TEMPE, Ariz. — After winning seven of their last nine games in 2011 to finish 8-8, the Cardinals — despite missing the playoffs — felt good about the momentum they had built. They felt even better after making a few key additions in free agency and the draft and now, after a productive stretch of offseason workouts, are even more excited about the momentum in place ahead training camp.
With minicamp wrapping up Thursday morning, Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt left his players with a message to keep in mind until reporting to Flagstaff on July 24.
“I said, ‘Let’s don’t go backwards,'” Whisenhunt said. “We’ve made progress. I don’t know how much progress we’ve made, and we’ve still got a ways to go, but the important thing now is that we don’t take a step backwards.”
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Whisenhunt wants his team to take what it accomplished last season and in practices over the past few weeks and apply it right away in training camp. The offseason workouts, he said, were a nice primer for what’s to come in five and a half weeks.
“I think what this has done, what the OTAs and the minicamp have done, is set our guys up to compete (in training camp), and that’s really what it’s got to be about,” Whisenhunt said.
The recurring theme through three days of minicamp was the downplaying of everything being done in shorts and helmets. Whisenhunt and countless players stressed that only so much can be drawn from four weeks of non-contact drills and walkthroughs.
While the offseason workouts offered players and coaches a glimpse of the team’s potential on both sides of the ball, all sides agrees that there is much more to come than what was seen in the last four weeks.
“We’re just in shorts and helmets right now,” wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald said. “You’re not seeing the full capability of the offense. I don’t think we’ve been extremely sharp, but I think we’ve made some good things happen.
“We’re practicing fast and the guys have a great tempo out there, but it’s different when the pads are moving. Training camp’s not too far away, and we’ll be ready to go when it’s time.” BIG STEP FOR WILLIAMS
Running back Ryan Williams, who missed all of his rookie season with a knee injury, said Wednesday morning he was still unsure of his status for training camp.
The evening practice in front of fans at University of Phoenix Stadium may have helped him get a little better idea. Williams participated in 11-on-11 drills for the first time since suffering a ruptured patella tendon in his right knee last preseason and said it was the fastest he has moved since.
The progress has Whisenhunt encouraged that Williams will be ready to go come training camp, but the team will still be extra careful.
“I think mentally that was a big hurdle last night,” Whisenhunt said. “I expect him to be ready to go in training camp. But we’re not going to throw him in there and give him every rep. We’re going to make sure we continue with the process of getting him ready for the first game.”
The training camp and preseason repetitions, Whisenhunt said, are particularly important for Williams because he has such limited experience.
Beanie Wells, meanwhile, did not participate in any offseason activities as he rehabs a knee injury. The outlook for his training camp status is a little dimmer than for Williams, but Whisenhunt suggested Wells could be ready on some level by then.
“We’ve done the right thing with Beanie as far as the offseason, about making sure he’s healthy and trying to get him ready,” Whisenhunt said. “He’s got to bust his tail over the next few weeks to be ready for training camp, because we’ve had some guys look good (at running back).” HEALTH WATCH
Asked if tight end Jeff King (torn quadriceps) might be ready in time for training camp, Whisenhunt said he couldn’t offer a solid timeline. King has probably another five weeks of rehab, and Whisenhunt said he probably hold him out a little longer even if he is ready at the start of camp. QUOTABLE
Fitzgerald was asked Thursday if he thought the team had a second receiver at this point, but he didn’t take the bait.
“We’ve got 10 guys on the roster right now,” Fitzgerald said. “We’ve got a lot of receivers.”