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Cardinals get back on the field

Posted by Darren Urban on May 5, 2014 – 1:26 pm

It’s a holiday. Kind of. And not Cinco de Mayo, but instead that day in the offseason when the players officially return to the field for football. It’s called Phase 2 in the parlance of the collective bargaining agreement. The rules are simple: Coaches can finally talk to players on the field. Offense can work with offense, defense with defense. No mixing. No helmets. The hour allowed on the field looks a lot like the first chunk of a regular practice, with individual drills and walkthrough-type situations with each unit.

There will be two weeks of this before organized team activities — the ones with the helmets and portions that are offense versus defense — begin May 20. Had the draft happened 10 days ago as usual, the rookies could have been out here but instead, they must wait. It also remains a voluntary situation, so while there was good participation, some players were not here. Interestingly — and not surprisingly — it was Paul Fanaika at first-unit right guard and Bradley Sowell at first-team right tackle to open things up.

We’ll have a photo gallery and a video up later today.

Phase2Blog


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Late draft, later draft?

Posted by Darren Urban on May 1, 2014 – 9:56 am

First, the facts: The NFL has made no decision about when the 2015 draft will take place. They have made that clear. But there has been plenty of speculation that the league has embraced the idea of a May draft instead of late April, in order to spread NFL news out even further across the calendar. This morning, it was floated the notion that maybe, just maybe the NFL would actually push the draft back another week next year, to mid-May.

The NFL is going to do what it is going to do. I’m not a big fan of a later draft, mostly because I’m not a big fan of the incessant pre-draft analysis even in the years before a late April selection. It seems like it’s going on forever this year (and we still have a week to go) and another week, well, you get the idea. More importantly, you wonder what it means to have these rookies essentially lose two weeks of transition time. Or three weeks if it moves another week later. As it is, the Cardinals’ draftees will arrive one week before OTAs start. That’s one week to kind of digest the playbook before going on the field with veterans. Do I expect Bruce Arians to again split the work into two groups much of the time? Yes. But less time for the rookies isn’t a good thing.

(Of course, it affects every team equally, so …)

You wonder if at some point it pushes the Cards’ summer work later too. Arians is keenly aware of getting his staff enough down time before training camp opens. Even though everything is a little later this year, the Cards’ final minicamp day is actually a week earlier than last offseason, giving the coaches a solid month-plus off before the grind really ramps up.

The Cardinals have been sensitive to how the later draft can impact their work in the draft room too. “What you have to watch out for now is not to overanalyze,” Arians said. “You have a grade on a guy, you go back and watch him, you try to find out some more stuff, and pretty soon there won’t be anybody worth drafting. You won’t like anybody. Fall in love with them and take them.”

Frankly, that paralysis-by-analysis has always been a pitfall even before the draft came later. There will never be any way to know how the date change impacts the picks and realistically, teams will adjust. They always do.

LateDraftShotUSE


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Voluntary workouts can be rewarding

Posted by Darren Urban on April 25, 2014 – 12:49 pm

The Cardinals have had good turnout at their voluntary work thus far, which is always good to see. I’ve seen almost everyone on the current roster at some point (I keep getting questions about players that aren’t in photos — Patrick Peterson, Ted Ginn and Carson Palmer in particular. I have seen all three. Workouts run at 6 a.m., 8 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. after meetings. I’m not taking pictures at 6 and usually I’ve moved on in my day at 12:30, so just because they aren’t in a photo doesn’t mean anything.) It’s important to have guys around, as Darnell Dockett noted yesterday.

“This is voluntary, so when you have guys here, voluntary, and we grade out at 94 percent every day of people coming in, that shows the right direction we’re trying to go in,” he said. “Not showing up with 20 guys, missing 15 here and 30 here, 20 guys late, people missing in the classroom. That’s a bad sign. So right now every day we’re getting out this work, and we’re appreciating it and enjoying it. We’re getting better. Chemistry is not all about coming in talking about football and weights. We’re getting to know each other.”

Kent Somers does a nice job chronicling how Dockett’s mindset has changed after multiple offseasons when he wasn’t here. Part of the change for the Cards — and around the NFL for that matter — has been a proliferation of workout bonuses in contracts. Players get paid for their weekly attendance, but it’s not much really, $175 a day as stipulated by the collective bargaining agreement. If you make the workouts a fruitful part of the paycheck, you tend to motivate. Overthecap.com writes about this. Seven teams in the league have invested at least $2 million of cap space into offseason workout bonuses, including the Cardinals at $2.085 million. The most is the Packers, at $4.325M, and that’s not a surprise knowing that many players probably wouldn’t want to stick around Green Bay in the offseason if they could avoid it.

Nine Cardinals collect six figures just for showing up for whatever the prescribed amount of offseason workouts would be (it’s usually a high percentage of the total days available.) Dockett, DE Calais Campbell, WR Larry Fitzgerald and QB Drew Stanton get $250,000. C Lyle Sendlein and S Rashad Johnson get $150,000. Linebacker Matt Shaughnessy gets $125,000. Linebackers Lorenzo Alexander and Daryl Washington get $100,000. And there are eight other players who get money.

Cash doesn’t explain everything. There are a ton of guys on the roster — big-name guys — who have been here and get no extra monetary reward for doing so, including new players like Jared Veldheer, Antonio Cromartie and Ted Ginn. There is a push from those on the roster to make sure teammates are hear for the reason of just making sure the team will be as good as possible. But as always, money plays a role.

WorkoutCash

 


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Offseason program officially begins

Posted by Darren Urban on April 20, 2014 – 5:44 pm

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:

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.


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On the field, with coaches

Posted by Darren Urban on April 15, 2013 – 2:09 pm

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.

BruceWorkPicUSE


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Potential new NFL calendar floated

Posted by Darren Urban on February 22, 2013 – 7:48 am

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.


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Key offseason dates on the horizon

Posted by Darren Urban on February 14, 2013 – 11:33 am

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.


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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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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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The rookies don’t have to sign yet

Posted by Darren Urban on May 10, 2012 – 7:43 am

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.


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