azcentral sports’ Kent Somers and Bob McManaman discusses another week of the Cardinals’ OTAs. Patrick Breen/azcentral sports
1 of 47
Arizona Cardinals offensive linemen Evan Boehm and Cole Toner talk after practice about moving to different positions and having to adjust at the Tempe facility, Tuesday, May 30, 2017. Tom Tingle/azcentral sports
2 of 47
Bob McManaman of azcentral sports wraps up the Arizona Cardinals practice at their Tempe facility, Tuesday, May 30, 2017..
Tom Tingle/azcentral sports
3 of 47
Arizona Cardinals coach Bruce Arians talks about his team after practice Tuesday in Tempe. Video by Tom Tingle/azcentral sports
4 of 47
Azcentral’s Kent Somers and Bob McManaman catch up during second week of OTAs at the Cardinals Training Facility.
5 of 47
Coaches and players talk about the importance of head coach Bruce Arians’ family fundraiser at Top Golf in Gilbert. (Michael Chow/azcentral sports)
6 of 47
How has free-agent QB Blaine Gabbert adjusted so far to the Arizona Cardinals? (Michael Chow/azcentral sports)
7 of 47
azcentral sports’ Jay Dieffenbach and Dan Bickley discuss the NBA MVP, the Diamondbacks and the Dodgers and the Arizona Cardinals’ defensive backs.
8 of 47
azcentral sports insiders Kent Somers and Bob McManaman react to the big news from the first day of Cardinals OTAs. Video: Rob Schumacher
9 of 47
The NFLPA has released its 2017 Rising 50 list of players poised to break out and rank among next season’s top-sellers in officially licensed merchandise and the Cardinals running back is No. 1.
10 of 47
Shot Clock: azcentral sports’ Jay Dieffenbach and Kent Somers discuss the latest on Arizona Cardinals’ Carson Palmer and the NBA playoffs.
11 of 47
Shot Clock: Colin Kaepernick is better than Blaine Gabbert, right? So why did the Cardinals not sign him? Also, Zack Greinke has his Randy Johnson moment … what does it mean for Diamondbacks?
12 of 47
With camp starting tomorrow, players reported today and reporter Kent Somers lays out the future and what the team hopes for it.
13 of 47
Cardinals insider Kent Somers gives some insight into the releasing of Daryl Washington and why it was probably best for both team and player.
14 of 47
Cardinals draft picks had some time to sit down and answer some questions about their experiences and expectations of the future on Thursday.
15 of 47
azcentral’s Kent Somers and Dan Bickley talk about the Cardinals decision to release linebacker Daryl Washington.
16 of 47
azcentral sports’ Jay Dieffenbach and Bob McManaman weigh in on the Cardinals’ signing of Blaine Gabbert.
17 of 47
Cardinals insider Kent Somers talks with Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians about mini-camp, his excitement about undrafted rookies, LB Daryl Washington and QB Blaine Gabbert at Steak 44 on Wednesday. Michael Chow/azcentral sports
18 of 47
Cardinals insider Kent Somers talks with Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians about Arians’ annual fundraiser at Steak 44 on Wednesday. Michael Chow/azcentral sports
19 of 47
azcentral sports’ Jay Dieffenbach and Dan Bickley discuss Daryl Washington possibly returning to the Cardinals and how James Harden can’t beat the Spurs by himself.
20 of 47
The Arizona Cardinals announced Thursday that former St. Louis Cardinals QB Jim Hart would be inducted into the team’s Ring of Honor this season.
21 of 47
azcentral sports’ Jay Dieffenbach and Kent Somers discuss what to expect from the Cardinals’ 2017 NFL draft class.
22 of 47
Jay Dieffenbach and Dan Bickley assess the Arizona Cardinals’ selection of Haason Reddick in Round 1 of the NFL draft and discuss the needs the team still has to address.
23 of 47
Check out how Cardinals fans were feeling during the team’s 2017 NFL draft party.
24 of 47
Cardinals insider Kent Somers reacts to the introductory press conference for Haason Reddick and what the Cardinals might do next.
25 of 47
With plenty of defense options on the table and all the quarterbacks gone, the Cardinals elected to go linebacker and Kent and Bob break down the reasons why.
26 of 47
The Cardinals have made 18 picks in the first round of the NFL draft since 2000. Take a look at the standouts.
27 of 47
With the 13th overall pick in this year’s draft, can the Cardinals afford to repeat their strategy with their last two first-round picks?
28 of 47
Shot Clock: azcentral sports’ Jay Dieffenbach and Kent Somers have the latest on the Cardinals draft and the reinstatement of Daryl Washington.
29 of 47
The Cardinals are hosting draft parties Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights at the Great Lawn outside of University of Phoenix Stadium.
30 of 47
azcentral sports’ Kent Somers and Jay Dieffenbach discuss possible Cardinals strategy in the NFL draft, views on picking a quarterback and more.
