- Associated Press - Thursday, April 24, 2014

TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) - The optimistic Arizona Cardinals began work this week under an intense new conditioning coach in their first formal gathering to prepare for the coming season.

After his workout on Thursday, defensive end Darnell Dockett expressed the mood of the team after their 10-6 2013 season under first-year coach Bruce Arians.

“Anything less than the playoffs right now at this point, with this team, is a failure,” Dockett said. “We’ve got everything. We can go play right now. With the team we’ve got, we can go play right now and expect to win.”

One of the two assistants that new strength and conditioning coach Buddy Morris brought with him is Roger Kingdom, the two-time Olympic gold medal-winning hurdler who, among other things, will work on trying to improve the players’ speed.

Nearly all of the players showed up for this week’s voluntary sessions.

“It feels good,” wide receiver Michael Floyd said. “I’m glad to be back. I like that my routine (is back), working out and meets and stuff like that, not laying around the hose. It’s nice to see the guys. You know it’s all voluntary, to get the group of guys here to form the chemistry early for the season is great.”

Dockett said this work is extremely important.

“If you don’t have it in the offseason, you’re not going to have it in the training camp, you’re not going to have it in the season,” he said. “This right now is just as important as showing up for the first game of the season. … This is where you win your championship.”

Morris left the NFL after working with the Browns in 2005. He was just starting a second stint at the University of Buffalo when Arians, an assistant at Cleveland in 2005, hired him to replace John Lott, who was fired after seven years with the Cardinals.

The players are getting accustomed to a completely different approach.

“A very intense guy,” Dockett said, “very in-detail about everything. A good dude, kind of different from what we had around here. It takes some time to get used to it.”

He said players are “buying in” to Morris’ system.

“We don’t have guys rebellious,” he said. “We’re just trying to do our best to support him. He’s working with us and we all get on the same page.”

The 57-year-old Morris said the job is “to help them have the highest level of physical preparation, using methods and means - I say means, that means exercise - that yield the highest possible results at the lowest possible cost. Low risk, high reward is a win-win every time.”

Kingdom brings instant credibility, especially when it comes to speed and technique. He won the gold medal in the 110-meter hurdles in 1984 in Los Angeles and in 1988 in Seoul.

“The detail work that we’re doing right now, we’re just trying to fine-tune these guys,” Kingdom said. “These guys are already sharp. They already run a little bit, OK. But it’s just like taking a normal car, taking it to the shop, tweaking that car, putting a little of this in it and a little of that in it. Now you come out, and it’s a race car.”

A chief target for that fine-tuning is Floyd, and he’s ready to accept any instruction from Kingdom.

“I take everything in and just learn from him,” Floyd said, “because he’s been there, done it.”

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