The new collective bargaining agreement from 2011 changed and redirected several elements of NFL teams’ offseason programs, one of which being fewer days for the team to officially work together. The Cardinals have had a handful of players use the team facility to work out the last few weeks, but they couldn’t interact with coaches and they couldn’t get the official workout program of new strength and conditioning coach Buddy Morris.
That changes Monday, when the Cardinals are allowed to begin their workout program (along with the rest of the league, save for the teams with new head coaches who could begin April 7.) It bears repeating — and emphasizing, the NFL Players Association would certainly say — that this is only voluntary work. In fact, the only mandatory work of the entire offseason is the minicamp June 10-12, which includes Fan Fest at University of Phoenix Stadium June 10. The rest can be skipped if a player so chooses — although after covering this for 15 years, it’s not a surprise to see most players take part in most if not all of the voluntary work, especially when organized team activities start.
Certainly, a glance at Twitter Sunday saw more than a few Cardinals making note of their trek back to Arizona, undoubtedly for the introduction to Buddy classes that will take place Monday:
My last night In Jersey. Headed out to AZ in the morning to start off season workouts. I’m so excited to get started. #BirdGang
— ANTONIO CROMARTIE (@CRO31) April 20, 2014
Headed back to az to lead the gang to the big show… I guarantee playoffs!! And will be a shock if the enemy score 10pts.. 😠
— DARNELL DOCKETT (@ddockett) April 20, 2014
Leaving for AZ #birdgang ✈️✈️✈️✈️✈️
— Jonathan Dwyer (@JDwyer27) April 20, 2014
Not everyone will be there Monday, nor should they be expected to be. But there were quite a few guys trickling in last week already, and I’d think there will be a big group Monday. We’ll have more on azcardinals.com tomorrow.
– While the players are getting started, the front office and coaches continue to head toward the draft. The bulk of the draft meetings were completed last week as everyone discussed, broke down and haggled about the dozens of pro prospects. Speaking of that, don’t forget the Cardinals Spring Tailgate event is coming Thursday. Click here for more details, but part of the celebration (which helps kick off the Big Red Rib and Music Festival out on the Great Lawn) is a one-hour televised special featuring GM Steve Keim, VP Michael Bidwill and coach Bruce Arians, as well as Tyrann Mathieu and Jared Veldheer. Tweet a question for anyone on the panel — using the hashtag #CardsTailgate — and if the question is used, you will win an autographed mini-helmet.
Tags: Antonio Cromartie, Buddy Morris, Darnell Dockett, Jared Veldheer, Jonathan Dwyer, offseason, Tyrann Mathieu
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On a day where most of the NFL was just starting their offseason work (and on a day when football seems a little trivial given the tragic events at the Boston Marathon), the Cardinals were entering Phase II of the offseason schedule thanks to their new coaching staff. That meant on-field work for about an hour today with coaches. The main restriction is no offense-versus-defense work, which meant once the defensive players finished with their various position drills and gathered as a group, they were limited to lining up against trash cans to walk through various defensive calls without much else to do. The offense didn’t get to do a ton more, but at least there were snaps and handoffs and passes, even if it was against air.
The most noticeable thing on this initial day of coach/player work on the field: The tangible evidence of the larger coaching staff. When players are working with individual units, they had smaller groups thanks to the extra coaches. That was Head Coach Bruce Arians’ plan all along (and there is Arians below checking out his team). Arians wanted more coaches so that it was easier to teach (and with my wife being a teacher, I understand the desire for smaller class sizes). That extended on to the field when assistant offensive line coach Larry Zierlein worked with the edge blockers (tight ends and tackles) while offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin worked with the centers and guards. Or linebackers coach Mike Caldwell working the inside linebackers with outside linebackers coach James Bettcher working with that group.
The crowd was also good. This is all voluntary remember — including next week’s minicamp — but the Cardinals had almost everyone on hand. A story on the homepage and a photo gallery coming later today.