31 of 47
Bob McManaman ranks the top special teams players in the upcoming draft.
32 of 47
Arizona Cardinals’ general manager Steve Keim and head coach Bruce Arians have found some of their best players in the third round.
33 of 47
Arizona Cardinals Larry Fitzgerald and Chandler Jones discuss the importance of giving back and some bets amongst Cardinals players before the Larry Fitzgerald Celebrity Softball Game on Saturday at Salt River Fields. Patrick Breen/azcentral sports
34 of 47
Cardinals GM Steve Keim has a tough task when it comes to finding quality talent and character to add to the team through the draft.
35 of 47
azcentral sports Cardinals insider Kent Somers talks with Arizona Cardinals defensive tackle Fostee Rucker. || Video by Rob Schumacher/azcentral sports
36 of 47
Cardinals defensive tackle Frostee Rucker discusses learning from last year’s expectations and adding Karlos Dansby and other veterans. Rob Schumacher/azcentral sports
37 of 47
Breaking down the top three games of the Cardinals’ 2017 season.
38 of 47
Shot Clock: azcentral sports’ Kent Somers and Bob McManaman discuss the Cardinals’ potential use (or overuse?) of running back David Johnson.
39 of 47
Arizona Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians is ready for the 2017 NFL schedule to be announced.
40 of 47
Cardinals General Manager Steve Keim talk about the upcoming NFL draft. || David Kadlubowski/azcentral.com
41 of 47
azcentral sports’ Jay Dieffenbach and Dan Bickley discuss Carmelo, a dancer, and the Cards’ quiet, classy young superstar.
42 of 47
azcentral sports’ Kent Somers and the Cardinals’ Larry Fitzgerald discuss Fitzgerald’s charity softball tournament on Saturday.
43 of 47
The Cardinals’ Larry Fitzgerald joined azcentral sports’ Kent Somers to discuss the team and the upcoming season.
44 of 47
Bob McManaman and Kent Somers at the NFL owners meetings on Wednesday, March 29, 2017. Bruce Arianas likes full-time officials, centralized replay and says there’s 1 QB in upcoming draft who’s plug-and-play. Video: Tom Tingle/azcentral sports
45 of 47
Coaches of the National Football Conference take questions from the media in Phoenix on March 29, 2017. Tom Tingle/azcentral sports
46 of 47
Cardinals insider Kent Somers and other reporters talk with Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians at the NFC coaches breakfast on Wednesday at the Arizona Biltmore in Phoenix. Video by Tom Tingle/azcentral sports
47 of 47
Kent Somers, Bob McManaman talk another week of Arizona Cardinals OTAs
Cardinals linemen Boehm, Toner on position changes
Bob McManaman after Cardinals practice Tuesday, May 30
Bruce Arians on Carson Palmer, RBs, more
Kent and Bob talk new NFL rules and wide out depth
Arians Family Foundation Fundraiser at Top Golf
Report card on Cardinals QB Blaine Gabbert
Watch out for Dodgers; Cards CBs apply for job
What Deone Bucannon’s injury means for Cardinals
David Johnson No. 1 on NFL Players Association list
No throws for Cards QB, cheap shot in NBA?
Kaepernick blackballed? Greinke now trade bait?
Kent Somers talks Cardinals rookies
Kent Somers talks Daryl Washington departure
Cardinals rookies take to the microphone
Cardinals release linebacker Daryl Washington: Somers and Bickley discuss
Shot Clock: Gabbert a terrible fit for Cards
Somers sits down with Arians on Cardinals’ offseason
Bruce Arians talks about his annual fundraisers
Daryl Washington-Cardinals meeting: What happened?
Jim Hart to be inducted into Cardinals Ring of Honor
Shot Clock: Cards picks make instant impact?
Shot Clock: Tap brakes on Haason Reddick pick?
Sights and sounds from Cardinals draft party
Somers talks Reddick and possible 2nd and 3rd round picks
Kent Somers and Bob McManaman talk Cardinals draft of Haason Reddick
Cardinals’ top first round NFL draft picks since 2000
Can Cardinals afford to be patient with another first-round pick?
Cards face choices with draft, Daryl Washington
What to know about the Cardinals’ draft party
Shot Clock: Cardinals trade up for QB?
Top 5 special teams players of 2017 NFL draft
Keim, Arians striking gold in draft’s third round
Larry Fitzgerald, Chandler Jones talk about Celebrity Softball Game
Cardinals looking for ‘football character’ in NFL draft
Kent Somers talks with Cardinals DT Frostee Rucker
Cardinals DT Frostee Rucker on expectations, adding Karlos Dansby
Top 3 games in Cardinals schedule
Cards playing dangerous game with RB Johnson?
Bruce Arians wants to know date of London game
Keim on Cardinals’ NFL draft prep
Shot Clock: New face of Cardinals franchise?
