One more OTA week, one more minicamp

Posted by Darren Urban on June 3, 2013 – 10:28 am

The Cardinals are out to start their final week of organized team activities today. Unlike the previous two weeks of OTAs, this week features four workouts — today through Thursday — instead of three, bringing the team to their maximum 10 OTAs total. After the weekend, the Cards will then wrap up their 2013 offseason work — with the veterans at least — with their mandatory three-day minicamp next week beginning Tuesday.

(Tuesday’s second workout will be the night practice at University of Phoenix Stadium for Fan Fest. Details are coming — I expect the full info page on the event to be posted on on Wednesday.)

The rookies will remain around after the veterans leave to get in a little more work on their own. That’s always valuable time, as that group can catch their breath a little bit. But with the simultaneous practices going on for OTAs, this rookie group is ostensibly the most prepared at this point than any Cards’ group before them.

This will clearly be the warmest week of OTAs yet. The bubble construction continues, but that was never going to be available this offseason. That will change next offseason.

I’ll have more this afternoon after the workout is over.

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In the first OTA, breaking up the team (and other notes)

Posted by Darren Urban on May 14, 2013 – 1:12 pm

The Cardinals began OTAs today and coach Bruce Arians tried something new with his 90-man roster: A dual practice. For a good chunk of the time on the field, the main first- and second-units worked on the front field, while the younger players — including almost every rookie — went to the second field with a mirror type of workout.

“We wanted to make sure we maximized the opportunities our rookies got, to get repetitions,” Arians said. “You can’t find a diamond in the rough if he’s standing on the sideline watching. You can find one if he’s out there working. That’s our goal. Get every single guy here an opportunity to make the ballclub.”

Arians said he’s never seen it done in his time in the NFL. Usually there aren’t enough players. “Our offensive tackles got a good workout,” Arians said. “There’s only four of them.” (That’s Nate Potter, Bobby Massie, Jamaal Johnson-Webb and Paul Fanaika today. Levi Brown was limited in his rehab and UDFA Joe Caprioglio isn’t here yet because Colorado State hasn’t finished up the spring semester.)

— Arians noted the full participation and thanked his players for the voluntary work. That included Daryl Washington (who has been here the whole time, not that it is new). Washington did address the media. Here is the story right here.

— Karlos Dansby was running with the first unit with Jasper Brinkley at inside linebacker. Washington was with Kevin Minter with the second unit. That was tough not to notice. We’ll see how it progresses as we go. Lorenzo Alexander and Sam Acho are working as the first-unit outside linebackers. Jerraud Powers continues to work first unit at cornerback with Patrick Peterson.

— Jonathan Cooper was running second-team left guard behind Chilo Rachal. All the other draftees — save for Ryan Swope, who was pulled up after LaRon Byrd had a neck spasm — were working in the second practice.

— It was weird seeing Dansby wearing No. 55. It was more weird seeing him in Miami Dolphin blue cleats. I’m sure that’ll be fixed soon. “I told him he could have my red shoes tomorrow,” Arians said. “He looked good. He looked spry.”


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School rules dictate Taylor will have to wait

Posted by Darren Urban on May 8, 2013 – 4:08 pm

Fifth-round pick Stepfan Taylor will be at the Cardinals’ rookie minicamp this weekend. All the rookies will. But the NFL rule that prohibits rookies from taking part in addition offseason work until their school has held final exams — regardless of whether the player is actually attending school or not (because many players leave school to prep for the NFL) — means Taylor, a Stanford product, won’t be around for much else.

Stanford isn’t scheduled to have final exams end until June 12. That happens to be the second day of the Cardinals’ mandatory minicamp at the end of the full team offseason work. There will be a final practice the next day. Rookies will likely stay around the facility beyond that (they usually do as the vets disperse for the rest of their offseason) but it’s not the same as the OTAs and minicamp.

The Cards do have a couple other rookies that could miss some time after rookie minicamp, but we’re talking one to three days in the other cases. The first OTAs are May 14-16, and there will be 10 total OTA days through June 6, before the June 11-13 minicamp.

