GLENDALE, Ariz. — Oh, the highs and lows of being a rookie in the National Football League.
Tuesday morning, Arizona Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians made an example of safety Deone Bucannon for a questionable hit in Monday’s practice.
“He was trying to show off a little bit,” Arians said. “He tried to show that he’s a tough guy and we know he’s a tough guy.
“He’d have gotten flagged and penalized and they’d have the ball first and goal on the 1-yard line, so it’s stupid. But he learned from it.”
A few hours later, Bucannon, obviously unfazed by his coach’s criticism, pulled off the highlight of the Tuesday afternoon practice at University of Phoenix Stadium.
Bucannon stepped in front of a Carson Palmer pass, made a one-handed interception and took it to the end zone for a touchdown. The Washington State product has been playing a hybrid safety-linebacker position in Arizona’s dime package.
“They just let me get down there in the dollar position and act like I’m blitzing,” Bucannon said. “You know, just get out and try to trick the quarterback and maybe get in the window and help out the DBs behind me. Thankfully, I was there to be able to get my hands on the ball.”
Bucannon certainly has a knack for that — 15 interceptions in a four-year collegiate career serve as proof. The Cardinals are hoping the hard-hitting safety can bring that nose for the football to the next level.
“I’m just out there trying to make as many plays as possible,” he said. “That’s just thanks to the people who are out there on the field with me — D-linemen getting pressure to get the quarterback a little more excited than usual and give me a chance to intercept the ball.”
The step up in competition level from the college ranks to the NFL is a steep one, but Bucannon feels he’s starting to grasp the changes even though he’s got just four full training camp practices under his belt.
“A little bit, but everybody out there, they’re great players,” Bucannon said. “It’s going to take a little bit more than four days for anybody — you’ve got to get out there and get adjusted. But it definitely is slowing down for me, but at the same time, I’ve got to stay in my playbook and I’ve got to study and keep on getting better.”
Despite being the 27th overall pick and third safety selected in May’s NFL Draft, Bucannon knows he’s just like every other rookie in his first training camp.
“I want to earn the respect of my teammates. I want to show them that I can get out here and play with them and that I can be a positive influence on this team,” he said. “I’ve always said it doesn’t matter where you got picked, it doesn’t matter how you got here, I want to come here with the same mindset each and every day.
“I’m on the bottom of the totem pole. I’m trying to work my way up and show the vets — and we’ve got some great players, some of the best players out here — I want to show them what I can do.”