GLENDALE, AZ — It has been a training camp unlike any other. Fifteen days after veterans reported, the Arizona Cardinals took the field at State Farm Stadium for the first time Wednesday morning.
"More than anything, guys were just excited to be out there and going full speed," head coach Kliff Kingsbury said after practice. "It seems like we've been walking through quite a bit, and I know guys were antsy after eight months or seven months to get out there and actually hit things full-go, so it was fun."
Putting on the Cardinals uniform has felt extra special for Phoenix native Devon Kennard, who signed with his hometown team in the off-season.
"Man, I was excited," said Kennard. "I woke up early this morning, ready to go finally play some football with my teammates. To be able to put on a helmet for the first time, it was awesome."
For Kingsbury and quarterback Kyler Murray, they enter year two where the bar has been raised and expectations are high after last year's finish.
"I just keep being very thankful [this year] wasn't the first year," Kingsbury said. "I think that would have been really tough coming in and trying to figure things out year one without an off-season. But we're still not where we want to be as a football team, as a coaching staff, as an organization. We have a long way to go."
Murray entered camp noticeably bulked up in the upper body compared to his rookie season.
"He got a little swollen, got a big chest," said wide receiver Christian Kirk. "Most quarterbacks aren't too willing to go in there [gym] and bench and do biceps and whatnot, but he's all about it. He gets after it in the weight room."
The reason was, in part, to be able to take hits and be durable after running for his life at times behind the Cardinals offensive line.
"Last year was kind of survival mode for him," said Kingsbury. "The way we thrust him in there and then he was the guy from day one and had to learn on the fly. That's not easy. Not many young players that had to do that in his position in the history of the league, and kind of lived to tell about it if you will. Year two for him to just be focusing on football for the first time in his life, he knows what it's going to take to take that next step, as far as leadership, as far as work ethic, as far as commitment to be the face of the franchise."
Other than Marcus Gilbert, who opted out prior to training camp, the Cardinals had full participation on Wednesday. Since veterans reported on July 28, they have had zero positive COVID-19 tests.
"Everybody's really bought into all the protocols," said Kirk. "We know the talent that we have on our team, and we know what we can do if we are able to optimize it and come together. Many teams around the league have said the teams that handle this the best are the ones that are going to be the most successful. We want to be one of those teams."
Protocols include the usual temperature checks and nasal swabs, but additional measures like Plexiglas between each players' locker stall, wearing masks during walk-throughs, and spacing out during team meetings. The organization has also divided up players within position groups to different parts of the locker room, so if there is an outbreak, an entire position isn't lost to quarantine.
"We're lucky to be one of the teams that hasn't had anyone," said Kennard. "It's up to us to keep it that way. You can never get comfortable because the moment you start to get comfortable in this, that's when it can start to slip. So, hopefully, that stays the case. I hope, at the end of the year, we can the same thing and we have no positives."
Thursday's practice will be helmets only, then shells can be introduced on Friday, but still no live contact. The Cardinals have a mandatory day off on Saturday, followed by shells again on Sunday, and then the first full pads practice will take place Monday.