Tags: Bruce Arians, coaching staff, Harold Goodwin, James Bettcher, Larry Zierlein, Mike Caldwell, offseason
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The NFL is reportedly talking about changing the offseason calendar, which is an interesting concept, to say the least. The theory goes that the Scouting combine would be moved from February to March, free agency from March to April and the draft from April to May. The idea, according to ESPN, is to make the league more relevant through the calendar year. There has been more and more talk about the regional combines and the role they could play going into the main combine, which would be helped by a shift in timing.
How could that play out? The collective bargaining agreement is pretty set in stone for timing, and organizing a new offseason schedule that would fit with the new dates wouldn’t be a simple process (the NFL Players Association would have to sign off on any new timeline.) The hardest part to fathom is how the players would get a chunk of time off before training camp (which, in the plan, would begin on the same day for every team — again, making for an change for the teams playing in the Hall of Fame game, since they have always started earlier.)
Yesterday, Bruce Arians was lamenting how long he has to wait to talk football with his players and I’d assume moving the calendar back would delay that even more, since you need free agency at least to be underway you can get the offseason program started. Let the debate begin.
Tags: NFLPA, offseason, Scouting combine
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The new Cardinals braintrust is grinding through initial meetings but just like that, the Scouting combine is around the corner, and so here are a few of the key dates upcoming in the offseason:
– Feb. 20-26: Scouting combine in Indianapolis.
– March 9: Teams are allowed to begin negotiating contracts with agents for players from other teams that are scheduled to become free agents. This is a new development, with the league acknowledging talks between free agents and teams often quietly was going to happen. It will definitely spark the speculation/rumormill for players going to other teams for a couple of days before contracts can be signed.
– March 12: The new league year begins and free agency officially begins. Free agents are allowed to sign contracts. Teams must, prior to 2 p.m. Arizona time, exercise options on contracts and tender offers to restricted or exclusive rights free agents if a team is going to do so. Free agency begins at 2 p.m. All teams must be salary-cap compliant (with the top 51 cap numbers).
– March 17-20: The annual spring owners meetings will be held in Phoenix at the Biltmore.
– First week of April: Teams with new coaches — including the Cardinals — are allowed to begin their offseason program.
– April 25-27: NFL draft
The dates for the Cardinals’ OTAs and minicamps have yet to be announced. We are waiting to hear information about training camp, but the regular season will begin for the Cardinals Sept. 8. Working backward, and based on past years with the timeline, training camp should start around July 26.
Tags: free agency, offseason, training camp
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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.
Tags: Bruce Arians, John Lott, minicamp, offseason, OTAs, Pete Alosi
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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.
Tags: Beanie Wells, Calais Campbell, Daryn Colledge, golf, Jay Feely, John Lott, Ken Whisenhunt, offseason
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There has been a lot of news nationally of late of draft picks signing quickly across the league. Understandably, the question arises whether the Cards will do something soon. But the reality is this: There is no reason, at this point, for rookies to sign. And given the new collective bargaining agreement, it’s not going to matter.
The circumstances provide a two-fold explanation. There has never been a reason for rookies to have signed for offseason work. Other than last season, when there was no offseason, almost every draft pick — and every Cardinal draft pick that I can remember — started offseason minicamp/OTAs without a rookie contract. The players instead sign injury waivers, which basically guarantees a rookie his “normal” contract even if he gets hurt during minicamp or other team work.
(Yes, that’s what we were talking about for those who remember the Wendell Bryant situation in 2002. The team’s No. 1 pick wouldn’t sign the injury waiver because his agent didn’t think the Cards had the right language protecting his player, and Bryant never took part in the summer work. It was repeated the next year with No. 1 picks Calvin Pace and Bryant Johnson. The Cards fixed what they were doing — another step in the way the franchise progressed over the past decade — and it hasn’t been an issue for a long time.)
There will be no issue with the draft picks participating, even though they haven’t scribbled on the dotted line yet.
That brings up the other side of the equation. In years past, the negotiations would have heated up sometime after July 4. The top two or three picks wouldn’t be signed until camp was imminent, or in the case of the top pick, a day or two into camp. Since Bryant — who didn’t sign until September — it’s never made a difference. The rookies never had missed so much to make a difference.
