Cardinals’ Budda Baker grateful for Pro Bowl nod but prefers Super Bowl
Dec 23, 2021, 4:38 PM
(Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Even in the midst of a season with a career-high in interceptions that led to a fourth Pro Bowl honor, Arizona Cardinals safety Budda Baker is solely focused on one thing: winning a Super Bowl.
So it should come as no surprise when the captain told reporters on Thursday that although he is excited and it’s a good feeling to be recognized by the fans, players and coaches, Baker prefers to be preparing for the game after Feb. 6’s Pro Bowl at Allegiant Stadium.
“Hopefully we’re not playing in Vegas and we’re watching it on TV and hopefully we’re still in the season going to the Super Bowl,” he said. “Our minds are strictly on that. For me, it definitely is a blessing as well to make the Pro Bowl.
“Throughout the whole season, when these Pro Bowl situations came about, for me it’s kind of like I just play my own football, do my job and do it at a high level and everything else will come. … But then again we still have a lot of work to do, we’re still trying to get better each and every week.”
#AZCardinals LB Chandler Jones and S Budda Baker on what it means to earn Pro Bowl nods: pic.twitter.com/4QCBYjdTmR
— Tyler Drake (@Tdrake4sports) December 23, 2021
Baker’s three interceptions on the 2021 campaign isn’t the only single-season career-high to be accomplished by a Cardinal this year.
Linebacker Chandler Jones not only posted a single-game career-high of five sacks in Week 1 to match a Cardinals record, but the 31-year-old pass-rusher also set the all-time franchise record for sacks earlier this year when he picked up No. 67 to pass the late Freddie Joe Nunn’s 66.5.
And after missing most of the 2020 season due to injury, Jones is grateful to be joining Baker as the only two Cardinals Pro Bowl starters, especially on a contract year.
“I’ve never been injured where I’ve missed a significant amount of time like that,” he said. “So what that does to a player mentally, that’s something you have to get through. Even stepping out on the field — you don’t want that ever happening again. So for God to have blessed me to make it this far injury-free and to be voted one of the best in the business and the situation I’m in now, it’s a blessing honestly and it feels amazing.
“And the fact that I do it with somebody I’ve been there with (Baker), we’ve been there a few times together. Not getting too excited because we want to play somewhere else, but this is definitely a huge accomplishment for me personally and I’m sure it is for Budda as well.”
Of the Cardinals’ four Pro Bowlers, the two non-starters were quarterback Kyler Murray and running back James Conner.
Similar to Jones, Conner came into the 2021 season looking to prove to the doubters that he still had in his arsenal what made him such a great tailback with the Pittsburgh Steelers before letting him go.
“Just the work ethic, the focus he’s had, the unselfishness,” head coach Kliff Kingsbury said. “He’s done whatever we’ve asked full speed, every day, all day. And so to see a guy like that get that type of recognition I think was huge.
“That’s what he wanted to do was prove to people the type of player he is and he was able to do that this year. So you have to cheer for a guy like that. … It’s a big deal. I think any time you get that type of recognition, a big part it is from other coaches and your peers. I think it definitely builds some confidence.”
If you’ve been living under a rock, the Cardinals running back has a whopping 16 touchdowns on the year, 14 of which are rushing scores that rank second in the NFL behind Indianapolis Colts’ RB Jonathan Taylor’s 17.
“It’s just a story of hard work, faith but also opportunity,” Conner said. “Couldn’t have done it without Mr. Bidwill, Steve Keim, Kliff Kingsbury and all my teammates just accepting me and embracing me. So it’s an honor.
“It’s nice to get back, nice to do it on the NFC side. I have an AFC one and an NFC Pro Bowl, so that’s pretty cool to think about. But the opportunity Steve and Mike gave me, I’m forever grateful.”