Al Johnson (Andy Lyons/Getty)
It was a proud moment for Flagstaff, Arizona as the NFL's Arizona Cardinals took the field at Northern Arizona University's Skydome. Signs, banners and fans welcomed the team throughout the city embracing the Cardinals highly anticipated 2008 season and their new and improved roster.
It was the first of the 30 practice training camp session for the Arizona Cardinals last Friday and a few drops of rain did not stop the team from taking the field, nor stop the fans from filling the bleachers, benches, and hills that surrounded it. Over 200 fans, decked out in red and white jerseys, were anxious to get a feel for how the season will turn out.
Center Al Johnson predicts a successful season and was optimistic, explaining, "We have many returning players including our offense, linebackers, and coaches. We were close to winning a lot of games last year, so it's going to be a good season."
To much surprise from the fans, Matt Leinart arrived at the field wearing a knee brace. Will this effect his performance, allowing for an opening in which Kurt Warner could take his place?
It may be too quick to judge at this time, though the afternoon session was full of excitement and a bit of competition as Leinart and Warner were paired together side-by-side for every drill. It is too early to clearly judge whether the Cardinals will go back on naming Leinart their starting quarterback going forward.
The offense was looking energetic and excited to be back on the field. The wide receivers were looking strong along with rookie Early Doucet who was fast on his feet and played aggressively, though at times performed a bit out of control with his footwork. As training continues he could prove to be strong asset to the Cardinals offense.
The defense merged into blocking and tackling drills and drew some attention away from the offense for a bit, giving the fans a chance to see their new strengths. Fans cheered as 6'8" tight end Leonard Pope knocked over a blocker sending him rolling on the ground.
Not only did Pope spark the fans, but 22-year-old rookie, Dionte Johnson showed strength, aggression, and motivation as he charged through each blocking drill. Fans began checking their rosters and praising the new rookies performance.
After the first session ended at 10:30 a.m., fans pulled out their pens and cameras, in hopes to catch a glimpse of their favorite star. Team members signed autographs and took photographs with fans but it was one dedicated teammate, Warner who stayed an extra 30 minutes to make sure each fan left happy.
Concluding the first day of what looks to be a large step forward for the Cardinals, things looked promising for the rest of camp and the upcoming season.