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Monday, August 06, 2007

Arizona Cardinals Coach Ken Whisenhunt Like Scrimage

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) -- The Arizona Cardinals wound up their first week of training camp under new coach Ken Whisenhunt on Saturday with a workout that started badly but ended well.

Several thousands lined the practice field on autograph day and, for a while, especially for the offense, it was not a pretty show.

"You know what? I hope they understand it's one day of practice," Whisenhunt said. "We built a pretty good week. A lot of people have seen that and recognize that."

After Whisenhunt broke up the controlled scrimmage and had a few words with the players, the defense played better and the offense finished strong, capped by a pair of touchdowns in a full-contact goal-line drill.

"Something was missing," Whisenhunt said. "I didn't see the intensity. We didn't have the same level as we had before."

Matt Leinart's touchdown pass to wide-open tight end Troy Bienemann and a pair of crunching runs up the middle by Marcel Shipp for scores ended the workout as a thunderstorm rumbled nearby.

"The defense picked it up," Whisenhunt said. "The offense picked it up at the end. We had a good goal-line session, so I'm very pleased with the way it resolved itself."

For the enthusiastic fans, most of them clad in Cardinals red, the goal-line success made up for the fumbled snaps, false starts and assorted other miscues earlier in the session.

"The challenge for a good football team is one that can respond to that," Whisenhunt said. "I think I saw that at the end of practice, and that's hard to do, to change that attitude during practice. So I was very encouraged with that."

Leinart was visibly upset with the mistakes.

"He should be angry," Whisenhunt said. "I think he showed some good leadership today because he was upset with the offense, and that's what we need."

The offensive line remains a critical work in progress.

"The line's playing physical. Our problem is just working together," Whisenhunt said. "Our defense is throwing a lot of blitzes at us. What we have to get better at is working together and picking those things up."

Whisenhunt said his biggest concern going into next week is resolving the competition for a few starting jobs. Oliver Ross and recently signed first-round draft pick Levi Brown are competing at right tackle, and there are several players in the mix for tight end and cornerback.

He hasn't decided on punt or kick returners, either. Decisions will be easier, Whisenhunt said, after the Cardinals play their first preseason game, next Saturday at Oakland.

The organized autograph session came before practice. According to Northern Arizona University, four fans spent the night in sleeping bags to be first in line. A few others slept in cars or RVs.

"Unbelievable," Whisenhunt said.

Larry Fitzgerald has had a standout first week of camp, catching virtually everything thrown to him and working hard at improving the details of his game, Whisenhunt said.

Fitzgerald said it's normal for the defense to be ahead of the offense this early in camp. The difference is magnified, he said, because it's a new offense but the defense remains largely the same under the same coordinator, Clancy Pendergast.

As for the big crowd?

"This is nice right here," Fitzgerald said after signing dozens of autographs. "And as soon as we get in the playoffs, it's going to be like this every year."


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