Arizona Cardinals Back to Work

Coach Ken Whisenhunt met with the media Thursday, in the team's first day back. He addressed issues about the Cardinals returning to the field, and why Kurt Warner said it wasn't a good practice. Whisenhunt also answered questions about his Steelers ties and much more.

On how it felt to be back on the field today:

"It was good. Seems like it has been a long time since we had the championship game, so it is good to get back out there and get ready for this game coming up."

On the fact that QB Kurt Warner said it was not a great practice today:

"It is no different than a normal Wednesday practice. Especially after they have had a couple of days off, you are not sharp. You are not as sharp as you would like to be. We were aware of that going in. I'm not going to make something out of it."

On the Anquan Boldin situation:

"Nothing has changed since Monday. I said it wasn't an issue. I said we have had things like that this year. It is part of football. Nothing has changed."

On what he saw when he hired Offensive Coordinator Todd Haley:

"I thought Todd was a good coach. When you spend a year with someone in a little office together, you find out a lot about him. I think working together, knowing how he thinks, because we have similar ideas on philosophy in what we are trying to get done. I felt from staying in touch with him all of these years I know that he is a good football coach. We tried to get him in Pittsburgh when I was there. I'm not surprised that he has done a good job for us. That is one of the reasons we wanted him here."

On how far his game plan for the game has been instilled so far:

"We are doing it like a normal week. That is my experience in doing this, and we have an opportunity to do it again next week. We are putting things in. I'm sure there will be things that come up like they normally do. We are getting a good bulk of it in this week and we are excited about that."

On how to simulate Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger in practice:

"We have Brian St. Pierre who was in Pittsburgh, so he has seen Ben do that. I'm not saying that physically he can do the things that Ben can do, but as far as scrambling and moving around in the pocket and those kinds of things, extending the play, we are trying to give them a picture for that. I think it's not just Ben. It's their receivers too because they are on the same page as Ben as far as where they are going when he scrambles. You are trying to give (the defense) that look, but it is not always easy."

On the difference in the running game since the playoffs started:

"I think we have just run it a little bit more. I think what happened to us earlier in the season is in some of those games, we got down. We were forced to play catch-up. When you do that, you have to abandon the run game. I think really what has happened, if you look at our run vs. pass ratios in these games, they have been a little bit more balanced. What has happened is that we are able to repeat some runs and we have run them a little bit better. I think that we have become better because we have actually had more runs. A lot of times, earlier in the season, we would run a play, get not much out of it, and we weren't doing a good job in getting back to those runs. We talked about that earlier this year. Obviously, our focus has been a little bit better on that, knowing that we're going to have to do it. I think because we have had a little bit of success with play-action pass tied into that, (the run game) has worked better as well."


Edgerrin James
(Getty)

On if Edgerrin James has played a part in the resurgence of the running game:

"There is no question that Edge has played a part in that. He has done a very good job of getting extra yards after contact, which gives us a little bit more confidence in the run game to go back to certain plays. A lot of the things that we knew Edgerrin was and said we would need him later in the year for, is what has happened for us. Once again, I am very pleased with Edgerrin and his approach and how he has continued to work and that he has had success."

On what James brings to the table as a veteran:

"(James is) a veteran player who has been in the playoffs this time of year and understands the work and the focus that it takes. He brings a lot to the table for us. That has been seen in the improvement in our running game. You have seen Tim (Hightower) improve and get back to doing some of the things that we were excited about Tim doing earlier, and J.J. (Arrington) as well. Edgerrin, as far as getting the run established, has been a big part of that."

On what it must mean to James to make his first Super Bowl after years not making it to the game in Indianapolis:

"It has got to be an exciting thing. You can go to the playoffs, but to get to the Super Bowl is a hard thing to do. To finally do that, especially to what he has contributed in the playoffs for us, I'm excited for Edge. I'm excited, obviously, for this team."

On the biggest difference he notices between an experienced Super Bowl team like the Steelers and a team new to the routine like the Cardinals:

"There are a lot of things that we are going through for the first time. We are lucky because we have a number of people on the coaching staff and in the organization who have been there before and that helps. There are a lot of things you have to experience yourself for the first time because you can never answer every question ahead of time. A lot of times when you have been there before, like the Steelers have, if there are issues that pop up or questions that maybe are not football related, they have a process that they are used to dealing with those things. These are things that we are all experiencing together for the first time. It is not a bad problem to have."

On how helpful it would be to have LB Travis LaBoy healthy for the Super Bowl:

"Based on what I have seen Travis do for us when he is healthy, it would be exciting to see him out there. We are going to need something like that to help try to slow down this offense, especially with the quarterback and the way he moves around and runs that offense."

On Steelers safety Troy Polamalu:

"I have been frustrated with Troy many, many times in practice going against him for what he does. He is a very talented player, there's no question about that. He is all over the field. He is a guy who can really hurt you. We have to be very disciplined about knowing where Troy is and how we handle those things; understand what he can do. The biggest thing with Troy is underestimating his ability to make a play on the ball from the line of scrimmage, which we have all seen him do a number of times. He is an outstanding football player and a big part of the reason that that defense is so potent."

