CHARLOTTE -- For years, the Arizona Cardinals have been the tease of the NFL. It's seemed like each year they were the chic pick to be a breakout team, only to return to the old, familiar (losing) ways.
They're just 3-2 now, hardly looking like a juggernaut, but there are clear signs from the desert that things are turning around.
Most of the credit's going to new coach Ken Whisenhunt, who's brought a championship resumé and a new attitude with him. From going for and converting some key fourth downs, to completely revamping the team's weight room, the former Pittsburgh offensive coordinator has brought a new fire.
"I think first and foremost a lot of guys were just ready for a change," quarterback Kurt Warner said. "The excitement for guys was that they were shaking things up, they were changing things and it was going to be a new philosophy, a new way to go about things. So I think there was excitement from the get go. You apply what he brings to the table with the success that he has had and also with what he has been preaching.
"You follow through with that and now you're sitting at 3-2 after five games, which nobody expected. Now we are starting to buy into it and believe it and understand if we stay to his plan we can be successful. I think that's what he has brought to the table more than anything is that he convinced us and instilled a confidence in this team that we haven't had very much in the last few years. It's fun to finally see guys playing up to there potential, because they are playing confidently."
The Cardinals have always had potential, with a dynamic pair of receivers in Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald. Adding running back Edgerrin James last year, along with the reclamation of two-time league MVP Warner has enabled them to finally deliver.
"I think the biggest thing for our players was that they looked around and said, 'We have got some good players at different positions so why haven't we won,'" Whisenhunt said. "They're looking for direction. I think coming from Pittsburgh, especially after having just won the Super Bowl a year and a half ago, it gave us some credibility. When we came in here we said 'This is the way we are going to do it.' It was much easier for them to say, 'OK I'm going to buy in it, and I'm going to try it this way.'
"They believe in it because this staff has had success this way. I think that was a tremendous help on getting the guys on board with how we wanted to do things."
• DOME SWEET DOME: The days of opposing fans taking over Sun Devil Stadium are over, as the Cardinals actually have a home-field advantage in gleaming new University of Phoenix Stadium. They've got a streak of 15 straight sell-outs (no small feat for a traditional doormat), and their new building is getting a reputation for noise when the retractable roof is closed.
"It's a great building and it's got the potential to be outstanding as far as the home field-advantage goes," said Warner, whose career record is 30-10 indoors. "I don't think we have even touched the tip of the iceberg as far as how loud we can make it. As most teams know if you put a good product in that building then the turn out and the sound inside that building is emphasized. It's getting there, its growing and its getting better.
"People here want to have something to cheer for. They want to have something they can get behind. When it gets to that point, when we really sell the games out and show them that we can put a product out there consistently I think you're going to see that building explode. We are in that process right now, it's getting louder and louder."
• INJURY UPDATE: Quarterback David Carr (back) practiced fully Friday, and was listed as probable for Sunday's game.
He had been held out of the previous two days of practice, but all indications were positive Friday. Coach John Fox stopped short of declaring him the starter, but unless he stiffens up during a four-hour flight to Phoenix, he should be there.
Cornerback Ken Lucas (shoulder) and linebacker James Anderson (thigh) were also listed as probable, having participated fully.
Linebackers Dan Morgan (Achilles) and Adam Seward (calf), along with running back Nick Goings (concussion) were declared out, and won't travel with the team.