Everyone knew the 2011 training camp would be bizarre, given the lockout prevented any work in the offseason.
The Cardinals first practices of camp met that standard. Of the 90 players on the roster, 39 are new. Coaches are still learning faces and names, so each player's helmet had his last name taped across the front.
Nineteen healthy players watched from the sideline, having signed new contract this week, making them ineligible to practice the first few days of camp.
"I felt like I was in little league," said running back Beanie Wells, when asked about the tape on the helmets.
For coach Ken Whisenhunt and his staff it was a necessity.
Despite the challenges, getting back on the field felt good, Whisenhunt said.
"All we've talked about the last few months is, 'are we going to have football?' or 'when are we going to have football,'" Whisenhunt said. "We haven't talked about draft picks...new players. All that information that is usually spread out over a couple of months hasn't been out there.
"Everybody's excited to jump back in and talk about those things."
Among the players watching was new quarterback Kevin Kolb, acquired from Philadelphia in a trade that was finalized the day before players reported to camp in Flagstaff.
Kolb couldn't take part in drills, but he did join in the offensive groupings, and talked to receivers between snaps.
Part of the reason Whisenhunt like Kolb was the quarterback's work ethic. The son of a coach, Kolb has been around football since he could walk. He knows he's walking into a difficult situation.
He has to learn a new offense and doesn't have long to do it. And people are going to be judging him at every step because of how much the Cardinals gave up to get him.
"There's no doubt there is some sort of risk there," said Kolb. "There's a risk in everything that you do. I feel like it's going to turn out for the best, and I look forward to putting in plenty of work of work to make sure that happens. Nobody is going to out work me."
The acquisition of Kolb went over well with the players. They know improved quarterback play will make them a contender again in the NFC West, among the NFL's weakest divisions.
"You never want to see a guy like DRC (Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie) leave," said safety Kerry Rhodes. "It's a tough move but this league is a quarterback-driven league and you're not going to win in this league without a quarterback."
The Cardinals main motivation for acquiring Kolb was to win, obviously, but there is a back story to his acquisition.
The team is deeply concerned that receiver Larry Fitzgerald could hit free agency after this season. The Cardinals will be willing to pay Fitzgerald whatever they need to keep him, but he'll command big money from other teams, too.
While money is important to Fitzgerald, winning is, too. He's been to the playoffs twice in seven years and he doesn't want to be known as a great player who spent his career with a bad, or average, organization.
The Cardinals had to prove to Fitzgerald that they were serious about winning, and that was a driving force behind the Kolb trade. Going with a rookie, or second-year player John Skelton, or signing a veteran such as Matt Hasselbeck, probably wouldn't have made as big an impact with Fitzgerald.
Fitzgerald begs off the issue, saying he would love to stay in Arizona, loves playing for Whisenhunt, etc., etc.
But there's no question the Cardinals think trading for Kolb gives them a better chance of retaining Fitzgerald.
"I hope so," Whisenhunt said, "but who knows?"
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