|Comfortable Leinart sees more togetherness under new coach|
|Written by Admin|
|Saturday, 12 May 2007 12:57|
TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) -Matt Leinart says he sees more togetherness from the Arizona Cardinals as the team began its second mini-camp under new coach Ken Whisenhunt on a scorching Saturday.|
Eighty-three players participated in two workouts at Cardinals headquarters, where temperatures hit triple digits during the afternoon session in front of a crowd gathered for the team's annual ``Fan Fest.''
``I'm getting more comfortable as we go,'' Leinart said after the morning workout. ``This is only the first practice back since last mini-camp, but I already feel a better command of what we did. Everything we put in today was the same stuff we put in at last month's mini-camp. From here on out, we're going to keep adding new things.''
Whisenhunt, offensive coordinator for the Pittsburgh Steelers before taking the Arizona job, is installing an offense that will emphasize the run, and that's all right with his young quarterback.
``Obviously it's an offense where we're going to run the ball first,'' Leinart said. ``We want to establish the run and be physical, but we're also going to utilize what we've got on the outside - that's two of the best receivers in the NFL.''
Whisenhunt said he understood Leinart's commitment to winning when the quarterback made it to every offseason weight room workout under new strength coach John Lott. In fact, nearly all of the players participated in those workouts, a big increase from previous seasons.
``It's a dramatic change,'' Leinart said. ``The biggest key is the strength and getting better condition-wise. But the chemistry, you know, guys coming together, working out together, joking around, just getting a feel for each other. That's something we didn't have last year.''
Pro Bowl receiver Anquan Boldin agreed.
``Past years you'd probably have 15, 20 at the most, working out, staying around for the offseason program,'' Boldin said. ``Right now we have pretty much 95 percent of the team here working out. Guys get a chance to see what the others are doing, see how hard his teammates are working. I think that builds camaraderie.''
Wide-eyed rookies were among those taking part in Saturday's practice.
``Like I learned last year, these mini-camps, especially for the young guys, are about mental reps,'' Leinart said. ``You have to take advantage of those. You're not going to get in every single snap. You might get one or two here or there. When you do, you've got to make sure you know your assignments.''
The offensive line has been rebuilt and there is competition at most positions. First-round pick Levi Brown was playing right tackle behind Oliver Ross on Saturday.
``The biggest thing we've done is add depth,'' Leinart said. ``Now Milford (Brown) and Nick Leckey are starters. There's Al Johnson, Mike (Gandy) from Buffalo, Levi, Oliver's back and healthy. We've got eight or nine quality guys that can play. That's something you need from the offensive line.''
Offensive line coach Russ Grimm, who held the same post in Pittsburgh, has simplified things, Leinart said.
``Now they know what they're doing every single play,'' Leinart said, ``and they're going to be very cohesive, I think.''
A vastly improved line is necessary for a team that was one of the worst at running the football a year ago.
``I think coach Whisenhunt has a great understanding of this offense and understands the personnel that we have and all their strengths,'' Leinart said. ``We're going to be able to run the ball effectively this year way better than last year, I think. We all know, even as a quarterback, if you can't run the football, it's going to be hard to win football games.''
Leinart turned 24 on Friday and appeared at a pep rally for American Idol semifinalist Jordin Sparks in Glendale, where she led the crowd in singing ``Happy Birthday'' to him.
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