Team organized workouts have ended and the July 30 opening of training camp is now squarely on the Cardinals radar.
There were only two teams that finished in the NFL top 10 in offense and defense last year, the team Edgerrin James used to play for and he one he plays for now.
But the difference between the Indianapolis Colts' and Arizona Cardinals' fortunes has been as different as night and day.
The Cardinals believe simply getting their league-high list of Injured Reserve players back will close that gap, enhanced by strategic additions like James through free agency and the draft.
It will be Year 3 of the Dennis Green era and the Cardinals will be playing in a sold-out, state-of-the-art new stadium.
There are no more excuses.
They are expected to significantly close the gap with the league's elite franchises.
It may be an overstatement to term 2006 as make or break for Green, but if he doesn't win, he's got some 'splainin' to do.
There is talent on both sides of the ball now.
"When you are going out there and running plays, you expect everybody to be in the right place and to make the right adjustments," said quarterback Kurt Warner.
"Last year at this time, you still weren't sure. As a quarterback, you were holding the ball a bit longer to see if they were in the right spot. Now you don't have that hesitation."
--NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue came away impressed after his first look at Cardinals Stadium, which opens in August in Glendale, Ariz. It is to host the 2008 Super Bowl.
"It's going to be not just a fun place but an iconic place and a wonderful place to play the Super Bowl," Tagliabue said.
--Ben Roethlisberger may have altered history and Charlie Batch could become the first quarterback to take a snap under center in the new Cardinals Stadium. The Super Bowl champion Steelers visit in the debut game, the preseason opener, on Aug. 12 at 1:05 p.m., when the temperature will be in triple digits and the roof closed.
Roethlisberger was injured seriously when he crashed his motorcycle and may not be able to return in time to play in the opener. Backup Batch is the likely starter for the Steelers if not, and likely will take the first snap in the building if the Steelers win the coin toss.
"It's a tough deal and I think he is very fortunate that he wasn't hurt more seriously," Cardinals coach Dennis Green said. "You always have a few accidents during the season and it's never about whose fault it was, but accidents do occur. I am glad to see that everything as far as his head, neck, body, all spinals, that there is not an issue with them. Players just have to always be a defensive driver, whether they are in a car and obviously on a motorcycle."
According to Green, the Cardinals have nothing expressed in player contacts about riding motorcycles, but Green says that common sense should accompany their decisions in what they do off the field.
"I think that you always want your players to know that anything they do off the field whether it be skiing, water skiing, skydiving, motorcycling, there is a certain amount of judgment that has to be used on whether a not a guy should do those things."
--The first full roll-in of the 17-million pound field tray which holds the natural grass playing surface for the new stadium went off without a hitch for assembled members of the new media. In previous testing, the tray had been moved in only halfway. Engineers and construction workers were ecstatic over the first complete roll-in of the only retractable field in North America.
The natural-grass playing field is contained in a single tray measuring 234 feet by 403 feet. The field tray is powered by 1 hp electric motors mounted on 76 of the 542 steel wheels riding on tracks embedded in the concrete floor. It takes just under an hour to move the field in or out.
--ESPN's Monday Night Football technical crew gave the new stadium a thumbs up after an initial visit.
"They did it right," said Steve Carter, ESPN remote operations manager. "I liked everything I've seen here. There are spaces for our trucks to park. There are good camera angles. They made it easy for us to do our job."
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
--Coach Dennis Green said he won't have a depth chart at quarterback behind Kurt Warner until well into preseason. Veteran John Navarre and first-round draft pick Matt Leinart are competing for the backup job.
"We'll share reps from the start," said Green. "We probably won't do a depth chart until someone goes in second against Pittsburgh (in the preseason opener). The other guy will go in second against New England (preseason Game 2) and then we will go from there.
"Both guys are working real hard and we want to be able to have a good look at both. It's important because the Number 2 guy is one snap away from being the Number 1 guy. The good news is I think we have three guys that can play."
--Green says Leinart seems to be picking up the system after a mini-camp, rookie camp and team organized workouts.
"I think for a first-year player he is farther along than most first-year quarterbacks would be," Green said. "He has worked with the two-minute offense and he has done a lot of the things we are doing. Part of that is that he comes out of a good pro passing system and part of it is that he was a very talented player when he was in that system. But he is a quick study."
--RBs coach Kirby Wilson says the benefit of having Edgerrin James in team organized workouts is far greater than just James fitting into the new offense. Wilson said it has a ripple effect, benefiting young players such as RB J.J. Arrington, a second-round pick in 2005 who suffered through a tough rookie year, losing the starting job.
"J.J. is like a lot of players -- talk is good but doing is much better, and he learns from watching and doing," Wilson said. "So it's good to have the older guy back here to show him some of the tricks."
FRANCHISE PLAYER: None.
TRANSITION PLAYER: None.
UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS
--C Billy Conaty (not tendered June 1).
--G Adam Haayer (not tendered June 1).
--RB James Jackson (not tendered June 1).
--FB Harold Morrow (not tendered June 1).
--RB J.R. Redmond (not tendered June 1).
--WR/KR Reggie Swinton (not tendered June 1).
--DE R-Kal Truluck (not tendered June 1).
RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: None.
EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS FREE AGENTS: None.
--RB Damien Anderson: potential UFA; $545,000/1 yr, 2006 cap: $460,000.
--FB Obafemi Ayanbadejo: Potential UFA; 2 yrs, terms unknown.
--OT Jeremy Bridges: Not tendered as ERFA; 1 yr, terms unknown.
--DT Tim Bulman: ERFA; $350,000/1 yr.
--CB Dyshod Carter: ERFA; 1 yr, terms unknown.
--S Aaron Francisco: ERFA; $350,000/1 yr.
--LB Gerald Hayes: RFA; terms unknown, had been tendered at $721,600.
--LB Isaac Keys: Potential ERFA; $425,000/1 yr.
--DT Kenny King: RFA; had been tendered at $721,600.
--OL Shawn Lynch: ERFA; $350,000/1 yr.
--DE Langston Moore: ERFA; terms unknown.
--PK Nick Novak: ERFA; $350,000/1 yr.
--DE Anton Palepoi: Potential UFA; 1 yr, terms unknown.
--DE Antonio Smith: ERFA; $350,000/1 yr.
--CB Robert Tate: Potential UFA; 1 yr, terms unknown.
--QB Kurt Warner: Potential UFA; 3 yrs, terms unknown.
--OG Reggie Wells: RFA; matched Bills offer $17.6M/5 yrs, $3M SB/$2M RB.
--S Jack Brewer: UFA Eagles; terms unknown.
--LB Mark Brown: Not tendered as ERFA By Jets; terms unknown.
--OG Milford Brown: UFA Texans; $12M/4 yrs, $3M SB; 2006 cap: $2.75M.
--DT Kendrick Clancy: UFA Giants; $8.1M/4 yrs, SB unknown.
--RB Edgerrin James: UFA Colts; $30M/4 yrs, $7M SB/$4.5 RB; 2006 cap: $9.5M.
--WR Troy Walters: UFA Colts; terms unknown.
--OT Ian Allen: UFA Chiefs; terms unknown.
--DT Russell Davis: UFA Seahawks; 3 yrs, terms unknown.
--S Quentin Harris: UFA Giants; terms unknown.
--DT Ross Kolodziej: Not tendered as UFA/Vikings; 1 yr, terms unknown.
--QB Josh McCown: UFA Lions; $6M/2 yrs, $2M SB.
--CB Raymond Walls: UFA Chargers; terms unknown.
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