Now, though, because of the new CBA, rookie contracts are slotted and set harder than in years past. The reason guys have signed so fast other places is because there really isn’t much negotiating to do. Because of that, the rookies will sign quicker. Every guy will be signed before camp. There’s no reason to fret right now.
Tags: Bryant Johnson, Calvin Pace, draft, offseason, OTAs, Wendell Bryant
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The Cardinals are in phase two of their offseason work, which includes time spent with coaches on the field with their positional units (save for a little bit of time when the QBs can throw passes to the receivers, tight ends and running backs). No helmets, against air, but after an offseason without any of it, it’s welcome. (I will have a story on the quarterbacks getting work with new QB coach John McNulty later today.)
Right now is about fundamentals, whether it is dropping into coverage for the defensive backs, coming off the snap the right way for the offensive and defensive lines, or running the right routes to catch a pass. It’s about repetition (and, in Patrick Peterson’s case below, jumping for a ball tossed during a warm-up drill.)
The work in this phase goes for another couple of weeks, twice a week, until organized team activities start up. It’s basic, and short, and yet it’s always nice to have something that looks like football come up. It seems like the season ended years ago. Then again, it seems like training camp is right around the corner.
– Wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald — who was out there for the workouts today — was ranked the ninth-best player in the NFL in 2011 by profootballfocus.com. Their analysis? Fitz would be even better with better quarterback play. I think that goes without saying.
Tags: John McNulty, offseason, Patrick Peterson
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The NFL announced that teams will now be allowed to have 90 players on the roster in the offseason/preseason, following the precedent set last year. Of course, that last year was because of the lack of offseason and the need for bodies in a boom-here-it-is training camp, but teams decided it worked. You know coaches like having more players in the preseason. It makes sense.
The rules are slightly different. Now, every single player under contract, one way or another, counts against the 90. It used to be there were roster exemptions for guys on the physically-unable-to-perform list, or if a rookie was unsigned. For example, tagged defensive end Calais Campbell would not have counted against the roster if he didn’t sign his tender, but now, he will.
It does impact the preseason, because in the past, rookies would have signed, trimming down available players as they did, and now the rookies will sign and the low-end roster guys will be able to stick around regardless. There won’t be a difference in OTAs and minicamp, because in the past the rookies would participate (signing injury waivers but not having a contract) and their roster spots were used. There were always more than 80 in the summer.
– Cardinals Hall of Fame cornerback Roger Wehrli will be in New York to announce the team’s third-round pick. The NFL started having former players announce second-round picks last year — another cornerback, Aeneas Williams, announced the Cards’ pick in 2011 (running back Ryan Williams — but with the Cards without a second-round pick, Wehrli will be used a round later. (No, I don’t know what happens if the Cards end up trading into a second-round pick.)
– If anyone cares, the Cards have had everyone show up to voluntary workouts by now save for Campbell.
Tags: Calais Campbell, draft, offseason, Roger Wehrli, Roster
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With many of the Cardinals gearing up for the start of voluntary workouts tomorrow morning, it doesn’t come as a surprise defensive end Calais Campbell will hold off until his contract situation is resolved. Campbell received the franchise tag in early March, one of 21 players across the league to be tagged.
Asked if he was planning to come this week, Campbell said in text message “Not until I sign a deal and that hasn’t happened yet so hopefully soon but not yet.”
It is certainly not unique for tagged players to not show. Franchised guys like Saints QB Drew Brees, Bears running back Matt Forte, Patriots receiver Wes Welker and Ravens running back Ray Rice are among the tagged players not expected (or having said straight out they aren’t coming) at offseason work. The Cardinals and Campbell have been talking about a new long-term deal for a while now and that hasn’t changed.
It’s tough not to see “hopefully soon” from Campbell’s message as optimism; there is still significant time to get a long-term deal done before the July 16 deadline. Strength and conditioning may start tomorrow, but the Cards don’t get back on the field for football work until May 22.
(And then again, Campbell didn’t get any at-the-complex work last offseason either, and 2011 turned out pretty good, right?)
Tags: Calais Campbell, franchise tag, offseason, voluntary workouts
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