New Faces React to Wearing Cardinals Uniform

Mason Kern

For many players across the NFL, the beginning of training camp represents the first opportunity to lace up in their new digs. With free agency and the draft reshaping the look of the league, preseason workouts and walk-throughs are critical to the success as athletes adjust to their new team's respective schemes.

It is even more critical this year in an offseason marred by the spread of the novel coronavirus, which suspended all in-person workouts and canceled OTAs and minicamps. Now, with no preseason games being played in 2020, players are adjusting to their first live football action in several months.

The Arizona Cardinals began their training camp Wednesday with practices similar to OTAs, giving its new faces an opportunity to show off their new look on the grass. Putting on the uniform for media day and pictures is all fun and games, but most say it is a different vibe on the gridiron, especially for the Cardinals who practice at State Farm Stadium for preseason camp.

"Felt great, felt good," said Cardinals wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins, who was traded to Arizona in March from the Houston Texans. "It gave me chills. I'm not going to lie man, it felt real good to be part of a great organization and the Cardinal red and white and black looks good on me if I do say so myself."

In certain situations, switching teams represents a lot more than just a business transaction. Cardinals linebacker Devon Kennard signed with the franchise this offseason after being released by the Detroit Lions in large part because of the legacy of his father, Derek Kennard, who played for the St. Louis and relocated Phoenix Cardinals during his NFL career. After growing up in Arizona, it was a homecoming Devon Kennard said he could not pass up.

Wednesday marked his first live action as a Cardinal and he said he relished every moment. In fact, he used the same word to describe the feeling as Hopkins.

"First of all, putting the jersey on picture day or whatever, and putting the whole uniform on, that was surreal," Kennard said. "It finally hit me. All offseason, it's like I signed here, but it was such a weird offseason. I don't think it really hit me until that moment. It definitely gave me chills being able to play at home and put on a Cardinals uniform. I remember going to so many games growing up. That's really cool."

For rookies, the lack of preseason games and the cancellation of minicamps were a bigger blow. Typically, first-year players use those opportunities to get more in-game reps as established veterans do not usually participate as much. Now, they are settling for proving their worth in a practice environment, which is generally more cutthroat.

Draftees have a little more breathing room to prove themselves and the chance to play at the professional level for the first time is a dream realized for most of them.

"The first time I put the Cardinals helmet on, it definitely felt good to be here and to finally get on the field with my teammates," Cardinals rookie defensive lineman Rashard Lawrence said Wednesday. "That (aha) moment is really going to come in the upcoming weeks as we continue to strap it on, go against the vets, go against guys that are seven, eight years older than me. That moment will come, but it was definitely special to put on the Cardinals helmet."

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