Cardinals C Rodney Hudson focused on family, body during absence

Jul 29, 2022, 1:20 PM
Rodney Hudson #61 of the Arizona Cardinals during warm-ups before the game Seattle Seahawks at Lume...
Rodney Hudson #61 of the Arizona Cardinals during warm-ups before the game Seattle Seahawks at Lumen Field on November 21, 2021 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)
(Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

GLENDALE — Kliff Kingsbury and the Arizona Cardinals were unsurprisingly concerned when starting center Rodney Hudson didn’t show up for mandatory team mini-camp in June. What would they do if the man acquired last offseason to enhance quarterback Kyler Murray opted for retirement?

Hudson’s absence was initially categorized as unexcused by the Cardinals head coach.

Now, a month-and-a-half later, Hudson is back over the ball for training camp. Ultimately, to the relief of his head coach, he opted against retirement, returning for his second season with Arizona.

“I just think (it was) like any other season,” Hudson said Friday about his offseason thought process. “Take some time off, spend some time with my family. I think in this sport we all say family comes before football. That’s something that wasn’t true in my world. You got to work all day, you come home, your kids go to sleep in two hours.

“I just went home spent some time with my family, tried to heal up, recover and go from there.”

Hudson didn’t disclose whether he was fined for missing mandatory camp but said he’s “moved past” that ordeal.

He emphasized that having his second child played a role in his longer-than-expected decision. His health was a factor too, as he missed four games thanks to a rib injury in 2021.

This summer, he kept in contact with his friends on the Cardinals but said they gave him space to make a decision about retirement himself.

The boxes were eventually checked in time for training camp, though Hudson admits he can’t speculate on if he’ll consider retirement again before next season (he is under contract through 2023).

“When you start the season, you’re all in. That’s it,” he said.

“I can’t even take my mind to next offseason. I’m just focused on now and when next offseason comes, who knows?”

Kingsbury is probably thankful for having Hudson again for this year.

Though the Cardinals coach initially characterized Hudson’s absence as unexcused, Kingsbury added on Friday that the team communicated around mini-camp to better understand Hudson’s perspective.

“We talked it through with him. We knew what he was dealing with and how he was feeling, and we knew that it was basically 50-50 at that point,” Kingsbury said. “So we didn’t want to try to force his hand and make him come to something where he may be retiring at that point.

“To me, that’s the biggest thing: We wanted to make sure he understands, ‘We’re not against you on this deal. We know what you’re going through. We’re here for you.'”

The Cardinals prepared for life without Hudson in voluntary and mandatory camp with Sean Harlow, rookie Lecitus Smith and even left guard Justin Pugh taking center snaps. Still, Kingsbury admitted he had some level of worry about losing Hudson.

“You need a guy who’s locked in, who studies it,” the head coach said. “Rodney studies more film than anybody I’ve ever been around. It’s got to be a very heads-up, cerebral, tough leader. I mean, all those things go into (playing center). When you have a good one, it’s hard to replace.”

So just how close was Hudson to calling it a football career after 11 NFL seasons?

“I don’t know. I don’t have a meter so to speak. … You spend a lot of time away from your family, your loved ones. Those things at my age, you at least start to think about.

“Worked on my body, tried to get my body in a place where I feel good about it and came to a decision.”

Added Kingsbury: “We thought he was coming back towards the start of camp but once he showed up, I could take a deep breath.”

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