As Anquan Boldin stays away in a contract dispute, Steve Breaston has confidently moved up to the No. 2 wide receiver spot for the Arizona Cardinals.
Breaston knows how important these summer "voluntary" practices can be. It was a year ago, in the searing Arizona heat, that Breaston opened the eyes of coaches with his talent and effort.
"When it came to game time, they could trust in me," Breaston said after Monday's practice. "They could rely on me to do good things."
The speedy receiver went on to become Arizona's third 1,000-yard receiver in 2008, catching 77 passes for 1,006 yards, an average of 13.1 yards per catch. That compares with 96 catches for 1,431 yards for Larry Fitzgerald and 89 catches for 1,038 yards for Boldin.
In four playoff games, Breaston caught 13 passes for 148 yards.
Boldin, in a long contract dispute with the Cardinals, didn't participate in last month's minicamp because of what he said was a sore hamstring. He has not taken part in any of the subsequent voluntary workouts.
That has cleared the way for more plays in practice for Breaston with the first team.
"I've just got more opportunities now," he said. "Just with Q not being here _ and it's trouble him not being here _ but it's good for me getting more reps. It's good for everybody. Everybody gets a lot more."
The team's other receivers _ Jerheme Urban, Early Doucet, and Lance Long _ also have had more chances to impress the coaches.
If they need an example of how the summer can make a career, they need look no farther than Breaston.
Breaston was no sure bet to even make the team when he was drafted in the fifth round out of Michigan in 2007, the 142nd player chosen overall. He was looked upon as perhaps a kick returner but there were questions about his ability to catch the ball.
He returned kickoffs and punts as a rookie, including a 73-yard punt return for a touchdown against the Pittsburgh Steelers, but he saw only sparse time at receiver, catching nine passes for 82 yards. He vowed to show over the summer that he was more than just a kick returner.
"I think the biggest thing was I was reliable," Breaston said. "Going against DBs, making plays, I think that's important, even in OTAs (voluntary workouts). It carries over to the games."
As the season went on, Kurt Warner gained more and more confidence in his young receiver.
"There was so much pressure, but I embraced the pressure, just playing alongside Anquan and Larry," Breaston said, "just how good of receivers they are. You don't want that big drop-off. You want to keep going."
Warner said Boldin's absence will help all the young receivers.
"So much of this game is getting reps and seeing things live," Warner said. "It's one thing to talk about it in a meeting room or draw it on a board or see it on film, it's completely another thing to see it in front of you. That's where it gets valuable for Steve running with the No. 1 against the No. 1 defense, but also for the guys that are moving up a step behind him."
Now all those doubts about whether Breaston could catch seem ancient history.
"I told a lot of people that once I left my school there was a big cloud lifted," Breaston said. "What they said back in college or what I did in college, it doesn't determine where I'm going or what I'm going to do in this league. When I got here, I had a chip on my shoulder but the cloud was gone. No matter what people say, they can't determine the outcome I will have in the NFL."