Leonard Davis’ now-completed rookie contract with the Cardinals included $1 million in workout bonuses for participating in voluntary offseason weightlifting and conditioning programs.
Davis didn’t collect much of that money. He chose to work out with his own trainer because he was dissatisfied with the program and facilities the Cards offered.
Cynics might argue Davis’ decision was a product of laziness or selfishness. But the newly signed free agent said he plans to participate in the Cowboys’ offseason workouts although he’ll gain no bonuses from that participation.
The reality is, Davis wasn’t alone in eschewing Arizona’s workouts.
The Cards, who began their offseason program Monday, have made several changes they hope will alleviate that problem.
First, new strength and conditioning coach John Lott has a program that will focus less on a one-size-fits-all philosophy.
Second, the Cards invested a couple hundred thousand dollars to update their weight room — from the floor to the red and grey medicine balls in the corner to the extra large weight racks for the extra large clients.
“This is what everyone has been looking for,” said veteran running back Marcel Shipp, who participated in one of Monday’s workouts. “This is what everyone has been waiting for.”
Lott brings a multi-sport background to the job in addition to his 10 years in the NFL with the Steelers, Jets and Browns. The one-time University of Houston strength coach has also worked with basketball’s Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler and track’s Carl Lewis and Leroy Burrell.
Lott uses less distance running and more sprints. He works the players’ cores with medicine ball exercises, uses free weights so an exercise isn’t limited to a single body part, and takes part in the workouts himself.
“I tell them, 'If you don’t have the energy, plug into me, I’ll give it to you,’ ” Lott said.
But Lott’s biggest attribute may be flexibility.
Davis emphasized that in the Cards’ previous programs “there was no catering to each individual’s needs.” Some players would show up to work out with the Cards to make the coaches happy and then visit a personal trainer for a second workout later in the day.
“To ask a guy to come out and be here one or two hours a day and not give him something he feels good about, it sucks for him, because he is going to train elsewhere (too) and that creates resentment,” said former Cardinals quarterback and current Detroit Lion Josh McCown.
Lott said last season in Cleveland he had 19 different workouts set up for the roster and acknowledged he has often been willing to change things for a player — as long as the ultimate goal for that player will be reached.
“I’ve got a little boy, Jasper, who would love to eat jelly beans all the time,” Lott said. “Me being his daddy, I have to give him green beans some times, not just jelly beans.”
Lott said the majority of veterans aren’t expected in until next week, but quarterbacks Matt Leinart and Kurt Warner were both working out Monday, as were Shipp, running back J.J. Arrington and safety Aaron Francisco.
To expect 100 percent participation may be unrealistic — new coach Ken Whisenhunt hopes he can get running back Edgerrin James to come, even though James prefers to train in Florida — but the Cardinals feel they have made the effort to move toward that target.
“You can’t say (either way) is wrong,” Warner said. “You love the camaraderie and working together … but you also understand these are finely tuned athletes, and when they know something works for them and they are comfortable, that’s half the battle.”
EXTRA POINT: Fullback Vonta Leach signed an offer sheet with the New York Giants Monday, ending the Cards’ dealings with the Texans’ restricted free agent. The four-year contract is worth $8 million according to NFL.com, more than the Cards want to pay for the position. The Cards had hosted Leach as their first free-agent visit. The team has also talked about signing veteran fullbacks Terelle Smith and James Hodgins.