Taylor does have a few things going for him. One, he’s from Stanford. I’m betting he’s pretty smart. Two, he’s a running back, and I’m guessing there isn’t as much needed to grasp to still be able to make an impact (and he still has all of training camp.) Finally, it’s not like he’s the first to ever go through this. Stanford products have to deal with this every year. Andrew Luck (below, handing off to Taylor in college) was gone from the Colts for more than a month, and that worked out pretty well for him and his team.

And who was there first-hand in Indy to see that play out? Bruce Arians.

— The rookies report tomorrow for physicals and other stuff. Draft picks Kevin Minter and Tyrann Mathieu will have a co-press conference at 2 p.m.

— No, as of now, nothing new to report on the Karlos Dansby situation. He did visit today and saw some of his old teammates. We’ll see if a contract can be worked out.


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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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Being careful in OTA work

Posted by Darren Urban on June 8, 2012 – 9:39 am

The Seahawks lost a pair of organized team activities this week after the league and the Players Association deemed a previous OTA too rough. The league and the NFLPA are always on the lookout for such things. Over the years, various teams have been docked for similar violations. It even happened to the Cardinals and Dennis Green back in 2004, although the Cards lost a week of the strength and conditioning program by the time they were punished because OTAs had ended by then.

Nevertheless, staying vigilant is important for each team. The new rules say anytime players are on the field at the facility their time must be taped, just in cases the league wants/needs to review something — the Cards even had to trim trees to create better sight lines — although coach Ken Whisenhunt said he feels like his players understand how practices have to go to make sure nothing crosses the line.

“I think our guys have a good understanding of the tempo,” Whisenhunt said. “They go hard but they know when to pull off. You get competitive situations, like line stunts, when you are trying to get timing, but they know they have to pull off and no one has gotten in a position where it has gone over the top. They understand how to practice. It’s not pads, so you can’t really turn it loose like in training camp.”

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As volume returner, Feely tops Peterson

Posted by Darren Urban on June 6, 2012 – 1:51 pm

So perhaps you noticed the picture I took last week for a OTA photo gallery of kicker Jay Feely collecting six punted balls without dropping any. Anything to help fellow special teamers, right?

Well, Feely saw the picture and used it to challenge Pro Bowl punt returner Patrick Peterson. Could the return man deluxe haul in seven and top Feely? Peterson decided to give it a go Wednesday after practice, taking “kicks” from the JUGS machine. Five worked. Peterson couldn’t pull in the sixth, leaving Feely bragging rights for now.

“I let Jay Feely beat me,” Peterson said, shaking his head. “I’ve got to come out tomorrow and get six. … Hey, he’s got a lot of time on his hands. I was tired. But hey, it’s all good.”

Feely, who is game to compete whenever wherever against his teammates, remained confident in his ability to beat Peterson in this small sliver of the punt return universe and said he’d be ready to wager his young cohort. Feely also is driven to eventually get seven himself.

“The hard part (to get seven) is running to the spot and kind of stick one between your legs and still be ready to catch the ball coming down,” Feely said.

The battle is a small reminder of how coach Ken Whisenhunt used to finish up the weeks during OTAs, with intrateam competitions like position players trying to kick field goals or linemen catching punts. Those haven’t been part of what the Cards are doing this summer, with the OTAs trimmed. No matter. In this matchup, Feely thinks he has the mental edge in this battle for volume-catching supremacy.

“I’ve been in his head for a long time when it comes to this,” Feely said. “I was giving him a hard time about it this morning.”

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King hurt, Beanie rehabs and a good first OTA

Posted by Darren Urban on May 22, 2012 – 12:58 pm

The Cardinals had almost everyone on the field today to start OTAs. One man who had hoped to be out there was veteran tight end Jeff King, but it turns out he suffered a partial tear of his quadriceps tendon recently working out at the facility. He had surgery to repair it and is scheduled to return for training camp.

UPDATE: King saw this post on Twitter and responded via Twitter: “Will come back stronger….“The finest steel has to go through the hottest fire.” ”

The OTAs, which are voluntary, got great turnout once again. Those who weren’t practicing couldn’t because of injury or other reasons (rookie guard Senio Kelemete isn’t here because the University of Washington remains in session.) As expected running backs Beanie Wells and Ryan Williams were both off to the side rehabbing their respective knee injuries.