On the health of the team:

"We are in pretty good shape, health wise. Travis (LaBoy) was limited in practice today a little bit trying to work through the issues with his bicep. J.J. (Arrington) is coming back off of a knee, but we still have time. It is good that we have the benefit of this week to get guys back and healed up and really get into it next week. Those were the only two who were really limited in practice that were significant. We had some other guys that were just limited, but nothing that I would think would keep them out of the game a week and a half from now."

On if Anquan Boldin is back to full strength:

"Yes. Today was probably the first day he has gone through a full practice, and he looked good. He did a good job. We still had him on the injury report because you want to make sure that something doesn't pop up tomorrow. He did a nice job today."


Antonio Smith
(Getty)

On the health of DE Antonio Smith:

"Antonio was limited in practice, but I don't think it is going to be an issue."

On if it will be more difficult to keep them focused this week compared to the NFC Championship Game:

"Yea, it is hard. It is a little bit more difficult. It is not because it is the week before the game, but because everyone is trying to get prepared to go to Tampa. Whether it is trying to get tickets, or travel, or family. Those are all things that we tried to make a point to get out of the way before practice started, and a lot of guys have done a good job with that. Usually, that Monday, that Tuesday beforehand, or that Wednesday this week, is spent preparing for the opponent. We haven't had as much time to do that, and that is why practice today was a little bit like a first day type practice. As the week progresses, I think we will be able to get focused back in and those distractions will obviously be minimized."

On the connection between Steelers' QB Ben Roethlisberger and TE Heath Miller:

"It is not hard to have a chemistry with Heath. When you throw any ball in the air, he catches it. I will say that for him. I know from being around that young man for a couple of years, he is a very good football player. He is probably one of the best combination blocking and receiving tight ends in the league. I know that he has made a number of big plays for Ben in the past. He runs very good routes, has outstanding hands, hard to get the ball away from him because he is a big guy. There is no question in my mind that Ben has a very good rapport with him as far as being able to understand where he is going to be and put the ball on him. It is going to be a tough match-up to stop, as with all of their guys, because he has the same thing with Hines (Ward) and even Santonio (Holmes)."

On if he enjoyed or became annoyed with facing Steelers' Defensive Coordinator Dick LeBeau's blitz defenses in practice:

"I enjoyed the match-ups. I always felt that they made us better as far as being able to understand how to pick things up. Especially with playing teams in that division that brought a lot of pressure, it prepared us for that. Even coming here, playing Philadelphia this year and playing the New York Giants, I really believe that the pressure type things that they brought against us, having gone against Dick LeBeau in practice, no question in my mind helped prepare us to handle those types of things. I am very grateful for that opportunity. At times it was frustrating in practice because they did a good job, especially when Coach (Bill) Cowher would yell at us when we weren't doing anything good against them. I really think that it did prepare us."

On if he saw everything he could possibly see a defense throw at him after going against LeBeau in practice every day:

"There is no question in my mind that we said that we couldn't see a whole lot more than we saw from a training camp. I felt that way from our training camp too because of some of the things that Clancy (Pendergast) and our defensive staff have done against us. When you have guys that can move personnel around and give you different blitz looks, it is difficult in training camp, but it does help make you better."

On if he feels like the players are mentally prepared to start getting ready for the game:

"It seems that way. The last three weeks for us have really been a great experience as far as how we have to prepare. Being able to get that focus back and understand what it takes for us to be successful; that is important and has helped us do that. Our guys are excited about the opportunity to play in this game. They understand that, in order for us to play well, we have to practice the way we have been practicing."

On if he allows himself to think about what it will be like to go up against his former team:

"They are a good football team. I think about all of my friends, players and coaches, within that organization. I know that if there is anybody out there that I would want to play in the Super Bowl, it would be these guys. There is no question, always, that you want to win the game, but if we didn't, there is no other team that I would want to see win it than those guys. From that standpoint, it is an exciting thing."

On why players love playing for Dick LeBeau:

"Coach LeBeau cares about every player who plays in his defensive scheme. He is very consistent with his demeanor and how he approaches it. He is also not afraid to get on you. I think the players respect that. I think if you look at what he has done in this league as a football player and the tremendous stats that he has, Hall-of-Fame stats that he has, I think they have a great deal of respect for him for that too."

On if he has gotten any phone calls from former Head Coaches that he worked with:

"I have gotten a call from some of them. I have gotten a call from Coach Cowher and a couple of others. You get so many calls at this time because people are happy for you. I am very thankful for that."

On what Coach Cowher said to him:

"He just wished me good luck. He just gave me some advice on how to handle it, how to minimize any distractions. I had some questions for him about some of the things that we had done when we went there; just some of the details on what clothes I wore to what press conferences. He is such a snappy dresser."

On where he feels Coach Cowher's allegiances lie:

"I think that he is happy for me. I think that he is happy for the team. However, I have no doubts that after 15 years with that organization and what he did there, it is hard not to pull for his old team."

On if he feels good about J.J. Arrington being available for the game:

"It is hard to rule anybody out for the Super Bowl. I would hope that he will progress rapidly as the week goes and get some good work in next week. I think the most important thing is that we don't rush it too much this week to make sure that we can push it next week to counter-balance."


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