Peterson makes grand entrance, Cardinals aim high for 2016
GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) All-Pro cornerback Patrick Peterson arrived at training camp via helicopter , a grand entrance befitting a team with great expectations.
With nearly everyone back from a 13-3 season - a journey immortalized in the acclaimed ''All or Nothing'' video series - the team is embracing the idea that it should be a top contender for 2016.
When players reported for camp Thursday, there were a couple of pieces of news. All-Pro defensive back Tyrann Mathieu, returning from knee surgery, said he expects to be practicing in ''maybe three weeks or so.'' And first-round draft pick Robert Nkemdiche is sidelined with a sprained ankle and is listed as ''day to day.''
Coach Bruce Arians said the veterans who reported Thursday easily passed the conditioning test. The first practice will be Friday in the air conditioned confines of University of Phoenix Stadium.
The goal, Arians said, to nobody's surprise, ''Win the Super Bowl. Nothing else will be acceptable.''
It was the goal a year ago, too, and the Cardinals seemed well on their way before a blowout loss at Carolina in the NFC championship game.
''The expectations haven't changed,'' Arians said, ''but when you have the type of season we had you expect to do better. So we've got to do better. We've got to get back to where we were first, and then do better.''
The Arizona roster has been bolstered, most notably by the addition of outside linebacker Chandler Jones in a trade with New England. The Cardinals also signed veteran right guard Evan Mathis and drafted the big defensive lineman Nkemdiche.
Arians said Nkemdiche sprained an ankle in the first day of rookie camp Tuesday.
''You never know with those things,'' Arians said. ''Each day you've got to find out about them.''
Mathieu, the fiery heart of the Arizona defense, is coming off his second knee surgery in his three NFL seasons. This one, while not as serious as the first, involved repairing a torn right ACL. He begins camp on the physically unable to perform list but has tweeted that he didn't expect to be there long.
''That's me being optimistic,'' he said Thursday, ''me seeing the progress that I've been making the last eight or so months. I'm extremely confident. If coach wanted me to do some drills today I probably could do them.''
The Cardinals return every player who gained a yard or scored a point for their highly prolific offense a year ago.
It's led to a feeling from those outside the organization that these Cardinals might be the team to beat in the NFC.
''That's great,'' Arians said. ''That's nice. It helps solidify what you're telling them. You've obviously earned the right now to be considered a good football team, somebody that they're picking in the top five or six. Now it's your job to show up and do it.''
There will be competition in camp, particularly at safety and for the cornerback spot opposite Peterson. A leading candidate for the latter, Justin Bethel, had a minor setback a few weeks ago in his comeback from foot surgery and begins camp on the physically unable to perform list.
A.Q. Shipley is holding down the center spot for now, with Earl Watford able to play that or any other position along the offensive line. But Arians indicated rookie center Evan Boehm has a way to go.
''There's too much volume for him there to learn, plus the techniques,'' Arians said. ''He's going to be a hell of a player, but it ain't going to be next week.''
The ''All or Nothing'' series by NFL Films, available on Amazon, has made the team and its many personalities familiar to fans across the country, which should lead to closer scrutiny once play begins.
''That turned out really well for all the organization,'' Arians said. ''The one thing that I thought that it showed the most was how close this group is - from ownership all the way down - and that everybody in that locker room has each other's back. That was the best message coming from that.''
Several top players are entering the final year of their contracts, among them Mathieu, Jones, Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd and Calais Campbell. Mathieu's is expected to be the first to be addressed.
''I love it when you have that many guys with contract years,'' Arians said. ''They're going to be doing everything they can to impress us and everybody else.''
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