TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) A little over three months into the job, new Arizona coach Steve Wilks is busy recasting the Cardinals in his own image.
”I think the biggest thing is we’re laying a foundation,” said Wilks, who had the team assembled beginning last week for strength and conditioning work. ”I wanted those guys to understand my vision, expectations.”
Not much attention is paid to the Cardinals outside Arizona these days.
”Right now we’re flying below the radar and that’s great,” he said Tuesday. ”I like where we are, and I’ll continue to start there until the time is right.”
There is plenty going on inside the team’s Tempe offices and meeting rooms. Wilks said he is busy trying to build relationships because ”that’s what it’s all about.”
Meanwhile, the defense is adjusting from the previous 3-4 scheme to the 4-3 Wilks used last year as defensive coordinator of the Carolina Panthers. The offense, under the direction of coordinator Mike McCoy, is pretty much being invented from scratch around the abilities of running back David Johnson, wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald and new quarterback Sam Bradford.
Bradford, with his injury history, will be brought along slowly.
”The biggest thing we’re going to do with Sam is to make sure that he’s ready to play 16-plus games,” Wilks said. ”I’ve seen what he can do over the years. I’m not concerned about trying to get him out there as quick as possible to throw the ball.”
The coach said that he, along with the training and medical staff, have developed a plan for Bradford to follow.
”He knows his body more than us,” Wilks said. ”We’re trying to make sure that we give him the things that he needs on a day-to-day basis to make sure that he feels healthy when he goes out there and he feels very confident about that. I feel great where he is right now. I think he’s making great progress in what we’re doing but once again we want to make sure that he’s here for the long haul.”
In the meantime, the new quarterback will have a voice in the shaping of the offense.
”With a veteran guy like Sam, he’s going to have a lot of input in the things we’re trying to do,” Wilks said. ”Most importantly, the guy’s smart. He understands the game. He’s played for a while. We want his input, most importantly, to be able to give him some accountability with this offense.”
Wilks sat courtside with Fitzgerald at Sunday night’s NBA game between the Golden State Warriors and Phoenix Suns.
It’s part of what Wilks called ”up-close-and-personal time” he’s had with the star receiver.
”He’s everything that’s advertised,” Wilks said, ”a true gentleman, a pillar not only of this community but a pillar of this league. It’s great to have him back not only for his performance on the field but the things that he brings off the field as well. His leadership, his commitment to excellence, all those things are great.”
Wilks commended the NFC West-rival Rams for their offseason moves.
”They’re doing a tremendous job,” he said. ”Look at some of the guys they’ve brought in this offseason.”
He said it would be ”a very competitive division.”
”I’m going to keep the focus on us,” he said. ”I think when you really pull the layers back we have a lot of great talent as well.”
Wilks has talked about holding some outdoor practices in training camp, a bit of a challenge considering the scorching desert heat of late July and August.
But he said he’s experienced that heat, and he has associates relaying their experiences, as well.
”I’m listening to the stories people have been telling me,” he said. ”I’m saying we’ll be outside, but we’ll see.”
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