The Arizona Cardinals were the team that showed the most interest in former Northern Illinois center Scott Wedige throughout the NFL draft process.
After being passed over draft weekend, Wedige, an Elkhorn, Wis., native, figured Arizona would offer him the best opportunity to make an NFL roster.
Yet, there was one other thing that drew Wedige to the desert. Something he called “the icing on the cake.”
Signing with the Cardinals as an undrafted free agent allowed Wedige to work with Hall of Fame offensive lineman Russ Grimm.
Grimm is beginning his fifth season as Cardinals offensive line coach and is in his 16th year coaching the offensive line in the NFL. He spent 11 years as a guard with the Washington Redskins, winning three Super Bowls.
Grimm was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2010.
Being able to learn from a coach such as Grimm just added to Wedige’s desire to head to Arizona.
“Great guy. Great guy to learn from,” Wedige said. “It was a great decision to come here and start my career.”
Arizona finished its organized team activity schedule June 7. Wedige completed a minicamp Thursday, and will have a few more workouts before heading back home. The Cardinals report to training camp July 24 in Flagstaff, Ariz.
During OTAs, Wedige got the opportunity to really learn the fundamentals of playing center in the NFL from someone who had a Hall of Fame career playing on the offensive line.
“Just little things. How to really read a defense, how to do things a little different than you’d think of doing in college,” Wedige said. “Really understanding and picking up on the offense. And then just tricks of the trade, because he played the position.
“So, not all coaches played the position. He was definitely a guy where, I’ve been there, done that, I can show you and help you in the best way possible.”
The “little things” consist of aspects of the game such as picking up a different way of blocking, getting a better angle on a block to take on a more athletic linebacker, or getting better leverage on the defense.
Wedige said to really show what he can pick up from someone such as Grimm, it has to be shown on a chalkboard.
“It’s definitely the nuances he’s teaching us to really get the job done and get it done well,” Wedige said.
During Arizona’s first rookie minicamp, Wedige said his “head was spinning” while learning the Cardinals’ offense and pass protections, which are more complex than what he experienced at NIU.
With minicamps and OTAs finished, Wedige feels like he’s been able to get a feel for Arizona’s system.
“I was talking with a couple of guys; we were finally starting to get a good grasp of the offense,” Wedige said. “Where we were making calls confidently and really protecting well and running the offense well.”
The Cardinals have three centers on their offseason roster. Wedige, Lyle Sendlein, who has been Arizona’s starter since 2008, and Ryan Bartholomew, who is in his second year. Teams typically carry two centers on the 53-man roster.
With training camp just more than a month away, Wedige says he feels both grateful and confident of his chance with Arizona.
“I definitely think I have a great opportunity ahead of me. Nothing’s set in stone yet; there’s a lot of work yet to be done with training camp coming up,” Wedige said. “I feel like I’ve definitely put my best foot forward going into training camp. I’m excited for the opportunity that I have, and I can’t wait to go up to Flagstaff at 7,000 feet and get to work.”