It may still be the preseason, but Arizona Cardinals players have several reasons to take their next game seriously.
One of those reasons is the fact the franchise's former head coach, Ken Whisenhunt, now serves as the offensive coordinator for the team the Cardinals will face Saturday, the San Diego Chargers.
Whisenhunt had a 45-51 record in six seasons as the Cardinals head coach. Under his direction, the team went to its first Super Bowl and had two winning seasons in his first three years. However, the team went 18-30 over his last three seasons, and he was relieved of his duties on Dec. 31, 2012.
Even though Whisenhunt's tenure in the Valley ended on a sour note, several Cardinals players are looking forward to seeing their former coach Saturday.
"He's the only coach I've ever played for until now, so it'll be good to see him," defensive end Calais Campbell said Monday. "I'll definitely say hi to him after the game, but after that it's just football.
"I might know a little bit of what they're trying to do since I've been going against (Whisenhunt's offense) in practice for so many years."
Offensive lineman Daryn Colledge noted that many players had a strong relationship with Whisenhunt and that the preseason contest will allow both parties to reunite, even if it's only for a brief period.
"I think most of the guys in here respect him -- the guys that know him and played with him," said Colledge. "Then again, I probably know that he'll have his mind set on making a point (to beat us)."
Another reason Cardinals players are taking the San Diego game seriously: The third preseason game is often elicits the most playing time for the first-team offense and defense.
Campbell said the starters may be seeing time into the third quarter against the Chargers.
"I think this is probably the most critical game for the guys who pretty much are going to be here (on the final roster)," the six-year veteran said. "And then for the young guys who are trying to get in and make the roster, this is a chance to show you can gel in a situation where you're going to be playing with most of the guys who are going to be playing on Sundays this season."
He added that the starters likely won't play as much in the fourth preseason game, so the San Diego contest provides one last opportunity for evaluation before the season starts.
"It's going to be fun to see where we're at against a good team -- good offense."
Saturday is the only matchup of the season between the two teams.