GLENDALE, AZ — Prior to Monday's first padded practice, Kliff Kingsbury said he was looking for the competitiveness to go up a notch. No question that the Arizona Cardinals did that as things got pretty spirited at times, including a couple of dust-ups in the trenches.
"I think that's to be expected," Kingsbury said afterward. "I mean, guys have been waiting for this day for a long time and wanted to go out there and impress their teammates and their coaches."
"There's a lot of physicality out there, which I like, a little bit of chippiness," said running back Kenyan Drake. "Everybody's kind of been sitting around their loved ones and family members, girlfriends, wives for six, seven months. So now we can kind of go out there and play ball again. I feel like everybody's using that energy real well."
DeAndre Hopkins was held out of practice for the second consecutive day as he deals with a left hamstring issue, though Kingsbury said he isn't concerned long-term and expects Hopkins back soon.
Potentially concerning injury news comes from NFL Network's Mike Garafolo and Ian Rapoport who say cornerback Robert Alford suffered a pectoral injury Sunday and is undergoing further evaluations to determine how long he might be out. Alford missed last season with a broken leg after signing a three-year deal in Arizona in February 2019.
Another addition to the Cardinals roster in 2019 was Kenyan Drake, who was acquired midway through the season from Miami, and flourished as the team's featured back despite a lack of familiarity with the playbook.
"I think he was just taking the ball and playing on instinct," Kingsbury said. "Honestly, he was here and got thrown into the fire so quickly. He didn't have time to learn the offense to the extent that he'd like."
Drake made the transition look easy, scoring eight touchdowns in eight games, while averaging more than 80 yards per game rushing. Now, he's had time to really learn the nuances of the offense.
"This year I was able to start from scratch and just get the meat and potatoes behind the 'why' of a lot of different plays," said Drake. "It gave me a better outlook. I can keep my vision from being narrowed to what I've got to focus on, to the whole entire offense."
Drake prides himself on being a versatile back, evident by his 103 catches over the last two seasons. What a full off-season in the playbook will do for his numbers remains to be seen, but is a touchdown per game over the course of a full season realistic?
"We all have individual statistical goals, but the main goal is to win," said Drake. "That's what we look forward to doing this year, is winning a lot more games."