The Arizona Cardinals took to the field with a slightly different look Friday in training camp.
There were plenty of veterans taking days off, a list that included DeAndre Hopkins, AJ Green, James Conner, Colt McCoy, Markus Golden, JJ Watt among others.
After a long week and with the annual Red and White practice on Saturday, the Cardinals put their young playmakers and those in contention front and center on Friday.
Quarterback Kyler Murray was left out with COVID-19, and head coach Kliff Kingsbury mentioned he was tested on Thursday but remained in protocol. Trace McSorley took the first reps with Jarrett Guarantano behind him.
“I love that they get these reps to see exactly what we have,” Kingsbury said. “Sometimes when he’s only getting two reps a day, it’s hard to really get into a rhythm and show what you can do as a player. And with a lot of top players sitting in today, I thought it was a good day to get them a bunch of reps.
Kingsbury hopes to get Murray back on Saturday at the end of his five-day quarantine.
Running back Eno Benjamin took early reps at running back, while Greg Dortch, Andy Isabella and Andre Baccellia lined up for the first time at receiver.
- Before embarking on more football, Kingsbury announced the Cardinals had placed running backs coach James Saxon on administrative leave after news surfaced on Thursday of his national battery charges in May. Kingsbury noted that the team was aware of Saxon’s arrest “when it happened”. Don Shumpert and Kenny Bell will help the running backs in the interim. More on that here.
- Kingsbury said relying on locker room leaders was key to keeping the team engaged despite so many off-court situations arising with the Cardinals this offseason. “You never want to have distractions when you’re trying to build a team and create camaraderie…but we definitely had that.”
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- Other notable names not practicing on Friday were Rondale Moore, Marco Wilson, Byron Murphy Jr., Kelvin Beachum, Rodney Hudson, Zach Ertz and Trey McBride.
- Wide receiver Antoine Wesley sat out after undergoing an MRI for a groin/hip injury. Kingsbury said he will find out next week if Wesley needs surgery or if he can return soon.
- Kingsbury said he was impressed with the way McSorley and Guarantano handled the attack. Neither had a particularly highlight-filled day, but the head coach said they handled the system well. Neither threw an interception during the competition, although that would have been difficult as the cornerbacks were wearing padded mitts.
- Tight end Maxx Williams stretched and participated in individual drills, but did not play 11-on-11 or 7-on-7. Williams was removed from the physically unable to play list on Thursday. Kingsbury said the veteran was moving better than expected.
- Isabella stood out on the court in practice on Friday. He caught a cross from Guarantano 11-on-11, won the run to the edge and reached the end zone. Isabella scored a second touchdown shortly after in the near corner of the end zone while guarded by Isaiah Simmons. He needs a big camp, and Friday was a good day for him.
- The punt returners competed to see who could catch the most balls without dropping any. Greg Dortch and Victor Bolden Jr. walked away with five apiece before rookie Ronnie Rivers passed them with an impressive six. They were the only three players to field punts.
- Moore spoke to reporters after practice and said receivers coach Shawn Jefferson was tough on the positional group to be versatile during OTAs. Moore said: “It helped us tremendously throughout camp, just being able to go inside, outside.” The Cardinals will be moving their guns a lot this year.
- Linebacker Dennis Gardeck said he no longer thinks about his knees. He tore his anterior cruciate ligament at the end of the 2020 season, which impacted him last year. He doesn’t focus on putting less pressure on his knees, saying he can just focus on the football.
- Gardeck also had some notes on rookies Myjai Sanders and Cameron Thomas. He said Sanders is a monster athlete who is explosive with moves that Gardeck is jealous of. On Thomas, Gardeck said he was so big and strong he could knock down blockers.