GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) — Coach Bruce Arians brought the Arizona Cardinals together Friday for his fifth training camp as their coach.
The first words out of his mouth to reporters: “I’m healthy.”
The 64-year-old coach survived a cancer scare in the offseason, undergoing surgery in February, and he wants the health issue pushed to the background as he tries to fix the problems that made last season such a disappointment.
No further treatment was required after doctors removed the cancerous spot on one of his kidneys. Arians also had surgery to repair a torn rotator cuff, also in February.
It was a bad month, he said, but now he’s fine.
The Cardinals are the first NFL team to report to training camp, getting a head start because they play in the Hall of Fame game against Dallas on Aug. 3.
“We could have come in three days ago,” Arians said, “but there was no need in my mind. This nine or 10 extra days is plenty.”
The players had a fitness test Friday and will hold their first practice, open to the public, on Saturday.
“They’re all in great shape,” Arians said. “You would anticipate you’d be in shape on a job interview. We’re one of the few businesses that hire 90 just to fire 37.”
Teams must reduce their roster to 53 before the regular season begins.
Unlike a year ago, there are no high expectations from the outside.
After going 13-3 and making it to the NFC championship game in the 2015 season, Arizona staggered out of the gate last year and finished 7-8-1, the first losing season for Arians in the desert.
“We have a lot to clean up from last year,” said defensive tackle Frostee Rucker, entering his 12th NFL season.
This might be the final season that the trio of Arians, quarterback Carson Palmer and wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald will be together. One or more of them might retire, although Arians didn’t sound like that was in his plans.
“I can’t speak for Larry and Carson,” he said, “but I’m looking forward to the future.”
Arians said his team remains confident, even though NFL analysts no longer talk much about Arizona as a contender.
“I think when you’re a favorite you have a certain mindset and when you’re an underdog you have a certain mindset,” he said. “I don’t think anybody in that locker room thinks we’re underdogs.”
Throughout OTAs, Arians preached about the “little things.” It was a theme Friday, too.
“We need to work harder on the little things in practices,” he said, “and focus on little things because little things cost us some games last year.”
And, “we will tackle more,” Arians said. “We’ll be very selective when we do it. We’ve only done it once and that was a goal-line scrimmage. More would be one more time or two more times. … The art of tackling is something that is lost. We have to emphasize it.”
There isn’t a lot of competition for starting jobs. Justin Bethel, finally recovered from a foot injury, has the edge at cornerback opposite Patrick Peterson. The rotation in the secondary still must be decided.
And there are plenty of running backs after the Cardinals re-signed Chris Johnson to a one-year contract. Johnson will back up David Johnson and the pair will be in the lineup together at times, Arians said.
Chis Johnson, going into his 10th NFL season, said he had a couple of other options.
“But you know in the end this is really the best situation,” he said. “At this point in my career, not wanting to go in and play with a whole new playbook, learn a whole new city and all those things, moving, all that. It was best to be here.”
David Johnson, who made the All-Pro team in the new “flex” position, welcomed the elder Johnson back.
“He taught me a lot,” David said.
Starting inside linebacker Deone Bucannon was placed on the physically unable to perform list Friday. He had ankle surgery in May to repair a lingering problem. In Bucannon’s absence, first-round draft pick Haason Reddick has moved into a starting role.
The Cardinals are staying at a hotel a short distance away and will work out in air conditioned University of Phoenix Stadium. This is the fifth year the Cardinals have held their training camp in their regular-season home.
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