Arizona Cardinals’ Rodney Gunter notches sack, safety in first preseason game
GLENDALE, Ariz. — The legend of Rodney Gunter seemed to be growing at an impossible-to-sustain rate shortly after he was taken in the fourth round of the 2015 NFL Draft by the Arizona Cardinals.
An incredible physical specimen at 6-foot-5 and 305 pounds with quickness and strength, the talk was how if he had gone anywhere but Delaware State, Gunter would have been taken much higher in the draft.
Of course, none of that talk would have mattered much if the 23-year-old didn’t produce in real games against NFL players. Struggles there and, well, the hype train would have slowed down — if not come to a stop altogether.
One preseason game into his career and the train is not only chugging ahead, but picking up steam.
Gunter was credited with two tackles, one of which was a sack. And it was not your regular sack. No, Gunter burst through the offensive line virtually untouched and just demolished Kansas City quarterback Aaron Murray in the end zone for a safety.
It led one media member to proclaim — in words that cannot be written here — how divine it was. Head coach Bruce Arians also enjoyed the play.
“King blew the gap just like he was supposed to and made a real nice play,” Arians said, using Gunter’s nickname. “That’s what he’s capable of doing.”
As far as career milestones go, everyone knows this one will not be counted in any record books. Still, for Gunter, his first taste of NFL game action in Arizona’s 34-19 loss was a rather pleasant experience.
“It felt great man,” he said. “My first NFL preseason game, it felt great, man. I got a few more to go, man. I’m ready to improve on.”
As for the play where he got the sack, Gunter said he got off the ball fast, shot the gap, saw the quarterback and just speared him. He said it felt great because you don’t get too many open lanes at the quarterback. But while the scenario may have been unexpected, Gunter said he anticipated getting his first sack.
“I wanted it, I wanted it bad,” he said, before adding it was everything he thought it would be.
Calais Campbell, who has amassed 43.5 sacks in his seven-year career, knows what it’s like to bring down an opposing quarterback. Watching Gunter do it for the first time is something he very much enjoyed.
“I was very hyped for him,” Campbell said. “He’s been working very hard. He exploded off the ball very fast and he tackled him with tenacity.
“I was very excited for him, especially being a safety, he’s getting points on the board. Definitely very excited for him.”
The hope is it’s just a start for Gunter. The rookie said the speed of the game was something he had to adjust to, and after a while he was able to get into a bit of a groove. As a rookie he said he knew it would take some time, but once he figured it out, he was able to just play his game.
Where he goes from here, we’ll just have to see. But for a player who has had some big time expectations placed upon him, Saturday’s effort was a sign that there could be something to them. That’s of little concern to Gunter, however.
“I’m here just trying to contribute to the team, that’s all,” he said.