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Players welcome new coaching staff's detailed approach

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) - The Arizona Cardinals have yet to go through their first training camp practice under Ken Whisenhunt, but the players already say there's a clear difference between his staff and that of his predecessor Dennis Green.

"I think they're holding everybody accountable and they're focusing on the little things," running back Edgerrin James said on Saturday. "Denny Green did a great job of bringing talent here. There's talent up and down that roster, but the little things are what we've got to focus on, and that's what they've been preaching."

Accountability is a word that has come up often since the Cardinals gathered for their annnual camp in the pines of Flagstaff, elevation 7,000 feet.

Pro Bowl wide receiver Anquan Boldin believes players got away with too much under Green's regime.

"I'd probably say there was a lack of accountability," Boldin said. "Guys weren't held to the standards that they should have been held to, so in that case, we underachieved as a team. ... When guys aren't held accountable, things start slipping through the cracks. People get kind of lax."

Whisenhunt and his staff set the tone during mini-camps and voluntary workouts this summer.

"That's his approach," Boldin said, "just to be smart, tough and play hard. That's what we're doing, not just on the field but in the meeting rooms. Guys are paying attention. Now you see everybody has notebooks. Everybody has something to write with. Everybody is just attentive. That's a big difference."

The players gathered Friday night, then went through a series of 50-yard sprints on Saturday, having to meet specific times in the process. The entire squad, with the possible exception of 321-pound rookie defensive tackle Ray Blagman, met the requirements, Whisenhunt said.

"It's all about being fit," defensive end Bertrand Berry said. "That was the one thing they really harped on during the offseason. They wanted us to be a team that can finish and enforce our will on other teams. You can't do that when you're out of shape."

Whisenhunt was offensive coordinator of the Pittsburgh Steelers before he was hired by the Cardinals. From the first day on the job, he decided that attitude would be crucial in building a winner in a franchise long accustomed to losing.

"We talked about being a smart football team," he said. "You've got to trust each other. There's accountability. You've got to be able in the fourth quarter to know you can trust that guy next to you."

That begins, Whisenhunt said, with showing up at camp in shape and ready to run those sprints.

The team goes through its first practice on Sunday. The new coach has several days with just one practice. He has said that allows the staff to push the players hard through the final stages of the workout to build stamina for the fourth quarter of games.

Berry likes the new staff's approach.

"One thing I can say now is they're very motivated," Berry said. "They know exactly what they want to do. They're determined. They have a set mind of how they want to get it done, and they want it done exactly like that. Every team that's successful has that type of approach. Teams that I've been on that were successful had that approach."

Optimism comes cheap at the start of training camp, but the players and coaches are unwavering in their belief that the talent is there.

"I've always felt that we had the talent, we just didn't take advantage of the opportunities that we had," Boldin said. "The last year or two, we've let some opportunities slip away. Hopefully this year, under new coaching and different circumstances, we"ll take advantage of those opportunities."

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