Emmitt, Cardinals to shape new lookPosted: Thursday July 24, 2003 4:50 PM
TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) -- Goodbye Jake Plummer and David Boston. Hello Emmitt Smith and Jeff Blake.
The Arizona Cardinals head to Flagstaff on Friday to shape their new look around an aging superstar running back and a strong-armed veteran quarterback playing for his fourth team in five seasons.
"We've got a lot of new people at key positions," head coach Dave McGinnis said Thursday.
The Cardinals' top three draft picks could be missing when the players gather for dinner and meetings on Friday night at Northern Arizona University before beginning workouts on Saturday.
Both of Arizona's first-round picks -- wide receiver Bryant Johnson and defensive tackle Calvin Pace -- and its second-rounder, wide receiver Anquan Boldin, remained unsigned on Thursday.
It's not an unusual situation for the Cardinals, who often open camp without their top pick. Last year, defensive end Wendell Bryant held out through the first weekend of the regular season and never made a significant impact.
Johnson and Boldin figure to be in the mix for the competition at wide receiver. The Cardinals lost their top three receivers from last season: Boston signed with San Diego, MarTay Jenkins with Atlanta and Frank Sanders with Baltimore.
The leading returnees are hardly household names: Jason McAddley, Bryan Gilmore and Kevin Kasper.
Finding receivers is, obviously, at the top of the camp agenda.
"We cannot be a one-dimensional football team, regardless of how young we are at receiver," McGinnis said. "We've got to be able to spin the ball down the field.
"We've got the leading ground gainer in the history of the National Football League who's going to be carrying the ball for us. People are going to be looking to stop him."
After 17,162 rushing yards and three Super Bowl rings in 13 seasons with the Dallas Cowboys, the 34-year-old Smith will be the centerpiece of a franchise with one of the most woeful histories in all of professional sports.
He already has made an impact in summer workouts with his teammates.
"Emmitt's not about a whole lot of flash. He's just about doing it," McGinnis said. "He's about being out there at 6:45 in the morning, doing what he's supposed to do. ... Those are the things young players can look at and learn from."
Smith has made no secret that he's out to show that Dallas made a mistake by letting him walk away.
Before camp is over, the Cardinals will make a brief return to Tempe to face the Cowboys -- and their new head coach Bill Parcells -- on Aug. 9 in what will certainly be an interesting preseason opener.
For the first time since 1998, the Cardinals begin training camp without Plummer at starting quarterback. Jake the Snake is gone to Denver after being booed heartily by the few thousand remaining home fans as Arizona lost nine of its last 10 games a year ago to finish 5-11.
Blake was signed to replace him while the Cardinals nurture second-year backup Josh McCown.
Like Smith, Blake -- in his 11th NFL season -- comes to Arizona highly motivated.
"Having been in different places, having gone through some ups and downs, he's got a chip on his shoulder, too," McGinnis said. "And that's good."
The offensive line should be the team's strength, but all four returning starters are coming off injuries. One of them, guard Pete Kendall, will get an early look at center as the team seeks a replacement for Mike Gruttadauria, who was not resigned.
While new coordinator Jerry Sullivan shapes the offense, the team will shift to a mostly one-gap defensive formation in an attempt to bolster what was the worst pass rush in the NFL.
McGinnis knows his job could be on the line if the team sputters through another awful season. But he shrugs off the ramifications of having to go through such a massive retooling three seasons into his tenure as head coach.
"You have to be able to adapt," McGinnis said. "If you can't adapt to another plan, then you're out of business."