The Arizona Cardinals took the field with a slightly different look Friday at training camp.
There were plenty of veterans who took days off, a list that included DeAndre Hopkins, AJ Green, James Conner, Colt McCoy, Marcus Golden, JJ Watt and many more.
After a long week and with the annual red and white practice on Saturday, the Cardinals put their younger playmakers and those vying for a role front and center on Friday.
Quarterback Kyler Murray has been sidelined with COVID-19, and head coach Kliff Kingsbury mentioned he was tested Thursday but remains in the protocol. Trace McSorley took first reps with Jarrett Guarantano behind him.
“I like that they get these representatives to see exactly what we have,” Kingsbury said. “Sometimes when he’s only doing 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-level players sitting out today, I thought it was a good day to get them a bunch of reps.”
Kingsbury hopes to bring Murray back on Saturday when his five-day quarantine ends.
Running back Eno Benjamin took first reps at running back, while Greg Dortch, Andy Isabella and Andre Bachelia lined up first at receiver.
- Before dealing with more football, Kingsbury announced that the Cardinals have placed running backs coach James Saxon on administrative leave after news broke Thursday of his May battery charge. Kingsbury noted that the team knew about 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 it’s key to rely on the leaders in the locker room to keep the team engaged despite so many off-field situations occurring with the Cardinals this offseason. “You never want to have a distraction when you’re trying to build a team and a friendship … but we definitely had that.”
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- Other big names who didn’t practice Friday were Rondale Moore, Marco Wilson, Byron Murphy Jr., Kelvin Beachum, Rodney Hudson, Zach Ertz and Trey McBride.
- Wide receiver Antoine Wesley is out after undergoing an MRI on a groin/hip injury. Kingsbury said he will find out next week if Wesley needs surgery or if he can return quickly.
- Kingsbury said he was impressed with the way McSorley and Guarantano ran the offense. Neither had a particularly highlight-filled day, but the head coach said they ran the system well. Neither threw an interception during a contest, although it would have been difficult to do so as cornerbacks wore padded gloves.
- Tight end Max Williams stretched and participated in individual drills but did not play in 11-on-11 or 7-on-7. Williams was activated from the physically unable to perform list on Thursday. Kingsbury said the veteran is moving better than expected.
- Isabella was remarkable on the pitch at practice on Friday. He caught a pass from Guarantano in 11-on-11, won the race to the rim and reached the end zone. Isabella scored a second touchdown soon after in the near corner of the end zone while being guarded by Isaiah Simmons. He needs a big camp, and Friday was a strong day for him.
- Punt returners competed to see who could catch the most footballs without dropping one. Greg Dortch and Victor Bolden Jr. chipped in with five each before rookie Ronnie Rivers topped them with an impressive six. They were the only three players to play strokes.
- Moore spoke to reporters after practice and said receivers coach Sean Jefferson was tight-lipped about the group’s position to be flexible during OTAs. Moore said, “It’s helped us tremendously throughout camp, just being able to get inside and outside.” The Cardinals will be moving their weapons around a lot this year.
- Linebacker Dennis Gardek said he doesn’t think about his knees anymore. He tore his ACL at the end of the 2020 season, which affected him last year. He’s not focusing on putting less stress on his knees, saying he can just concentrate on football.
- Gardek also had notes on rookies Myjai Sanders and Cameron Thomas. He said Sanders is a freak athlete who is explosive with moves that Gardeck envies. On Thomas Gardek said he is so big and strong that he can knock down blockers.