The Arizona Cardinals will be heading to training camp earlier than their NFC West rivals. They'll be playing an additional exhibition game, too.
These would not always be welcome developments, but in this case, there are advantages for Arizona to play New Orleans in the Hall of Fame game in Canton, Ohio on Aug. 5, a matchup announced Wednesday:
Additional practices: Rules allow teams to report for camp 15 days before their first exhibition game. The Cardinals can report July 21, about a week earlier than usual, but team team does not expect to start quite that early. The lockout wiped out offseason preparations last year. The new labor agreement limits organized workouts this offseason. The Hall of Fame game lets the Cardinals circumvent some of those limitations.
More QB evaluation time: The Cardinals' quarterbacks will need all the work they can get this summer. If Kevin Kolb returns, as expected, this will be his first full offseason in Arizona's offense. Injuries sidelined him for much of last season. Getting an extra game of work this summer could help him. John Skelton needs the work, too. Kolb and Skelton figure to be competing for the starting job. A fifth exhibition game gives Arizona plenty of time for evaluation. And if the Cardinals do land Peyton Manning or another quarterback, the newcomer will need work in the offense, too.
The Cardinals and Saints will play Sunday at 8 p.m. ET. The Pro Football Hall of Fame will enshrine Cortez Kennedy, Jack Butler, Dermontti Dawson, Chris Doleman, Curtis Martin and Willie Roaf one day earlier at Fawcett Stadium.
Note: Tigre1629 correctly points out in the comments section that a fifth game also exposes players to additional injuries. I agree. In general, I'd be against a fifth game. In this case, there are some reasons the extra work could appeal for Arizona under the circumstances.