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|GLENDALE Nicklas Backstrom Jersey , Ariz. (AP) At the start of some practices, Arizona Cardinals coach Steve Wilks calls out the name of one defensive player and one offensive player to go at it one-on-one in front of everyone else.
Once it was left tackle D.J. Humphries against defensive end Chandler Jones. Another time defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche took on right guard Justin Pugh.
”I like it a lot,” Humphries said. ”It’s like old school, Pop Warner stuff.”
A week into Wilks’ first training camp as an NFL head coach, an overriding theme has been tough, physical play, especially on the offensive line.
”Really it comes back to my defensive background,” Wilks said before the team took the field for another practice in pads Thursday. ”There’s nothing more demoralizing than having an offense just run the ball. Coming off the ball up front, being physical, it just really takes the air out of you.”
While most of the training camp takes place in the air-conditioned comfort of University of Phoenix Stadium – the Cardinals’ regular- season home – Wilks moved the team outside into the desert heat for practice on Tuesday. They’ll be outdoors again Friday.
”Hopefully it’s a little hot out there so we can make sure we’re locked in and focused,” he said.
Wilks believes battling the heat helps build mental toughness.
”It’s all about mental with me. These guys have the skill set. They’re physical. They work out all the time. They train their bodies. It’s about this here,” he said Youth D.J. Fluker Jersey , pointing to his head, ”and being outside creates that element, particularly in the heat.”
Wilks has spent his NFL coaching career on defense, with stints as secondary coach for the Chicago Bears, San Diego Chargers and Carolina Panthers. Last year, he was promoted to defensive coordinator in Carolina and, after just one season, was hired to replace the retired Bruce Arians in Arizona.
Arians was all about offense, the big-play ”no risk it, no biscuit” approach. Wilks, by contrast, wants a team that runs the ball with authority and a defense that just as naturally stops the run up front.
”We get pretty physical out there Chicago Bears Jerseys Womens ,” Humphries said. ”Our defensive line, both of us know what we’re trying to do, what we’re trying to get done. It’s something that’s being preached to us and it’s something that we’re soaking up and buying into for sure. Most of us it’s second nature. We don’t have no softies on the O-line. Most of us, it ain’t hard to get us going, so it’s good fun.”
Defensive players appreciate a coach with roots on that side of the ball.
”It’s great,” said safety Antoine Bethea, a 13-year NFL veteran. ”He gets it. Not saying other coaches don’t, but him being on the defensive side of the ball the majority of his career, he just gets what it means to be a defensive player, coming downhill, attacking.”
But it’s the offensive line that’s been singled out for praise by Wilks for its physical approach early in camp.
And the line loves the idea of blowing open holes for David Johnson, one of the NFL’s best running backs who returns after missing virtually all of last season with a fractured wrist.
Offensive linemen Youth Minkah Fitzpatrick Jersey , in general, love to run block.
”It’s different when you’re locking a guy up in pass (blocking). You get them frustrated,” Humphries said. ”But when you block a dude, you pound on him during the run game, you demoralize them. You take their heart. `’
”Johnny Hockey” is getting an additional title: part owner.
Calgary Flames star forward Johnny Gaudreau is a member of an NHL-laden ownership group that purchased an equity stake in the U.S. Hockey League’s Dubuque Fighting Saints on Thursday. The group includes Buffalo Sabres forward Zemgus Girgensons, former Sabres and Pittsburgh Penguins coach Dan Bylsma, and Florida Panthers executive chairman Peter Luukko.
Gaudreau and Girgensons were teammates on the Dubuque team that won the USHL championship in 2011. Luukko’s son Nick was also on the team. Their ownership group is titled Saints4Life Acquisitions.
”The first day I stepped into Dubuque, I knew it was a special place,” Gaudreau said in a statement issued by the league. ”I have a lot of special memories in Dubuque, including winning it all in 2011. It was an offer I couldn’t refuse.”
Gaudreau was the USHL’s rookie of the year in 2011, when he was also drafted by Calgary. He eventually went on to win college hockey’s Hobey Baker Award at Boston College.
Girgensons described being part of the ownership group as a way to pay back the team for playing a key role in his development. A year after moving to North America from his native Latvia, Girgensons spent two seasons with the Fighting Saints and was preparing to play college hockey at Vermont before being selected by Buffalo in the first round of the 2012 draft.
”It’s a team that really got me to where I am today http://www.buccaneersauthorizedshops.com/authentic-vinny-curry-jersey ,” Girgensons told The Associated Press by phone.
Never envisioning the opportunity to be an owner, Girgensons joked he might need to contact Sabres owner Terry Pegula for a few pointers.
Edmonton Oilers president and general manager Peter Chiarelli will remain a part owner of the team. Philip Falcone, who previously was a part owner of the NHL’s Minnesota Wild, is departing as the Fighting Saints’ principal owner.
The Fighting Saints have won two championships since returning to the USHL in 2010 following a nine-year absence.
Luukko immediately jumped aboard when he saw how his son’s experience in Dubuque helped prepare him for college.
”I know from my son’s perspective and others that I’ve talked to, they come in as pretty mature people heading into their university experience,” he said.
”Being involved in the National Hockey League for over 25 years, this is a chance to be able to be part of the development of young players and what is actually a good business also,” Luukko said. ”Listen, I don’t belong to a country club, so really this will be my fun.”
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