GLENDALE, AZ - Running back Ryan Williams and tight end Jeff King returned to practice Thursday in the final workout of training camp for the Arizona Cardinals.
Both had been out since the early days of camp with knee problems.
Injuries have limited Williams to five games in his first two NFL seasons and his absence from practice had been repeatedly mentioned by coach Bruce Arians in his evaluation of backups to starting running back Rashard Mendenhall.
Arians said he was pleased to be able to hold camp in the air conditioned comfort of University of Phoenix Stadium, where the team plays its games. Before this year, the Cardinals had held training camp at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff for all but one season since the franchise moved to Arizona in 1988.
"It's been awesome to be in the stadium, practicing where we're playing," Arians said. "A great teaching atmosphere here and I thought it was one of the better camp sites I've been at."
The Cardinals are home against the San Diego Chargers in preseason action Saturday night, then workouts shift to Arizona's practice facility in Tempe next week.
"I don't think you ever accomplish everything you want," Arians said, "but I really like where we're at. We still have work to do. The remaining time before the St. Louis game (the season opener Sept. 8) is critical, but I really like where our football team is and I'm anxious to see us play for more than a half."
The plan for Saturday night is for the starters to play the entire first half and a series into the second. Arizona won its first two preseason games, largely because of a strong defense, beating the Packers in Green Bay 17-0, then winning at home over Dallas 12-7. The seven points allowed are the fewest by an NFL team in the preseason.
One of the most intriguing developments in the Cardinals' training camp was the emergence of Patrick Peterson on offense. Arians has continued to expand the offensive plays that include the Pro Bowl cornerback and punt returner.
"He told me he was going to give me a share of plays on the offensive side," Peterson said. "I didn't know it was going to be this many. I believe now we're up to I think 60 plays. I'm definitely getting my work load, my share of plays, on offense. Our first conversation he said he was going to use me a little bit, and he's definitely not shying away from it."
When camp began, 51 of the 90 players on the roster were new to the team as Arians and new general manager Steve Keim made wholesale changes after the Cardinals lost 10 of their last 11 games a year ago to finish 5-11, leading to the firing of coach Ken Whisenhunt and general manager Rod Graves.
Whisenhunt will be back in University of Phoenix Stadium on Saturday night as the Chargers' offensive coordinator.
The Cardinals signed kicker Dan Carpenter on Wednesday to compete with Jay Feely. Carpenter, released by Miami last week, was kicking in practice on Thursday after merely watching from the sidelines Wednesday. Arians said the plan on Saturday is for Carpenter to kick in the first half and Feely in the second "depending on the opportunities."
"I think as long as we can have competition at every spot, we'll be in better shape," Arians said.
King could provide some much-needed experience at tight end. He said he had a setback in camp when his knee swelled up.
"This camp and the way it's gone, you really, really miss football," King said. "I mean watching these guys practice, to be honest with you, has been absolutely miserable. ... I'm just happy that it's gone well enough to get back out there today and run around."
Arians said that whether Williams or King play Saturday night would depend on how things went on Thursday.
Asked to name players who surprised him in camp, Arians first mentioned Paul Fanaika, the former Arizona State lineman who stepped in at right guard when Daryn Colledge was injured earlier in camp.
"Once you put the pads on, he showed up," Arians said. "I really like where (inside linebacker) Jasper Brinkley's at right now, not that he improved but he's playing the way I'd hoped he would play; (inside linebacker) Kevin Minter, there's just so many. They're not really surprises. Paul was a little bit of a surprise. I would say (wide receiver) Jaron Brown is one, who's steadily gotten better."