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Cardinals’ Deone Bucannon embracing leadership role under Wilks

Arizona Cardinals strong safety Deone Bucannon (20) celebrates a stop against the Minnesota Vikings during the second half of an NFL football game, Thursday, Dec. 10, 2015, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

When Steve Wilks took over as the Arizona Cardinals head coach in January, he inherited a team that had already established veteran leadership among players.

But aside from wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, cornerback Patrick Peterson and defensive end Chandler Jones leading the way at their respective positions, Wilks challenged others to step into a leadership role.

One of those players is Cardinals money linebacker Deone Bucannon, who told 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Stations Bickley & Marotta on Thursday that he has embraced the challenge from the Cardinals’ new head coach.

“I feel like I have always been a leader, it’s just being a leader in a different way,” Bucannon said. “They want that of me and I want that of myself.”

Drafted in the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft by the Cardinals, Bucannon made an impact early on in his career. He appeared in 32 games in his first two seasons, 25 of which were starts, recording 159 tackles along with an interception and a touchdown.

His third season was cut short after he landed on injured reserve due to an ankle injury in Week 13.

Bucannon had surgery on the ankle in May of last year, missing much of the 2017 preseason.

But the issues lingered into the regular season. He suffered a sprained ankle in Week 1 against the Detroit Lions and exited the Cardinals’ Week 12 contest against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

But now healthy for the first time in two seasons, Bucannon said he is ready to prove himself on the field.

“It was tough battling an injury just like anything else,” Bucannon said. “But I am here to overcome adversity, I’m going to fight back and I’m going to be better. There’s no excuses now. I’m going to get out on the field and show them what I am about.”

Bucannon admits that part of his transition into a leadership role involves keeping his emotions in check.

A passionate player by nature, Bucannon has often been seen throughout his career letting his emotions get the best of him on and off the field following a bad game.

While at times it allowed him to make a bone-shattering hit on opposing players, Bucannon admits his emotions have also had the tendency to take him out of the game mentally.

“I get frustrated if I make a bad play,” he said. “That’s just the little things I have to understand and I have to adapt.”

Bucannon said that his instinct from a young age has been to cry after a loss, which he blames on adrenaline and his vast love for the sport.

But as he enters his fifth season in a new-look defense, Bucannon remains poised to set an example for his teammates with his play on the field.

“With what they are expecting of me, I can’t show anything but confidence,” he said. “Those are things I need to get better at and I’m going to be better.

“I’m going to do what I need to do.”