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Arizona Cardinals training camp: Andre Ellington the leader and 'bell cow'

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The running back has taken the title from the retired Rashard Mendenhall.

Don McPeak-USA TODAY Sports

In 2013, Arizona Cardinals running back Andre Ellington referred to veteran Rashard Mendenhall as the position group's "leader" and "bell cow."

Those are words that head coach Bruce Arians used to describe the second-year player, who is being touted as a big breakout player for the season.

"He's in great shape and he's assumed the role of leader now," he said Friday about Ellington. "He's not a rookie anymore and he carries himself differently. Probably should come across that way to you guys now. He's a much more confident guy and more than ready to be bell cow of the offense."

Arians has talked about wanting to give Ellington 25-30 touches a game, and even said 20 carries and 10 catches once in the offseason.

While that seems extreme, he will be featured in the offense and Ellington feels he is prepared. "I took my offseason seriously," he said. "I wanted to come back in the best shape I can be."

There has been talk about some 10 pounds he gained in the offseason. That actually isn't true. Arians noted that Ellington "put a little bit of upper body poundage on and strength, which he needed." Ellington said in terms of actual weight, he only added about four pounds.

He understands that his job "is to not take all those big hits."

Wouldn't it have been good to put on a few more pounds?

He doesn't think so.

"I've still got to be able to run routes," he explained. "I play a lot of receiver, too. I don't want to put on too much weight and get slowed down."

Arians described the weight gain as "good weight." He also didn't talk about getting stronger for between-the-tackles running. Arians actually said, "the big thing for him is to continue to improve as a receiver."

What does that tell you? Expect to see a lot of him lined up as a wideout like he did frequently last season.

So while bell cow usually is spoken to describe a back that will get a lot of carries. He will get more than last season and he may well have the most on the team this season, but an every down back? Maybe not. Perhaps he'll be almost an every down player, but he probably won't be in the backfield for every play.