TEMPE, Ariz. — Arizona Cardinals rookie safety Deone Bucannon has all of the physical tools necessary to be successful on the field in the NFL.
The Cardinals’ first-round draft pick also knows that doesn’t mean anything when it comes to playing at football’s highest level.
“Everyone out here has the physical tools to be a great player; it’s just a matter of who’s going to be smarter,” Bucannon said Tuesday after the team’s first minicamp practice. “That’s my goal, to be the smartest player out there. I want to learn the playbook the best I can.”
Bucannon has plenty of experience with what it takes to be successful on the football field. He was named a first-team All-American and first-team All-Pac-12 in his final season at Washington State, and he led the conference in both interceptions and tackles.
But the 6-foot-1, 208-pounder didn’t rack up those stats purely through physical ability — though he has plenty of that, too. Bucannon said he prides himself on being one of the smartest players on the field, and that’s something he expects to continue into his NFL career.
“There’s always room for improvement,” he said. “I understand the defense, now I want to take it to the next level. I want to be a playmaker.”
Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said Bucannon took an important step Tuesday after missing time with a foot injury during OTAs last week, adding that “he needs it, psychologically, just to get out there to play.”
Bucannon’s knowledge of the game and ability to quickly understand schemes and concepts hasn’t gone unnoticed on teammates — particularly ones he’ll share a defensive backfield with.
“He can do it all,” safety Rashad Johnson said. “He’s a very smart guy and I’m looking forward to what he’s going to do this year.”
And if Bucannon has his way, Johnson will have a lot to enjoy watching in 2014.
“I expect a lot out of myself,” Bucannon said, “and I’m going to get a lot out of myself.”