Thursday, June 14, 2012
Notes, observations from Cards' FanFest
By Mike Sando
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The roughly 15,000 people at University of Phoenix Stadium cheered loudest when receivers Michael Floyd and Larry Fitzgerald snatched deep passes during the Arizona Cardinals' FanFest practice Wednesday night.
While those plays were naturally favorites, the ones most significant to the Cardinals' 2012 season generated no discernible buzz. These three plays meant everything to second-year running back Ryan Williams, who was back on the field for his most meaningful work since suffering a torn patella during the 2011 exhibition season.
"The adrenalin is pumping right now," Williams said on the field following the practice. "It was the first time I actually ran full speed (since the injury). ... I reassured myself. I've got about three months left before the season and I'll be good to go for the season."
The Cardinals need better luck with injuries at the position. Beanie Wells remains sidelined by knee surgery his agent described as a clean-out procedure. Wells, who topped 1,000 yards rushing last season despite playing hurt for stretches, worked with a trainer on the sideline during practice.
This was the second of three non-contact minicamp days for the Cardinals before the team breaks until training camp. Players wore helmets but no pads.
As the session was winding down, Williams lined up at halfback from the I-formation with two tight ends. Fitzgerald lined up wide to the right. Williams took the handoff up the middle, made a cut and churned his legs through a mass of linemen. This was as close as Williams could come to simulating a game situation under the circumstances.
"You can't really make your full reads when everybody is two-hand touching you," Williams said. "I was just trying to make my reads, seeing if I still have it."
A few more notes from practice Wednesday night:
- Tight end Rob Housler stands out for his size-speed combination. The Cardinals thought all along Housler would emerge in his second season, after adapting to the pro game following a college career at Florida Atlantic. Housler will be a player to watch when the Cardinals put on the pads at training camp.
- Cornerback Greg Toler appeared to be practicing without fear, a good sign after recovering from season-ending knee surgery. Toler contested one pass to Fitzgerald about as aggressively as the rules would allow.
- Andre Roberts dropped a ball early, but he caught several and played much better last season than his stats indicated, coach Ken Whisenhunt said. The Cardinals feel as though they had receivers running open all season, if only their quarterbacks could have found them.
- Speaking of the quarterbacks, they hit some passes and missed a few. As much as I'd like to declare Kevin Kolb or John Skelton the early leader in their competition, this job will be won or lost during camp. I did catch up with Kolb and quarterbacks coach John McNulty during this trip. More on them as time permits.
- Undrafted rookie receiver LaRon Byrd made an impressive leaping grab in the corner of the end zone. He's 6-foot-4 and 220 pounds. The Cardinals like his potential. He'll be a player to watch in camp. The game changes when players put on the pads. Many little-known receivers have impressed early in camp, only to fade when exhibition games start. That might not happen for Byrd, of course, but the disclaimer is worth keeping in mind.
That's it from Cardinals camp. I'm on an early flight Friday to Seattle and plan to check in from Seahawks camp then. Also, I'll be processing multiple interviews from San Francisco 49ers and Cardinals camps once I'm back on a regular schedule.
As for St. Louis, not to worry. I'm already booked for an extended stay at Rams camp beginning in late July.