Drawing an estimated 14,500 fans on Saturday appears more impressive after two less inspiring seasons.
The trend is heading in the right direction, for sure.
The Cardinals could joke after getting through practice with no reported injuries to key players, notably second-year running back Ryan Williams, whose 44-yard run signaled a milestone in his return from a torn patella. Backup Javarris James will miss time after injuring an abductor muscle, further depleting the ranks at running back while Beanie Wells rests his surgically repaired knee. But Williams' continued progress is key.
Williams, one of the Cardinals' most exciting players in camp a year ago when the injury struck him down, passed another test Saturday when he absorbed a hit from strong safety Adrian Wilson and came away OK.
The injury Williams suffered during an exhibition game against Green Bay last Aug. 19 was an unusual one.
Cadillac Williams provides the recent precedent for an NFL running back. He suffered a torn patella during a 2007 game. About 14 months -- 420 days, to be precise -- elapsed before he played in another game. If Ryan Williams followed the same timeline, he would return for an Oct. 14 matchup against Buffalo, 422 days following his injury.
The timetable for Ryan Williams appears ahead of that pace.
Cadillac Williams provides the precedent for an accelerated pace as well. He suffered a second torn patella, this one to the other knee, during the final game of the 2008 season. He returned in time to start the 2009 opener, a span of only 259 days. At that pace, Ryan Williams would have been ready for game action in early May. Instead, he continued to rehab all offseason, participating in minicamps on a limited basis.
Williams has said he hopes to return for Week 1. The Cardinals haven't set a date. I'd be surprised if they hurried him onto the field during the first couple exhibition games.
Note: The Cardinals generally hold their scrimmage later in camp, but with the team playing in the Hall of Fame Game next week, that wasn't feasible. Scrimmaging with only a few practices could explain why the offense seemed sloppy, according to initial reports. Kevin Kolb tossed the only touchdown pass. He also threw two interceptions.