GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Around football, they say a player improves most between his first and second seasons.
Same can be said for a training camp.
The Arizona Cardinals concluded their second training camp at University of Phoenix Stadium -- a vastly different setup than they had for their first 25 years in the desert, when camp was held in Flagstaff -- on Friday, and its rave reviews weren't as much for the location as it was the execution.
“A lot different of a camp,” Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said. “It was so much easier. Everybody knew the routine -- where to go, what to expect. [Cardinals turf manager] Andy [Levy] did another great job with the field. Fabulous. The whole thing just runs so smoothly here.”
Arizona's final training camp practice ended more than an hour early, and players were antsy to get home. Since reporting on July 25, players stayed at a neighboring hotel, enjoying the luxury of comfortable beds and housekeeping instead of sleeping at the Northern Arizona University dorms as they used to.
While the accommodations were the same for the second straight year, the practices had a different feel in 2014.
"This year, I felt like was more intense than last year just because last year we were trying to learn everything," defensive end Calais Campbell said. "But this year it was just more about repetitions and being perfect."
This year's camp had its highlights and its lowlights -- and its share of headlines.
Rookie John Brown proved he’s as fast with pads on against a live defense than he was in shorts and a jersey during offseason workouts. Receiver Jaron Brown stood out with a slew of resume-building catches in practices and in games. Cornerback Jerraud Powers proved his worth to the Cards all camp.
The offense picked up where it left off, looking efficient and quick in the Cards’ first two preseason games.
Quarterback Carson Palmer said there’s no comparison between this camp and last.
“Totally different for everybody in that offensive room,” Palmer said. “I mean, there’s no comparison.”
Overall, Arians was “very pleased” with camp but injuries to Darnell Dockett, who’s out for the season with a torn ACL, linebacker Kevin Minter -- who’s missed time with a pectoral injury -- and guard Jonathan Cooper, who’s out with turf toe, have set the Cardinals back a half-step.
"It sucks," Campbell said. "That’s the worst part of training camp, too. This is like a practice to get you ready for the regular season so when this stuff happens in practice it sucks because he’s one of our better players and one of our intense leaders. For us to lose that now, we have to overcompensate for that somewhere."
“Getting two guys back was shocking,” Arians said. “I didn’t think either of those would be back yet. Losing Darnell was just as shocking. You know they’re going to happen, it’s just a matter of overcoming them, staying positive and marching on.”