Kolb finally gets off-season workouts to get comfortable with Arizona offence
TEMPE, Ariz. - Finally, Kevin Kolb gets to spend a summer in Arizona.
Forget the discomfort of the triple-digit surroundings. The quarterback is getting his first off-season workouts with the Cardinals, and he and the team hope this means a smoother, less pressurized performance in the coming season.
"Not having to study the playbook every night and just coming to practice, that's pretty nice," he said. "There's still obviously a lot of work but to be able call the play and get up there and worry about protections and defence instead of taking the reads through your mind every time, that's a great comfort."
Kolb acknowledges that he puts added pressure on himself to live up to the five-year, $63 million — $21 million guaranteed — contract he signed with Arizona after the Cardinals traded cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and a second-round draft pick to Philadelphia to get him.
That self-induced pressure, the force-feeding of the Cardinals offence once Kolb finally arrived for a frenzied training camp and a pair of untimely injuries made it a first season to forget for the quarterback.
He's gone from being anointed the franchise quarterback to someone who has to fend off John Skelton for the starting job. Coach Ken Whisenhunt loves competition. He waited until the week before the start of the 2008 season to name Kurt Warner over Matt Leinart as the starting quarterback. That means Kolb and Skelton could go through training camp and the preseason without knowing who will be No. 1.
Kolb didn't expect anything to be handed to him.
"I've said it a hundred times. Look, if you're afraid to compete in this league, go home," he said. "That's the way I look at it. I look forward to it being my job but at the same time you've got to come out here and battle every day. There's a lot of time between now and then and a lot of time to prove yourself."
Because of the NFL player lockout, there were no off-season workouts a year ago. The Cardinals couldn't make the deal for Kolb until the lockout ended, then he had to wait nearly a week into training camp to begin workouts because of the new contract he had signed. Kolb had to learn a system on the fly that was far different than the one he had in Philadelphia. It led to a difficult start to the season.
Arizona won its first game over Carolina, then lost six in a row. Kolb, meanwhile, went down with a turf toe injury and watched from the sidelines as Skelton took over the job and Arizona won three of its next four.
Kolb returned and had by far his best game of the season in a 19-13 overtime victory over Dallas. After halftime, Kolb completed 7 of 11 passes for 203 yards.
For the first time, he said, he felt comfortable in the Arizona offence.
"That was kind of like, 'There's the light, OK I know what it feels like in this system and look forward to getting right back at it next time I step on the field,'" he said.
Then the first series the following Sunday against San Francisco, Kolb took a knee to the head and was knocked out of the game with a concussion. He didn't play the rest of the season.
"It was frustrating because I felt like I was to that point and I could have built on that," Kolb said, "but God puts things in your life for a reason and that's the way I look for it."
It was at least the second concussion for Kolb, who was the starting quarterback for the Eagles in the 2010 season opener. He left that game with a concussion, Michael Vick replaced him and remained the Eagles starter, leading to the trade with the Cardinals. He said he is not worried about concussions or their possible long-term impact.
"If something comes up I'll worry about it then," he said. "Right now my head's clear, I'm looking forward and I know I'll be in the league for a long time."
He pointed to his new helmet, which he chose in part because it gives added protection to the back of his head.
"That's where most of your concussions come from," Kolb said. "That's where most of mine have come from. That was a big emphasis for me when I was looking for one this off-season."
The Cardinals are in their second set of organized team workouts. There's one more set, then minicamp before players report to training camp in Flagstaff on July 24.
Whisenhunt was asked how much the off-season workouts are benefitting Kolb.
"I think it helps everybody, but especially the quarterback position," the coach said, "because you're getting technique work, you're getting to hear the plays, you're getting to run the plays, you're getting to see things in a competitive situation."
Kolb said he is "just finding my groove with the system, finding my groove with the footwork."
"Having the offence be second nature," he said, "that's the biggest thing. I think any athlete will tell you, when you're reacting instead of thinking, that's when you play fast, that's when you play hungry. That's what I want to get to."