GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Arizona Cardinals rookie offensive linemen Paris Johnson Jr. and Jon Gaines II were recovering in the locker room at the Tempe facility after their first mandatory minicamp practice in June when the request came in.
“Rooks, the vets need you,” it started. “You gotta go get some Starbucks.”
Johnson and Gaines gathered all the orders -- 22 in total -- and set out to get their teammates their coffees. Gaines tried to order on the Starbucks app, hoping to capitalize on the barrage of points, but couldn’t input that many drinks. So the two drove down the street to the nearest Starbucks, walked up to the counter and Gaines offered an apology of sorts: “This is a giant order,” he told the barista. No problem, was the response.
About 10 minutes later, the two were back in Gaines’ rental car, with Johnson in the backseat trying to make sure none of the nearly two-dozen caffeinated refreshments spilled.
“I told him to drive slow,” Johnson, said. “If they would’ve spilled, that would’ve drained the rest of our day, so that was quite a trip to spend the break in the middle of our day at Starbucks.”
Such is life as a rookie in the NFL.
Johnson, the Cardinals’ first-round pick, and Gaines, a fourth-round pick, have embraced their rookie duties, which range from bringing the veterans’ pads and helmets in from the practice field and then sorting them in the proper locker, having a joke ready at a moment’s notice, treating their elder teammates to the vaunted rookie meal, Starbucks runs, making sure the fridge is fully stocked, and the vets’ favorite snacks are waiting for them in their meeting room at the team’s training camp hotel.
“He’s doing all right,” veteran tackle Josh Jones said of Johnson. “He ain’t doing too bad. He’s learning. We gotta get on him a little bit more because he’s finding ways to get out of certain stuff right now but he’s figuring it out.
“He’s doing a great job.”
The bulk of the rookie responsibilities, however, revolve around food. And the veterans make sure to push their young teammates, asking for snacks that can’t just be found at a department store.
Left tackle D.J. Humphries has become nostalgic during camp for the snacks and drinks from his childhood, like Sour Punch Straws and Cheerwine.
Humphries has tried to send Johnson and Gaines scrambling a bit at times, but has been impressed with how calm Johnson has remained through some of their wild goose chases the veterans have sent him on.
“It's like, sometimes, you ask him to get something, he’s like ‘What is that?’ and he'll figure it out eventually,” Humphries said. “I’ll be ‘Oh, OK, I see you, man. Good job. I didn't really want it but thanks for you going to get it.’”
The veteran’s requests have been quite varied.
Offensive tackle Kelvin Beachum asked for a variety of Clearly Canadian sparkling water flavors -- “They’re fancy,” Johnson joked -- and white cheddar popcorn. Jones asked for Tajin flavored peach rings. Guard Will Hernandez asked for Little Debbie snacks. Dennis Daley asked for cheddar cheese Ruffles.
A group request has been Mountain Valley spring water. And they go like hotcakes. The first time the offensive line requested the water, Johnson and Gaines bought two cases of 24 mini bottles. They stocked the fridge at night and they were all gone within a day-and-a-half, Gaines said.
Since they started training camp, the two rookies have stuck solely with ordering from Amazon because of the convenience -- they don’t have the time to physically go shopping during training camp.
Gaines, who does all the online ordering, estimated he’s placing orders to restock something every other day. The staff at The Wigwam, the Cardinals’ training camp hotel, bring the boxes right to the offensive line’s meeting room, making life on the rookies a little bit easier.
The only downside of ordering online, Gaines said, is the snacks and drinks are not immediately available. When the vets ask, Gaines pulls out his phone and shows them their requests are on the way.
Johnson and Gaines split everything down the middle. But their equitable share in the snacks won’t carry over to the rookie dinner, Gaines said. The two struck a deal so Johnson, who’s set to make $18.1 million this year as the No. 6 overall pick, will cover more of the bill than Gaines, who’s scheduled to earn $1.4 million.
They have spent between $1,500 and $2,000 this offseason on snacks. The 24-bottle boxes of water the offensive line wants run about $60 alone, Gaines said.
“That’s like four orders,” Gaines said. “When there’s 20 dudes in there, we’re all 300-plus pounds, it kind of adds up over time.”
One order, Johnson said, was around $800 and consisted of six boxes full of food and drinks.
That, Beachum said, is the rookies’ fault.
“We told him you can go cheaper places and get the stuff done,” he said with a smile. “But if you want to spend your money to have them delivered, hey, that’s on you. ...
“He wants to order it offline, so that’s interesting. That’s his problem if he wants to spend money that way.”