Team Notes: Cardinals

RB Emmitt Smith has heard stories about the thin air in Flagstaff, Ariz., elevation 7,000 feet, where the Cardinals train. Former Cardinals DE Simeon Rice one was hospitalized with "elevation sickness." On opening day, Smith got his initial dose of it first hand, and the man who has rushed for more yardage than anyone who has ever played was humbled.

"It shortens your breath down real quick," Smith said. "My first four plays felt like I had run 17 100-yard dashes. Just four plays. I probably didn't go any farther than 20 yards."

--The Cardinals can only hope this is not an indicator that Smith's signing as a marketer has failed: Only about 1,500 fans, normal on a Saturday, were on hand for the initial workout. Smith is being counted on not only to take over as the starting back but also to fill those empty aluminum bleachers in Sun Devil Stadium.

"This, to me, is what I would consider an average crowd. In Dallas, we had four or five thousand. I'm pleased with the turnout. Hopefully, we'll win a lot more games and next year the crowd will be larger," Smith said.

--In a surprise, veteran LG Pete Kendall lined up at C with the first team, and the coaches say it's not necessarily a temporary thing. The team cut former starting C Mike Gruttadauria last winter.

"It wasn't something where they just said, 'You're playing center,' " Kendall said. "They asked, I deliberated and decided to give it a shot. I'm swimming a little bit now. I'm a little bit out of my element."

--Rod Graves, new VP of Football Operations, on the Cardinals' attempt to rebound from a 5-11 mark in which they lost nine of 10 after opening 4-2 last season: "We had high-priced players and we still weren't sure if we were going to get everything we needed out of those players. This year, it's more of a feeling of anticipation. That anticipation is because the players we often wondered about ... are no longer here. And we have got guys who have been successful before."

Among the key veteran newcomers are RB Emmitt Smith, FS Dexter Jackson, FB James Hodgins and LB James Darling. All but Darling are expected to start and he is pushing veteran MLB Ron McKinnon.

--New offensive coordinator Jerry Sullivan might have the game's all-time leading rusher now, but that doesn't mean the playbook has to be as thick as the Phoenix telephone directory. The Cardinals are drastically scaling back the number of running plays, in hopes that they can take fewer of them and buff them to a higher sheen with Smith.

--WR Anquan Boldin, a second-round pick, signed for four years (terms undisclosed) two days before camp opened. His signing bonus is believed to be approximately $1.3 million.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "The only thing that's changed on me is the helmet color, the jersey color and probably the shoe color and the pants color. It's the same kind of football I've played since I was in Pop Warner, just at a higher level." - RB Emmitt Smith, the NFL career rushing leader, on his first training-camp workout with his new team, Arizona.

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