Cards linebackers benefiting from Jen Welter's knowledge, intensity

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Jen Welter hasn’t even been coaching the Arizona Cardinals inside linebackers for a week and she already has a nickname.

"Dr. J," linebacker Sean Weatherspoon exclaimed unprompted when asked about the NFL’s first female coach.

"She’s pretty cool, man."

After Welter’s first five days as a training camp intern, the initial reviews are positive. Four veteran inside linebackers -- Weatherspoon, Kevin Minter, Kenny Demens and Glenn Carson -- enjoy playing for her. Their praise was consistent: She’s even-keeled on the field, she knows what she’s talking about and she’s intense.

Minter’s first thoughts upon hearing Welter would join the Cardinals’ coaching staff had nothing to do with her gender. He was worried she’d be a typical first-year coach, trying to make a mark by overwhelming players. He quickly saw that wouldn’t be the case.

"She’s definitely done this before," Minter said.

"She came in cool, always has great input, just a great person overall. I feel like we’re getting better because of it. I like her."

Welter’s enthusiasm and intensity have already started rubbing off on the unit, Weatherspoon said. In less than a week, Welter has earned their attention when she talks, especially when it’s about leverage.

"You got to listen," he said. "She got good points."

Unlike some of her male counterparts, Welter has kept her emotions in check -- except once with Weatherspoon.

She asked him what the play call was and he didn’t know because he was going over the last play with a fellow linebacker.

"She’s like, 'Stay focused,'" Weatherspoon said. "She’s here for a reason."

Weatherspoon did his research on Welter. He watched game film of her playing with the Dallas Diamonds, a women’s professional team she spent 14 years playing for in Texas. After watching Welter the player, he said she was a "fiery type of competitor."

As a coach, Welter hasn’t lost the passion for contact she had while playing linebacker. Demens said she coaches a downhill, physical-style of football, and it’s been clear she loves hitting.

"When we were in shorts, she wasn’t as hype as she was now," he said. "We have a good hit, she’s crunk, she’s hype. You can tell she loves the physical aspect of the game. That’s good. That’s good. That’s what it’s all about."

To some degree, Welter and the inside linebackers are in the same situation. Both spent the first days of training camp learning the finer points of the Cardinals' scheme, which has some new wrinkles under first-year defensive coordinator James Bettcher. Though the linebackers had the benefit of learning the system during organized team activities and minicamp, Welter has picked it up on the fly.

Her players notice when she’s mastered a new area of the playbook.

"You can tell she’s learning but she’s also teaching," Minter said. "I appreciate her being here."

Whether it’s because of her doctorate in psychology or her years of experience in football -- or both -- Welter’s connected with players through her communication. Minter noticed it when she was discussing footwork during camp.

"Just even trying to put it into our terms, as far as certain terminology and certain instances or situations, she has a way of saying it," he said. "I feel like she’s really benefiting us right now."

Carson said Welter’s interaction with the linebackers is no different than anyone else’s on staff. She jokes, she coaches and she teaches.

"Honestly, she’s like your typical football coach," Carson said. "There’s really no difference whether it’s a guy or girl.

"She’s a football coach."