Wells expanded on some of his thoughts about sitting out during OTAs, and coach Ken Whisenhunt addressed them as well, saying it was the plan all along to have Wells sitting at this point. Beanie still has no desire to talk details about his surgery. He reiterated it was “a scope, clean things up.” When asked if it was to repair the meniscus, Beanie said it was “a little more complicated.”

“I am pretty confident in being ready when the time is right,” Wells said. “It’s football. I’m just glad to have a job.”

— CB Greg Toler, rehabbing from an ACL tear, has returned. He is limited in his number of reps but did everything. More on him in a later blog post.

— Lineups mean little right now, but William Gay was working on the top unit at cornerback with Patrick Peterson (although the secondary coaches were careful to call their lineups 1a and 1b right now). Jeremy Bridges is working as the top right tackle. Kevin Kolb was with the top unit at quarterback. At receiver — although that’s a position that always tends to be fluid during OTAs and practices when everyone is trying to get reps — Andre Roberts joined Larry Fitzgerald, DeMarco Sampson was with Early Doucet next, and then came Michael Floyd and Stephen Williams.

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OTAs start Tuesday

Posted by Darren Urban on May 21, 2012 – 9:24 am

There has been a little bit of on-field work for the veterans the last couple of weeks, but it was very limited. Each position went out on its own to work with position coaches on technique for a short time, and then the offensive skill positions got together for a little while so quarterbacks could throw some routes to the receivers, tight ends and running backs.

But the offseason officially shifts again tomorrow, when the first of 10 organized team workouts will be held at the team facility in Tempe. In year’s past, the OTAs came after the full team minicamp. With the new collective bargaining agreement, minicamp is now the last thing the veterans will do before breaking up for the summer prior to training camp. Minicamp will be June 12-14. In the meantime, the Cards will have their OTAs Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday of this week, May 29-31, and June 4-7. (Sorry, the OTs aren’t open to the public, and only one minicamp practice will be open — the June 13 Fan Fest event out at University of Phoenix Stadium, with details still TBA.)

In OTAs, players are allowed to wear helmets (they have not been able to in the on-field work up to this point) but no shells or pads. Offense and defense can go against each other, but “live contact” isn’t allowed. As always, don’t look to deep into OTAs — or minicamp, for that matter — for answers to lineup questions. I keep thinking back to the comment from coach Ken Whisenhunt during rookie minicamp: “You’re not going to make the team this weekend. If you want to make a good impression, don’t make mistakes and do it right from a technique standpoint.”

Obviously vets have to show a little more than that, but that first line — “You’re not going to make the team this weekend” — rings true. No one is making the team because of OTAs. No one is winning a job (starting with Kolb v Skelton.) It takes a lot for anyone not to look good in shorts and t-shirts. Training camp and preseason games ultimately will be from where those decisions are made. But coaches will pay attention to effort and focus. This is where the offense and defense is installed for the first time. This is what the Cards were missing last season from a mental standpoint. That’s what this will be about.

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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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A midweek minicamp and other offseason dates

Posted by Darren Urban on April 9, 2012 – 3:55 pm

The new collective bargaining agreement changed the offseason, and that has been crystallized now that the Cards have officially announced their offseason dates. The strength and conditioning part of the offseason, which would have been well underway in the past, doesn’t begin (as has been mentioned many times) until Monday, April 16. Veterans no longer can be asked to work weekends in the offseason, so the minicamp that used to kick off the summer on-field work the weekend after the draft instead will now be the final work of the offseason. Those dates are June 12-14, a Tuesday-through-Thursday (and that takes some getting used to.)

Shrinking the allowed organized team activities from 14 days to 10 will mean OTAs are limited to May 22-24, May 29-31 and June 4-7.

As a quick refresher, the minicamp usually has five practices over three days and is mandatory. OTAs are one on-field workout in a day, for about an hour, and are voluntary.

The incoming rookies do get some extra — and initial — work, with a rookies-only minicamp May 11-13.

No training camp dates yet. Sorry.

(And before you ask, there has been no announcement on Fan Fest, although with minicamp not until June, it won’t be happening in May. I’ll put out further details as soon as I know.)

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