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Bruce Arians eager to see guys in trenches go at it in pads

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Futbol season is over for the Arizona Cardinals.

Football season starts Monday.

Head coach Bruce Arians likes to describe the period between the day the previous season ends until the Cardinals can put on pads in training camp as "soccer" season. It is, he likes to say, guys in shorts. It’s not yet football. Well, Monday marks the first day the Cardinals can put on pads, essentially commencing, at least in Arians’ mind, the season.

“Really, I can’t tell you how anxious I am to watch this practice today,” Arians said.

“It’s finally football. The game is won in the trenches, and I want to find out what we have, not just the veteran guys. I want to see some of these young guys that don’t look good in shorts but they’re damn good football players. This is when you finally get to evaluate them.”

Even with pads on, there are rules.

No hitting quarterback Carson Palmer. And no taking anybody to the ground, especially running back David Johnson and wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald.

If a player takes a teammate to the ground with a hit, there will be consequences -- depending on who does the hitting. And if tempers flare now that hitting is allowed and a fight breaks out, Arians will not hesitate to throw players off the field.

“If it’s the wrong guys, I’ll cut them,” Arians said. “Rank has privilege. I don’t think any of our rank guys are going to fight.”

Arians said it won’t take him long to see who backs away from contact and who embraces it.

“If they turn their head and duck, they ain’t going to make it,” he said. “They would’ve done that on tape. They wouldn’t be here in the first place.”

There are players, such as rookie guard Dorian Johnson, whom Arians believes will be better with pads on. For some players, putting on pads flips a switch, safety Antoine Bethea said.

“You get those players that are opposites,” Bethea said. “You can have a player who has shorts on and doesn’t really look like a player, but when he puts the pads on he’s out there thumping and he’s flying around.

“Then you got vice-versa. When you got shorts on, he’s out there making plays, but when it comes time to put the pads on, he kind of fades away. You definitely have some players that establish themselves when the pads get on and when that time comes. It’s exciting to see.”

Arians said he’s looking forward to seeing all the offensive and defensive linemen, the young tight ends and the outside linebackers in pads. Donning pads also will help him see how far the running backs have progressed in pass protection.

“Their technique is usually bad, but their courage factor is what you want to see,” Arians said.

In particular, he’s eager to see how second-year defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche performs with pads on.

“He’s quick and explosive,” Arians said. “I want to see it in pads. I want to see the battles that go along with it because he and [right guard Evan] Boehm have been going at it all year.”