Down and Distance with Bruce Arians: “Evaluations start now”

GLENDALE, Ariz. — It’s time for the Arizona Cardinals to put on their armor and go crack some heads! Their first padded practice is Monday afternoon, and head coach Bruce Arians is ready to kick that soccer ball to the moon.

“Very anxious to get football season started; FIFA is over,” Arians said. “Looking forward to this afternoon; a lot of good things to evaluate. Some guys are outstanding in shorts, and you can evaluate them, then when the noise level goes up, they disappear. Other guys that look ugly in shorts, they’re football players, so the real evaluations start now.”

“Real anxious to see a lot of guys compete, and see how they perform when the lights come on with pads on,” Arians said.

Arians has seen a lot of players look bad in shorts, but once they put the pads on, they kicked it into another gear. For some reason, it gets their competitive juices flowing, and they take off.

Arians is looking forward to seeing some good hitting at practice.

“Hopefully a lot of it, and good quality work,” Arians said. “(Running) backs on (line)backers is always fun, (plus) tight ends and running backs in pass protection drills versus linebackers.”

In order for the players to learn the proper way to cut block and play a cut block, Arians is allowing the running backs to cut the linebackers during training camp. He says running back Andre Ellington got injured last season because he didn’t have a proper cut technique.

“He (Ellington) got a herniated rib because he threw his side in there,” Arians said. “That’s something that you have to practice; most people won’t do it, but (it’s) not going to create a pile where somebody will fall over him and get hurt. I’ve never seen anybody get hurt going full speed and chopping a guy down.”

“It should add a little bit to the drill,” Arians said. “The linebacker’s eyes got real big, and the running backs all started smiling.”

A lot of what Arians talked about on Monday in his pre-practice press conference was injury related, starting with tight ends Jermaine Gresham and Troy Niklas, who were brought off the PUP and NFI lists, respectively. Arians says Gresham and Niklas will be “strictly walkthrough” participants for the time being, as they work to get their footing back.

“By getting them off the lists, they can actually take their mental reps, and physical reps in the walkthrough practices,” Arians said. “They got 20-30 reps this morning (that) they couldn’t have on those lists. We’ll be very, very cautious as far as putting them in pads and practicing them. They’ll have to go through at least another week of training and maybe some individual (work).”

More on the injury front: Arians says running back David Johnson has a “slight hamstring” injury. The team sent him off to get an MRI, and they’ll have him as day-to-day.

Linebackers Sean Weatherspoon, Shaq Riddick and Ellington are also dealing with hamstring injuries. Arians will “wait and see” on Weatherspoon, keeping him day-to-day, while Riddick has a Grade 2 tear, which is going to keep him off the field for a little while. For Ellington, his hamstring is just tight, so he won’t take part in Monday’s practice.

Lastly, Arians talked about some new, cool virtual reality equipment the team purchased, which of course, he had to try out for himself.

“I wouldn’t have bought it if I hadn’t,” Arians said.

Arians says he’s been waiting decades for this kind of technology, and now’s he’s got his hands on it, and he loves it.

“I always thought if you could put a headset on, and play football in a room this size with live pictures, how much better you could get without sweating,” Arians said.

The cool thing about the technology is that quarterbacks Carson Palmer and Drew Stanton can take a few pieces of equipment home and work at home, and it’s like they’re here at the stadium facing the defense. They put on a pair of goggles and go to work.

Arians says the team does all their walkthroughs using the equipment. They have gear in the quarterback room and in their bubble at their Tempe facility. Their implementing more equipment for the linebackers to use as well.

“A guy that didn’t get any reps, like Logan Thomas, can go in and watch the entire blitz drill, and drop back and throw all his hots,” Arians said.

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