TEMPE, Ariz. — Antoine Cason’s locker in the Arizona Cardinals’ Tempe training facility is in a corner, somewhat out of the way.
Though never averse to chatting with the media, truth be told, he hasn’t had much to talk about this season. Since signing as a free agent with the team after five seasons in San Diego, Cason has seen his role change from starting cornerback to special teams player, with only the occasional contribution as a member of the defense.
Pressed into a larger role Sunday due to injuries around him, Cason responded with four tackles, two interceptions, two passes defensed and one fumble recovery in the Cardinals’ 37-34 overtime win over the Tennessee Titans.
Needless to say, his locker was a popular destination for members of the media Wednesday afternoon, as Cason went from being a bit of a forgotten man on an elite defense to someone who stepped up when the team needed him most.
“It was huge and the feeling is great,” Cason said of coming up big for the team. “It’s kind of hard to explain, hard to put into words. But just continue to stick to it all year and make the most of the opportunity that the coaches give me, so that’s really what I was priding myself on all year to keep myself going.”
It’s no secret that Cason’s season has not gone according to plan, but he’s never once complained about his situation. The former University of Arizona star continued to work hard so that he’d be ready when called upon. That did not go unnoticed.
“He got a game ball,” teammate Patrick Peterson said. “Everyone noticed that Antoine didn’t like his role, but at the end of the day he was a classy professional. He came to work every day to work and he went about his business. Once his number was called, as you can tell, we didn’t miss a beat.”
Peterson noted that the secondary as a whole had a rough game against the Titans, as quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick threw for 402 yards and four touchdowns in the game. But, he said, that wasn’t on Cason.
“He came and he did his part, and he won the game for us.
If Cason didn’t exactly win the game for the Cardinals, he certainly helped the cause. He returned his first interception, which came in the fourth quarter, 20 yards for a touchdown, giving Arizona a 34-17 lead. His second interception, which came in overtime, stopped a Titans’ drive and led to Jay Feely’s game-winning field goal.
From barely contributing in the box score to being someone who received a game ball, it was quite a turn of events for the 27-year-old former first-round pick, who said being the “next man up” can be a bit of a challenge. After all, Cason himself spent the last 14 games not playing a lot of cornerback, only to be thrust into a key role in a pivotal game.
“That sounds easy; it definitely wasn’t easy but it’s just one of those things where you stick to it, stick to it, stick to it,” he said. “I love playing the game and the guys, and being on the team of course we’re winning and we have an opportunity to go to the playoffs. We’re definitely playing for something so that’s huge and to keep a positive attitude in the midst of my situation — at this point it’s not about me individually.
“Just keep working hard to be ready for my opportunity, and once I get my opportunity, step up and play well for the guys that have already been playing well.”