafted Randy Moss and he was the difference the league had never seen before,” Fitzgerald said. “(To) get a talented player on the offensive side of the ball that can produce like (Floyd) can, it’s going to be a tremendous asset.”

Not that Fitz is saying Floyd will be Moss-incarnate. Floyd doesn’t have anywhere that type of speed. But Floyd could help the offense, especially if he follows the lead of Fitz who is already watching his weight.

 


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In between workouts, some charity golf

Posted by Darren Urban on May 14, 2012 – 2:51 pm

After a year’s hiatus player-wise — because of the lockout — the Cardinals’ veterans were back out at the annual Cards’ charity golf event in the spring, over at Wild Horse Pass. It was toasty as the temperatures heated up, but it seemed like everyone was having fun. There are serious golfers, like coach Ken Whisenhunt and kicker Jay Feely, some middle-of-the-road guys who all seemed to hit good shots when the cameras were around (at least, that’s what they were telling us) and other guys who you should be careful to be around when they are taking a shot (Um, Beanie, about that swing …)

There will be a video up soon and a photo gallery. Daryn Colledge didn’t make a hole-in-one to win the car, but decided to act like it (below). The rookies were in this morning getting the “This-is-how-we-do-things” lecture from John Lott before their first conditioning session, and the veterans who are around return tomorrow. Newly signed Calais Campbell will be a part of that too, and it’ll be back to work.


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