Cardinals CB Robert Alford confident as ever coming off injury
By the middle of the 2019 preseason, it was already clear that Robert Alford was the chatter-box trash-talker on the Arizona Cardinals. He was also one of the team’s better training camp performers.
So it wasn’t surprising on Wednesday that he joined a Zoom call with reporters rocking a Michael Jordan t-shirt to represent the GOAT of not only smack-talking but self-motivating.
Coming off a broken leg that ended his first year with the Cardinals before it began, Alford bellowed confidence about his preparedness for 2020.
“It took a couple months for me to get back. As far as now, the offseason, I feel like I’m 100%,” he said. “I’m good. I’m able to do everything I want to do.”
Alford is working out in Atlanta and has access to weights and football fields. He’s attending virtual team meetings in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.
The injury to his leg in mid-August, the middle of the preseason, didn’t shake his confidence. It hardly seems to have frustrated him even though Alford spent all of the the prior year with the Atlanta Falcons playing through and struggling to perform due to an ankle injury.
“Last year when I was out, I still treated it like I was actually going into a game setting each and every week and playing,” Alford said. “I was still going to meetings, I was still going to practice.
“I didn’t want to let the injury keep me away or make me feel like I wasn’t part of the team.”
Same goes for the current times, when Alford is still excited to make his Cardinals debut — even though he’s preparing without the ability to take the field to this point.
Alford said “the sky is the limit” for the Cardinals. He believes the unchanged secondary will take a massive step forward in 2020 despite allowing the second-most passing yards per game (281.9) and sixth-worst passing defense rating, according to Football Outsiders.
Patrick Peterson hit his stride in the final quarter of the season after struggling to find a groove coming off his suspension. Second-round choice Byron Murphy can lock in as a nickelback after moving all over as a rookie, while backup corners Chris Jones and Kevin Peterson slide back on the depth chart after earning valuable experience last year.
At safety, Pro Bowler Budda Baker can play under a defensive coordinator for consecutive seasons for the first time, and Arizona liked what it saw in his partner, 2019 supplemental draft pick Jalen Thompson. Second-year pro Deionte Thompson, plus special-teamers Chris Banjo and Charles Washington, are also back.
“Most of the guys that’s in the secondary, in our room, in the cornerbacks room, has played a year together already,” Alford said. “I feel like that helped a lot. Everyone is just staying on top of each other and making sure we’re taking advantage of this opportunity and we don’t pass this opportunity up.
“From Murph to the backend with DT and those guys, man, it was big. Just for them to get that under their belt … I feel like with me and Pat being back, and Budda and the rest of us being back this year, I feel like the sky is the limit for us as a backend. I feel like they’ve done real good and they held up last year.”
Last summer before getting hurt, Alford made himself known to his new team, which had signed him to a three-year deal after Atlanta released him.
He took advantage of practice referees refusing to throw their flags; during one practice he manhandled receiver Damiere Byrd in coverage to the point the two got in a brief scuffle. Alford’s production at that point in time was a relieving sign with Peterson about to miss the first six games of the season due to a PED suspension.
Suddenly, Alford’s season was lost.
Now, he understands that people might be looking past him for whatever reason: because he’s a player who hasn’t been healthy in the past two years or because they think his struggles in 2018 with Atlanta were about the now-31-year-old’s decline.
“I always use stuff like that. I hear a lot of chatter,” he said. “At the end of the day, I’m self-motivated. I watch a lot of film or what-not, I watch a lot of film of our opponents. At the end of the day, I always play with a chip on my shoulder and that doesn’t ever leave me.”