Cardinals enjoy long-awaited day in the sun

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

TAMPA, Fla. -- The most kinetic action at Super Bowl media day is invariably at field level spanning the stands and massive risers where star players squeeze mostly predictable answers between hastily barked questions.

I spend less time down there every year. The more informative sessions tend to unfold in the stands, where the relatively relaxed atmosphere affords team owners, executives and assistant coaches an opportunity to speak more freely than they would during a typical week.

The sense of accomplishment an organization feels can be palpable in the stands at media day. More than any other environment, media day provides a green light for participating teams to discuss their success. The lines of questioning are generally positive, a reflection of the successful season.

A fan of the Cardinals would have reveled in the somewhat surreal atmosphere at Raymond James Stadium as reporters asked president Michael Bidwill, general manager Rod Graves and other members of the organization the sorts of questions posed more routinely to the Robert Krafts and Scott Piolis of Super Bowls past.

I used the opportunity to ask various coaches and executives a few specific questions.

  • Bidwill addressed the team's salary-cap situation relative to one year ago. The Cardinals could enter this offseason with more salary-cap space than any team in the NFL. This is mostly because they have so few players signed for 2009. The cap space, expected to exceed $40 million by some projections, will shrink dramatically as the team makes offers to restricted free agents and re-signs several key players.

    Bidwill: "If you look at where we were with cap room, we were one of the top five teams with the least amount of cap room [a year ago]. Right now, going into this offseason is a little bit different because starting in 2005, when we anticipated the opening of the new stadium in 2006, we put together some three- and four-year deals over the last few offseasons. Some of those have come due, including Kurt Warner and others that are up this year."

    • Graves spoke about how he considered Anquan Boldin a "core" player despite the receiver's contractual dissatisfaction, noting that he hoped to improve relations with Boldin through a meeting after the season.

    • One of the coaches I spoke with offered a theory as to why prevailing opinion favors the Steelers so decisively in the game itself. He thought people were having a hard time looking past four blowout defeats during the regular season (56-35 to the Jets, 48-20 to the Eagles, 35-14 to the Vikings and 47-7 to the Patriots). The Cardinals have been vastly improved in the playoffs, but perceptions die hard.

    • Bruce Arians, the Steelers' offensive coordinator, explained some of the versatility the Steelers enjoy within their two-tight end packages. If you've followed this blog at all, you know that's the sort of stuff I enjoy. We'll get into that as time permits, with lots of personnel-related stuff on the Cardinals as well.

    Programming note: I'm scheduled to shoot something Cardinals-related for ESPNews at 5:20 p.m. ET and need to start heading downtown pretty soon. Back after a while.