Larry Fitzgerald holding 7th annual charity softball tournament
Larry Fitzgerald 1-on-1 with Kent Somers
NFL meetings in Phoenix: On Bruce Arians, new rules, the draft
NFC coaches take questions at NFL owners meeting
Kent Somers talks with Bruce Arians at NFC coaches breakfast
Something is different about Robert Nkemdiche. He’s carrying around his playbook like it’s the Holy Grail. He’s embracing the concept of professionalism, something that rarely appealed to the free spirit during his rookie season with the Cardinals.
He looks hungry for something new and different. It’s called success, the kind that doesn’t come easy.
“I’m starving,” he said.
The 2017 Cardinals have a lot of moving pieces. Key offensive linemen have changed positions. The secondary is full of new faces. Few will play a bigger role than Nkemdiche, 22, who is expected to help the team replace the loss of Calais Campbell on the defensive line.
Nkemdiche has all the tools. He’s powerful and aggressive, with hands seemingly chiseled from granite. During recent practices, offensive lineman Evan Boehm has marveled at the raw skill that Nkemdiche possesses.
“He’s a monster,” Boehm said. “If he gets going and gets a full head of steam, good luck.”
So what’s changed? Nkemdiche was one of the biggest question marks coming out of the 2016 NFL draft, a player with successful Nigerian-born parents, a strong intellect and the ability to play the saxophone. Yet he played in only five games as a rookie, made only one tackle on the season and struggled to learn the intricacies of his position.
And in one of the strangest postgame scenes in memory, he had to borrow clothes from teammates to meet the dress code for a flight home after a loss.
It wasn’t pretty. Rarely has someone so smart seemed so out of place, so baffled by workplace requirements.
“It was humbling at times,” Nkemdiche said. “Everything doesn’t always go as you envision it. As long as you can take the lesson, learn from it, grow and let it have a positive influence on yourself, you can become so much better than anything I could’ve been in my first year.
“I’m not a person that really takes into account what people have to say (about me). It’s not anything that is going to move me. I know what I have to do. I know my purpose and I know what I want to do. I know what I’m going to be. I’m just going to keep striving for that.”
Nkemdiche is almost too inquisitive, often questioning the structure and discipline that defines life in the NFL. It’s obvious that success came too easy for him in the past, the residue of freakish size and athleticism. He was the No. 1 recruit coming out of high school. He was a 296-pound defensive lineman with pronounced abs. And when he was given a rep on offense during a game against Tennessee-Martin, he responded by catching a pass out of the backfield and racing 31 yards for a touchdown.
He thought the NFL was going to be just as easy.
“I think I could’ve done some things differently,” Nkemdiche said. “It didn’t go the way I was thinking it would go. There are a lot of things that go into being a pro. It’s taking care of the small things and sacrificing things. It’s bigger than people understand. There are a lot of layers to this whole professional football league, and this defense that we run. There were a lot of things I had to hone up, harp on, clear up and make better.”
Nkemdiche was labeled with character issues coming out of college, which is why he fell all the way to Arizona, which held the 29th pick in the first round. Those concerns came to life during his rookie season, but not with off-field transgressions. It was his immaturity and lack of work ethic that failed him most.
His second impression is much easier on the eyes. Defensive line coach Brentson Buckner has observed a noticeable change for the better. Frostee Rucker, Josh Mauro and other teammates have taken time to mentor Nkemdiche, illuminating a path to success. It seems to be working, just like it did when D.J. Humphries shook off a brutal rookie season and became the team’s starting left tackle.
“I have the skill-set and the physical talent,” Nkemdiche said. “But (football) has never been as complicated as it is in the present day. There are lot more plays that go into this, and a lot more good players. Things I didn’t focus on as far as fundamentals and the little things were the key problem I had during my rookie season. Being a pro, you begin to understand responsibility. You understand the things you have to fish out of your characteristics to make sure you’re the best you can be.”
Nkemdiche is a fascinating athlete. Like how he felt strangely at home during a recent trip to Japan, a culture that fits his personality, spirituality and passive demeanor away from the football field.
“They’re humans,” Nkemdiche said. “And I don’t know if in America we have that perception of what that means. It was amazing to see the love and compassion between people, and it’s so regular to them. In America, if someone does something nice, it catches your eye. Like, what are you doing?
“It was just amazing to see people who are good people in this world. And that’s something that’s supposed to be a simple fact. But it’s not, sadly. We’ve created a complex world that we live in, and it’s supposed to be very simple. And simplicity is what I love. Because I’m a simple man.”
Nkemdiche does not fit the NFL stereotype. He is not motivated by criticism or pep talks. He’s at his best when people accept him for who he is. He’s also learned a hard lesson about life in the NFL:
Different is fine. As long as you make a difference on the field.
Reach Bickley at [email protected] or 602-444-8253. Follow him on twitter.com/dan.bickley. Listen to “Bickley and Marotta” weekdays from 12-2 p.m. on 98.7 Arizona’s Sports Station.