FLAGSTAFF - Praise is flowing for the offensive line. No, this is not a misprint. And anyway, none of this will mean much until the team at least starts playing its exhibition games.
Yet anyone who has seen the line’s struggles the past few years had to be taken aback by comments Wednesday by both coach Ken Whisenhunt and quarterback Matt Leinart.
After Edgerrin James blew through big holes in the morning practice, Leinart said assistant coach Russ Grimm “has done a great job” with the line.
“It’s obvious. Adrian Wilson came up to a couple of guys and said, 'Those guys up front, it’s unbelievable how good they are.’”
“They’re starting to grow together,” Whisenhunt said. “They’ve got a good chemistry.”
Tackles Mike Gandy and Oliver Ross are improving while guard Reggie Wells “looks like a natural,” the coach said.
Center Al Johnson “has done a great job of controlling everything.”
But the highest praise seemed to go to Deuce Lutui, the second-year guard from USC, who has dropped weight and is in much better shape.
“I see a huge difference in Deuce … and his ability to move and get to secondary defenders,” Whisenhunt said.
Leinart said Lutui looks more like the well-conditioned player he recalls from their Trojan days:
“He looks great. He’s a tremendous athlete for how big he is.
“I think he’s going to be a Pro Bowl lineman for years to come. I really do.
“He’s a great football player.”
WAITING FOR LEVI
General manager Rod Graves worked through the day Wednesday trying to finish the six-year contract for first-round pick Levi Brown.
Chafie Fields, one of Brown’s agents, said, “We had a good day and made positive strides today.”
The major hurdles have been cleared, and the Cards coaching staff hopes to see the offensive tackle at camp by this weekend.
Tickets remain for all Cardinals games, regular season and preseason, except for the Pittsburgh game on Sept. 30.
The Cardinals do not disclose how many are available for specific games.
The Cardinals staged a night practice at Lumberjack Stadium, the old outdoor stadium that used to host NAU football games until the Skydome was built in the 1970s.
“It’s a little change in the routine,” Whisenhunt said.
And there’s a practical reason for night practices as both preseason road games will be outdoors at night, as will the season opener at San Francisco on Sept. 10.
“It gives us a feel for what it’s going to be like,” Whisenhunt said.
The Cards are scheduled to practice once, from 3:05 p.m. to 5:05 p.m., outdoors at the practice fields east of the Skydome.