ARIZONA CARDINALS

Cardinals’ 2nd round of OTAs brings somber reality of Jeff Gladney’s death

Jun 1, 2022, 5:30 PM | Updated: Jun 2, 2022, 11:03 am
(AP Photo/Duane Burleson)...
(AP Photo/Duane Burleson)
(AP Photo/Duane Burleson)

TEMPE — For most NFL teams, organized team activities give organizations a head start of getting back to work for the upcoming season and players the opportunity to be among one another.

That before-the-real-work-starts feeling of good vibes is present over the few days together. The camaraderie can be felt from the sidelines.

But for the Arizona Cardinals, their most recent OTAs session that kicked off Wednesday brought with it the somber reminder of the passing of cornerback Jeff Gladney, who died Monday morning in a car accident that also killed his girlfriend Mercedes Palacios. Both were under the age of 27.

“We all are devastated, it’s been a tough couple of days,” head coach Kliff Kingsbury said Wednesday. “Just a really tragic situation, two young people like that. Our hearts and prayers go out to Jeff’s and Mercedes’ families.

“I think it’s good to be around each other. The team, seeing them yesterday and today that always helps but it’s been some tough days.”

Typically, teams are left to deal with things like injury flare ups or offseason chatter this time of year. Very rarely it’s something of this magnitude.

With that in mind, Kingsbury, who had known Gladney during his time at Texas Tech, made sure to talk with the team as a whole before breaking off into position groups. It provided those with the opportunity to talk openly about the situation and how they were feeling.

“It’s hard to handle but I think it definitely gives all our players a perspective of just how precious life is,” Kingsbury said. “I know a lot of guys want to make sure they live it the right way because you never know.”

Gladney’s death hit the defensive backs room especially hard.

“Those guys were moved by it,” defensive coordinator Vance Joseph said. “He was a great guy, he was working, he was trying to get back on track. He smiled every day. He was going to help us obviously. But this issue is not football. It’s family, it’s person, it’s very sad.

“He’s been here the last two and a half months. We’ve known the kid since he came out for the draft,” Joseph added. “Again, these players are really close from high school to college to different recruiting trips, different agents. Players are really close in this league. Everyone’s feeling it. … It’s been two players in the last two months, same age, something’s got to change.”

The healing from Gladney’s sudden death isn’t stopping on the practice field or once this session of OTAs come to close, either.

As a team, the Cardinals are holding a gathering in honor of the cornerback and spend time with one another.

“I think that’s important to show your love ones how much you love them, tell them every day that you love them, spend the time with everyone because you just never know with life how it’s going to pan out,” wide receiver Rondale Moore said.

“My heart goes out to him and I think today we’re just spending the day just showing each other how much we do love each other and just kind of be around each other and be there for one another.”

EXTRA POINT

– Kingsbury on what it means to have a good majority of veterans back in the mix for this round of OTAs during this time:

“I think having those types of veteran presences around at a time like this is definitely huge. All those guys are great leaders. The (Justin Pughs) and the (Kelvin Beachums) and the (D.J. Humphries), (Kyler Murray) that have been a part of this.

“It helped getting back into normalcy some but definitely any time you can get around those guys I think the younger players kind of gravitate towards them and probably feel better about the whole situation.”

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