Arizona Cardinals rookie Rodney Gunter has ‘no other choice than to be great’

Aug 20, 2015, 2:10 PM | Updated: Aug 22, 2015, 1:17 pm
Kansas City Chiefs' Aaron Murray (7) gets tackled in the end zone by Arizona Cardinals' Rodney Gunt...
Kansas City Chiefs' Aaron Murray (7) gets tackled in the end zone by Arizona Cardinals' Rodney Gunter, left, for a safety during the second half of an NFL preseason football game Saturday, Aug. 15, 2015, in Glendale, Ariz. The Chiefs defeated the Cardinals 34-19. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

GLENDALE, Ariz. – Next.  Man.  Up.

It’s the mantra the Arizona Cardinals lived by a year ago, and really ever since head coach Bruce Arians arrived in 2013.

The motto was dusted off on Thursday when it was announced starting nose tackle Corey Peters would be lost for the season with a torn Achilles.

“You just hate it for him,” cornerback Jerraud Powers said, “but as a football team in the NFL, injuries, you expect it, you deal with it and you just move on.”

Rookie Rodney Gunter will get the first opportunity to fill Peters’ spot along the defensive line.  The Cardinals drafted the 6-foot-5, 305 pound defensive end in the fourth round, 116th overall, out of Delaware State.

“It’s time for a rookie to step up,” said Gunter, who has impressed the coaches with his play inside.  “Time to go to work, time to grow up fast.  I’m ready to do my job.”

Though he played only one year of high school football, Gunter excelled at Delaware State, leading the team in sacks in each of his final three seasons.  A four-year starter and three-time All-MEAC selection, Gunter totaled 188 tackles, 37 tackles for loss, 18 sacks, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery during his career.

In his first game action in the NFL, Gunter sacked Kansas City quarterback Aaron Murray for a safety in the fourth quarter of the preseason opener.

“He is unbelievably talented.  He’s strong.  He just loves playing ball.  The kid is willing to do whatever it takes,” defensive end Cory Redding said.  “He wants to get on the field and he wants to make this team and you love to see that from an older guy looking to a young guy, just because it kind of reminds you of yourself a little bit.

“We’ve got the confidence for him to do it and now it’s his job to step up to the plate and knock out this home run this next game.”

The Cardinals host San Diego on Saturday and Gunter will be in the starting lineup, according to Arians.  He’ll lineup alongside two veterans, Redding and Calais Campbell.

“Gunter can play,” Campbell said.  “He’s very physically blessed.  He’s got good instincts.  He’s made plays this camp against our 1s that are like, ‘wow, this guy can be special.’   We just have to figure out how to get it out of him consistently.

“You can see it in his mind, he’s ready.  I’m not worried at all.  I think we’ll be fine.”

Others who could see playing time at nose tackle, include Alameda Ta’amu and Xavier Williams, an undrafted rookie free agent out of Northern Iowa.

Right now, though, the job belongs to Gunter, who said he’ll lean on his veteran teammates for guidance.

“I’m surrounded by greatness, so I have no other choice than to be great,” he said.

It’s the harsh reality of the NFL, where one man’s injury is another man’s opportunity.

“You tell (the team) you feel bad for Corey and there’s practice today at 2 o’clock,” Arians said.

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