After spending training camp last summer in Prescott instead of their traditional home in Flagstaff, the Cardinals gave each city a chance to woo the team for the long term. Tradition won out.
Friday, the team announced it had agreed on a new three-year training camp contract with Northern Arizona University. The prior contract expired in 2005.
The new deal has not been signed while the sides work out further details that will include as yet unnamed improvements.
“The competition (between the cities) certainly didn’t hurt the club any,” Cardinals vice president of football operations Rod Graves said.
“There will be some recognizable differences from a fan standpoint. There will certainly be some differences from a team standpoint.”
Graves praised the effort Prescott made in trying to retain the team. The Cardinals were forced to move their entire camp to Prescott with only a few days' preparation in July after a norovirus infected more than 100 people attending various sports camps at NAU.
Looking to avoid a mass outbreak of illness, the Cardinals bailed on Flagstaff. At the time, Prescott city leaders made it clear they wanted the move to be permanent.
But Flagstaff wanted the Cardinals back.
“From the perspective of the community of Flagstaff, it was extremely important. And with the university, it was a high priority,” said Dave Brown, director of NAU’s Walkup Skydome and liaison between the school and the Cardinals for training camp.
NAU has built-in advantages for an NFL team. Its football team has three beautifully manicured practice fields next to each other that the Cardinals use in camp; Prescott had trouble getting multiple fields together for football use.
NAU also has the Skydome the Cardinals can use in inclement weather. Brown said Flagstaff and NAU “relied mostly on our history” as the team’s longtime camp setting in selling the city this time around.
“But as a university,” Brown added, “we are always trying to upgrade. That will play out as the contract is finalized.”
Both Brown and Graves declined to elaborate on those details. But there are situations that could be improved, like housing the team in a more modern dorm or replacing the aging artificial turf in the Skydome.
The Cardinals are also expected to keep their entire camp in Flagstaff. Two years ago they spent the final week of camp in Prescott because they had to move out of the NAU dormitories for the beginning of school. Last year, the team planned the same thing before the norovirus hit.
The Cardinals are scheduled to report to training camp July 30.
The Cardinals have tendered offers to every one of their restricted free agents, all of them believed to be at the “low” tender of $712,000: Guard Jeremy Bridges, linebacker Gerald Hayes, defensive tackle Kenny King, defensive end Anton Palepoi, guard Reggie Wells and running back Damien Anderson. . . .
NFL sources said Friday the Cardinals will likely make a free agent push for Baltimore defensive tackle Maake Kemoeatu, Detroit guard (and former ASU lineman) Kyle Kosier and Houston guard Milford Brown. Other names that have emerged as potential targets are San Francisco linebacker Julian Peterson, New York cornerback Will Allen and Pittsburgh receiver Antwaan Randle El. . . .
The Cardinals, who are in the middle of relocating season-ticket holders, want to remind fans they can make the new seat selections over the phone if they prefer. For information, call (602) 379-0102.