Cardinals CB Robert Alford out to prove himself following injury-filled stretch

Jun 11, 2021, 2:10 PM
Robert Alford #23 of the Arizona Cardinals laughs with teammate Budda Baker #32 prior to the start ...
Robert Alford #23 of the Arizona Cardinals laughs with teammate Budda Baker #32 prior to the start of the NFL pre-season game against the Los Angeles Chargers at State Farm Stadium on August 08, 2019 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Ralph Freso/Getty Images)
(Photo by Ralph Freso/Getty Images)

TEMPE, Ariz. — After being on the wrong side of a comeback victory in Super Bowl LI, cornerback Robert Alford was ready to turn the page with the Arizona Cardinals in 2019.

Signing a three-year deal with the team, Alford figured to start opposite Patrick Peterson in the secondary as the team navigated the offseason.

But just days before Arizona’s second preseason game of the year, Alford suffered a broken leg, ending his season before it started.

After rehabbing the entire year, Alford was hit with another blow ahead of the preseason in 2020, suffering a torn pectoral during training camp and missing a second consecutive season. In both instances, Alford was an offseason standout before going down with his injuries.

Instead of hanging his head and leaving to receive treatment elsewhere, Alford took it upon himself to remain involved with the team, leaning heavily on his family and faith during the dark times.

While he couldn’t physically be on the field, there was nothing stopping Alford from diving into the playbook or whatever else he could to stay as ready for when he was back at 100%.

So after two years of watching on the sideline, Alford is ready to prove to the Cardinals he is the same player they signed coming out of Atlanta three years ago.

Like his mom always said, “that’s something that was meant to happen and God will always have success for me in the near future.”

“I knew by me being here I’d have a chip on my shoulder even more,” Alford said Thursday after the team’s final day of minicamp. “It’s funny but I read what the media was saying like in the papers. They had their things, everybody had their opinions but all that’s done has added fuel to the fire for me.

“For me to be back with Arizona this year with the coaches and the players I started out with was very huge for me, so that’s why I wanted to come back here and prove myself.”

Despite being on a three-year deal, Alford’s future with the team wasn’t necessarily set in stone when the Cardinals cut the cornerback in a move that saved them $7.5 million in cap space back in March.

But two days later, Alford found his way back to Arizona, inking a one-year deal at the veteran’s minimum. After spending the last two years learning the defense, Alford wanted to make sure his work wasn’t for nothing.

“Our entire staff is obviously pulling for Rob. Last few years have been tough in just the manner in which the injuries happened,” head coach Kliff Kingsbury said Tuesday. “He’s worked his tail off to get back in shape after two years of not being able to play.

“Basically told us, ‘Hey I want to come back. I owe you guys, so I’ll come back for whatever deal because I owe the organization, I owe the Cardinals and I want to prove that y’all were right about me.’ Obviously we respect that a ton. He’s a great leader around here, brings great juice, great energy and it’s been great to see him back out there.”

Not only does Alford provide the team with a good comeback story to rally behind, his health figures to be a key factor to the secondary’s success in 2021.

Before joining the Cardinals, Alford racked up 10 interceptions, 85 pass deflections and 303 tackles over six seasons with the Falcons. He missed just two games from 2015-18, starting 62 as one of the team’s top defensive backs.

But it’s his traits that don’t come up on the statsheet that have had his teammates raving about the corner since he got to town.

“Those of you who do not know Robert Alford, he’s a guy who is a big talker,” safety Budda Baker said Tuesday. “A guy who loves the game, a guy who last year knew was damn near a season-ending injury and would still go to meetings, would still go to practice and watch practice and help young guys out or help even older guys out in seeing things.

“Now that he’s on the field, I know he’s very excited. He still looks like the great Robert Alford, a fresh Robert Alford and I’m excited to see him play because today he was locking some stuff up today and it was great to see.”

The starting cornerback job opposite of Malcolm Butler has yet to be decided, but it’s certainly a goal Alford is hoping to obtain in his third year in the the desert.

“He knows that if he’s healthy, he’s a big part of this defense,” defensive coordinator Vance Joseph said Wednesday. “Again, when you’re speaking about leaders and guys that’s pushing guys, he is on top of our list as far as leaders.”

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