Frostee Rucker was not necessarily the most heralded free agent pickup the Cardinals made in in 2013, but all he has done since then is establish himself as a solid player and team leader.
He stepped up big in 2014 after fellow defensive lineman Darnell Dockett went down, recording a career-best five sacks to go along with 37 total tackles and two forced fumbles.
But after three straight seasons of playing in all 16 games from 2011 to 2013 and 15 in 2014, the last two seasons he has battled nagging injuries that limited him to 13 games each year.
This past season, a knee injury cost him three games after an ankle injury limited him the year before.
A free agent, Rucker said watching the Patriots knock off the Falcons in Super Bowl LI reminded him how much he wants to win a ring.
“I’ll do whatever it takes to get one,” he told Off the Edge with B-Train on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM Thursday.
That meant getting right back to football as soon as the NFL season officially came to an end.
“I watched the game with about 15 of my teammates,” Rucker said. “We watched the game closely; you know, I don’t think there were much words said. We were just really on it because that was our goals, obviously we all know that — I think everybody in the state of Arizona knows those were our goals and we want to do that.
“I got right into the gym the next day; I’ve been rehabbing my ankle. I suffered that two years ago and went through the whole season playing hurt, doing whatever I could, and now I have the ability to take the time to rest and rehab, rest and rehab.”
A 33-year-old with 20 career sacks, Rucker said he feels wonderful now and is excited for what lies ahead. For the Cardinals, the immediate future holds quite a bit of intrigue.
The team has more than 20 free agents to decide on, but received some good news over the last couple of weeks as both receiver Larry Fitzgerald and quarterback Carson Palmer announced they would return for the 2017 season.
“For the most part, Larry and Carson are coming back and that’s huge,” Rucker said. “Huge for the franchise, huge for the community.
“I’d like to see Calais get back…what he does for the community just means so much and I’ve watched him grow; he does a tremendous job of being himself.”
Rucker added he believes the team has plenty of leaders, but that the leadership roles may need to be redefined.
“I think it’s time for everyone to look themself in the mirror and come back with a hungry appetite and a hungry attitude and energy when the workouts start to get this done. There doesn’t need to be a lot of talk.”
What there would have to be, at least for Rucker, is a new contract. He said he would like to come back to Arizona because they’ve built a foundation that can be improved upon.
“It’s a different feeling, it’s a different atmosphere when you walk into that building,” he said. “I know the guys, I mean, half the team’s in there working out now. I went in there and half the team’s in there working out.”
Rucker added the players could be anywhere right now in the offseason, but that they’ve chosen to try to improve their craft.
“People want a chance, people want an opportunity and here’s a chance to do it,” he said. “Get ahead now. Don’t wait until workouts start. Workouts start when you wake up.”
Rucker has played for three teams since entering the NFL as a third round pick in the 2006 NFL Draft out of USC. The first five seasons of his career were with the Cincinnati Bengals, and then he spent one season with the Cleveland Browns before heading to Arizona.
He said he wants to keep playing until he is done learning, and as of now there is still plenty he does not know.
“My football IQ’s going up and I’m still learning,” he said. “My body feels great. I think I can do it a couple more years. I feel good right now, so I’ll take that.
“As soon as I stop learning, that’s when I’ll be done.”
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