TEMPE, Ariz. — As the Cardinals opened up a three-day minicamp Tuesday morning there were some new faces on the field, and some familiar ones. Notable among them was veteran defensive end Vonnie Holliday, who re-signed with the team on a one-year contract Monday.
Following the first of two practices for the day, Holliday said there were times this offseason he was not sure if he’d be back for a 15th NFL season, even after playing in every game for the Cardinals last year.
“There are some times where you sit and ponder a little bit, ‘Can I gear it up?’ ” Holliday said. “This is hardest part — the offseason, the workouts, getting your body ready and mentally prepared to go into another season. I’ve been able to do that, so I’m looking forward to the opportunity of going to training camp to compete.”
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Holliday said he feels fortunate to still have the chance to play at 36, especially when so few players he entered the league with remain active today.
“We’re going through physicals telling our birthdays, how old you are,” Holliday recounted. “I say I’m 36, and guys are like ‘Wow.’ I had one guy say ‘Are you the same Vonnie Holliday I grew up watching?’ I had to take a step back, but I’m fortunate. I tell them ‘I hope you guys get to play as long as I have.'”
Beyond bolstering depth on the defensive line, Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt said Holliday’s return provides continued leadership and mentoring for young players like Calais Campbell and David Carter.
Holliday also understands and embraces his role, Whisenhunt said. He singled out Holliday’s preparedness, pointing to his play in an overtime win over Seattle in the season finale, in which he had five tackles, including three for loss.
“This is a guy that played sparingly, and when it was his time to step up in the last game, he played really well for us,” Whisenhunt said. “That’s what being a pro is all about, and if you’re going to be in this league as long as he has, you’ve got to be a pro.”
Finally on the field
Holliday wasn’t the only player on the field for the first time in off-season workouts, as fifth-round draft pick Senio Kelemete was also in uniform for the first time Tuesday. Kelemete missed the Cardinals’ organized team activities because classes at University of Washington were not yet over.
Kelemete, who graduated Saturday, said while he finished his American ethnic studies degree he spent as much time as possible reviewing his playbook and doing what he could to prepare for his first practice with the team.
“I was there in Washington, but my mind was still out here,” Kelemete said. “I was just trying to go through plays in my head and step through. Whenever I had some downtime, I was always in my notebook trying to go over plays.”
Kelemete said he didn’t feel too far behind, but Whisenhunt said he has “a lot” of catching up to do.
“It’s not so much the scheme, that’s hard enough,” Whisenhunt said. “But when you go against our defense and what they do now for 10 practices and now the 11th today and you’re seeing all the different looks … it’s hard to look at it on film and understand what’s going on. So it’s going to be a little bit of a learning curve for him.”
Floyd coming along
First-round draft pick Michael Floyd put his signature on his first NFL contract Monday and was right back to work Tuesday. Whisenhunt said the rookie wide receiver is still struggling a bit with a strained quadriceps muscle but has progressed nicely in the limited time the team has had to practice.
“As far as attention to detail, not wanting to be off the field — we’re having to take him off the field sometimes to try to get (the quad) well — I’m very pleased with him,” Whisenhunt said. “I’ve seen him make a couple of the plays that were a big part of the reason we drafted him.”
Floyd said he never worried his contract wouldn’t get done before training camp — his and third-round pick Jamell Fleming’s were the last to be signed — and he’s now able to focus just on football.
“I just want to get out here and get better each and every day,” Floyd said. “You’ve got to keep your head in the playbook or else you’ll get left behind.”
Thanks to provisions in the new collective bargaining agreement, the Cardinals were able to get all their draft picks signed before the middle of June. That’s been an issue in past years, and Whisenhunt said having everyone in the fold before training camp is significant.
“Knowing that on the first day of training camp (July 24) we’re going to have everybody there, that’s a big deal,” Whisenhunt said. “A lot of times some of those guys, especially your top picks, ones that you’re counting on, when they miss those first couple days they’re always playing catch-up.”
Running back Ryan Williams (knee) was limited in practice Tuesday. Running back Beanie Wells (knee), guard Blake DeChristopher (back) and offensive tackle D.J. Young (knee) did not participate.