With the NFL lockout finally over, the stream of Rim Country football fans that traditionally make annual pilgrimages north on Beeline to the Cardinals’ preseason football Mecca in Flagstaff will resume.
That means the gridiron faithful will have plenty of opportunities to see up close and personal their favorite Card players who those fans are hoping will help return Arizona to the Super Bowl after a dismal 5-12 season in 2010.
Hopes are running high in Flagstaff, Payson and around the state that Arizona will use the Northern Arizona football camp and a nucleus of newly acquired players to regain its lost luster.
The optimism exists mostly because the Cards appear to have acquired the big-time quarterback they didn’t have last season when a carousel of mostly unproductive signal callers took turns behind center.
In a move that most expect to shore up the QB position, the Cards on July 28 traded highly regarded cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and a draft choice to the Philadelphia Eagles for Kevin Kolb, a 2007 second round draft pick.
While most Rim Country Cardinals fans are as happy as a mouse in a cheese factory that Kolb has been added to the roster, the acquisition of former Arizona State University tight end Todd Heap is equally as exciting.
For years, local fans had the opportunity to personally see Heap in action during Sun Devil preseason training at Camp Tontozona.
There, his spectacular leaping, one-handed catches were the stuff from which legends are made.
Heap’s acquisition by the Cards is a second opportunity for boosters to cheer the former Mesa Mountain View Toro star from the high country sidelines.
Acquiring Heap could also mean the Cardinals are in for a new-look offense this year that will include throwing to the tight end. In past seasons, the Cards sparingly used their tight ends in the offense preferring to use them mostly as blockers in the running game. But Heap is an elite pass receiver and not using him in that role would be a waste of his talent.
Also igniting a spark in local fans’ enthusiasm is 28-year-old Deuce Lutui’s return to the Cards after agreeing to a two-year contract with the Bengals.
The 6-foot-4-inch, 338-pound former Mesa High football star reportedly failed his physical for being overweight and will return to Arizona.
Also on the Cards’ roster is a third former high school player from Mesa.
Quarterback Max Hall starred at Mountain View before going on to BYU.
He played sparingly for the Cards last year and is expected to battle for a roster spot this year.
On Saturday, Aug. 6 the Cardinals will host a special “Red & White” outdoor practice from 11:35 a.m. to 1:20 p.m. The practice will be preceded by an outdoor full-team autograph session for kids 12 years and under (10:45 a.m. to 11:10 a.m.) and conclude with a live goal line session.
The Cardinals will also have a night practice on Tuesday, Aug. 16 from 7:05 p.m. to 9:10 p.m. The night practice is scheduled to take place at Flagstaff Coconino High School.
All other practices at Northern Arizona University will be held on the grass fields adjacent to the Walkup Skydome.
Admission and parking are both free.
Cardinals players and coaches will be available following each outdoor practice.
The team’s tentative training camp schedule is as follows:
Tuesday, Aug. 2 - 3:05 p.m. to 5 p.m.
Wednesday, Aug. 3 - 9:05 a.m. to 10:30 a.m.; and 3:05 p.m. to 5 p.m.
Thursday, Aug. 4 - 3:05 p.m. to 5 p.m.
Friday, Aug. 5 - 9:05 a.m. to 10:30 a.m.; and 3:05 p.m. to 5:15 p.m.
Saturday, Aug. 6 - 11:35 a.m. to 1:20 p.m.
Monday, Aug. 8 - 3:05 p.m. to 5 p.m.
Tuesday, Aug. 9 - 3:05 p.m. to 5 p.m.
Sunday, Aug. 14 - 4:20 p.m. to 5:20 p.m.
Monday, Aug. 15 - 3:05 p.m. to 5 p.m.
Tuesday, Aug. 16 - 7:05 p.m. to 9:10 p.m. (Coconino High School)
Wednesday, Aug. 17 - 3:05 p.m. to 5 p.m.
Monday, Aug. 22 - 3:35 p.m. to 5:15 p.m.
Tuesday, Aug. 23 - 3:05 p.m. to 4:55 p.m.
Wednesday, Aug. 24 - 9:05 a.m. to 10:20 a.m.; and 3:05 p.m. to 5 p.m.
Thursday, Aug. 25 - 9:05 a.m. to 10:30 a.m.
In the event of inclement weather, practice will be moved inside the Skydome. Because of code restrictions and liability issues related to construction occurring in the Skydome, any Cardinals training camp practices that are moved into the Skydome due to the weather will not be open to the public.