Cardinals' first training camp practice draws 12,000

Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer looked sharp on the opening day of training camp. AP/Matt York

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Training camp opened with some fanfare Saturday afternoon for the Arizona Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium.

A crowd of 12,000 fans packed 12 sections of seating on the stadium’s east side and six more on the west end for a free viewing of the roughly three-hour non-contact practice.

Coach Bruce Arians had voiced some concern about Day 1, with the fans expecting some kind of show and the team not wearing pads yet (the first practice with pads is scheduled for Monday). But there were some highlights -- and a couple of lowlights -- on an afternoon with a buzzworthy atmosphere.

  • Quarterback Carson Palmer looked healthy and strong coming back from knee surgery, zipping line drives down the field and showing good accuracy. The crowd cheered his completions and groaned at dropped balls and incomplete attempts.

  • Wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald heard plenty of chants of “Larry! Larry!” when he caught the ball. “I love you Larry. I’m not afraid to say that!” one man shouted toward Fitzgerald.

  • Dr. Jen Welter, the coaching intern whose hiring drew much acclaim before camp, served as the wedge buster in a punt return drill, and she signed a few autographs at the end of the day. “Everything’s great because no one acts like she’s out there,” Arians said. “So that’s really cool.”

  • Comedian Frank Caliendo stood on the sideline wearing a red riding cap, the kind Arians has worn after games, and a red Cardinals polo with red shorts. He did a couple of Arians impersonations for TV cameras.

  • Rookie wide receiver JJ Nelson left a good impression on Day 1. He flashed burning speed going down the field for a couple of catches, one for a long touchdown. He made difficult catches, too. “Practicing indoors on natural grass with the fans behind us, it was a pretty pleasant day. We had fun today,” defensive end Cory Redding said.

  • Transaction: Linebacker Zack Wagenmann, an undrafted rookie out of Montana, was removed from the non-football injury list and took part in practice Saturday.

As can be expected, however, there were some blips. Linebacker Sean Weatherspoon, who opened with the No. 1 defense on Saturday, left practice early with trainers. It was unclear what injury he suffered but he was not taking part in team drills near the end of the session. He did walk off without assistance.

Tight end Darren Fells also did not finish practice, as he departed with cramping. With Jermaine Gresham on the PUP list and Troy Niklas on NFI, the Cardinals are shorthanded at the position for the moment but do have four healthy bodies that rotated in with different units, Ifeanyi Momah, Ted Bolser, Gerald Christian and Gannon Sinclair. Expect an update on Weatherspoon and Fells on Sunday.