Cardinals wrap up training camp, head to desert
With whoops and hollers from players, the Arizona Cardinals have wrapped up their final training camp workout and headed south to the desert.
Coach Ken Whisenhunt called it ''probably one of the most interesting camps'' he's experienced, given the cramped work schedule following the end of the NFL labor dispute. When the camp began, 52 of the 91 players were new to the team.
The Cardinals train annually among the pines at Northern Arizona University, where the 7,000-foot elevation aids in conditioning.
Arizona plays its home preseason opener Saturday night against the San Diego Chargers. The Cardinals have announced the game is sold out.
The players zipped off the field for the 2 1/2-hour drive down Interstate 17.
''They're ready to go,'' Whisenhunt said, ''ready to get back to the routine of in-season, with their families, and I can't blame them.''
Back in the Phoenix area, the Cardinals will be faced with searing heat. Wednesday's high in Phoenix was 114 degrees.
While the games are played in air-conditioned comfort with the University of Phoenix Stadium's roof closed, practices at the team's Tempe training facility are another matter. Whisenhunt brushed it off as business as usual.
''You know what, we've faced heat every year,'' he said. ''We'll do what we can to make it work.''
The team has giant fans on the sideline to cool the players during practice. Another option is to use Arizona State University's practice dome.
The experience in Flagstaff was new to many players, including starting left guard Daryn Colledge, who played last season for the Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers.
''Obviously had a little bit different camp this year with it being so short with the preseason stuff,'' he said. ''It was a little different. Everything seemed kind of condensed, but I think we got a lot of good work done.''
As for the elevation?
''I think it's a nice advantage,'' Colledge said. ''I think it helps us out as a team. It gets us ready to get down in that sea level stuff. And you can't argue with the scenery. It's a beautiful place to have camp.''
The Cardinals' last two preseason games, both at home, come just five days apart.
New quarterback Kevin Kolb and most of the rest of the first unit probably will play into the third quarter against the Chargers, then see very little action in the preseason finale next Thursday night against Denver.
Whisenhunt thought his team was a bit sloppy in last weekend's 28-20 loss at Green Bay, and he aims for better execution on Saturday night.
''You've got to be careful about how much emphasis you put on what's going to happen in this game,'' he said. ''We want to play well and we want to win, there's no question like that, but you've got to realize too that we're going to do some things in this game that we've never done in live action before. If we can get better from a penalty standpoint, from a mistake standpoint, then we've gotten better as a team, and that's what we're trying to do.''
Whisenhunt called the final camp practice ''better than I expected.''
''I thought we'd have a lot of guys that already had their cars running,'' he said, ''but they worked. The tempo was good and they paid attention to detail, which is good. That's a good sign. Hopefully that will show up Saturday night.''
Whisenhunt didn't seem pleased at all with the team's Wednesday afternoon workout, but he said his protestations were mainly an act.
''I think I was just trying to set the tone to make sure we had a good one today,'' he said. ''Today's practice was OK. Especially with all these new guys, you can't ever let them know you're pleased with anything.''