Game on: Arizona Cardinals eager to kick off home slate the right way

Sep 16, 2023, 10:02 AM

James Conner smiles at home...

Running back James Conner #6 and safety Budda Baker #3 of the Arizona Cardinals warm up before the NFL game at State Farm Stadium on August 11, 2023 in Glendale, Arizona. The Cardinals defeated the Broncos 18-17. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

TEMPE — The Arizona Cardinals return to the nest for their first regular season game since Christmas 2022 for a Week 2 home opener against the New York Giants on Sunday.

For rookie starters Paris Johnson Jr. and Kei’Trel Clark, it’ll mark the first opportunity to hear their names called with the starters in front of the home crowd at State Farm Stadium — a moment neither take for granted.

“You don’t have (the starter introductions) at Ohio State,” Johnson said. “I saw the Cardinals did that and I just started to think, ‘What am I going to do when they call my name when I come out?’ It’s kind of hyped. You see that stuff all the time when you’re a kid.”

“It was amazing to go back home (in Week 1 against Washington) and have my family but now, I got the Cardinal family here,” Clark said. “I’m excited to go in there and see what the fans are talking about. Come on.”

Excitement for the home opener ran through the locker room throughout the week of practice. Whenever it was brought up to players and coaches, the smiles said it all.

Head coach Jonathan Gannon went a step further when discussing the added juice around the game, asking for fans to bring the noise on defense and turn the volume down on offense.

But for all the hype heading into the matchup, there’s also the realization that the Cardinals haven’t been very successful at home in recent seasons.

Under former head coach Kliff Kingsbury, not once did the Cardinals go above .500 at home across his four-year tenure in the desert.

That statistic was even more magnified last year by the team’s 1-6 mark in Glendale.

But with a new regime comes a clean slate and fresh approach.

“It means a lot for us, especially me, to see those fans out there yelling, screaming, having a good time,” veteran safety Budda Baker said Thursday. “Our goal is to, of course, win. We know we really haven’t done that these past few years and we’re not trying to lose, we’re trying to win.

“It’s a matter of us just continuing to take it one day at a time, one week at a time. It’s great to have all the Cards fans there. Hopefully we can pack the house up.”

And if you need an assist getting out of work and to the game, the safety has you covered.

“If you guys have a job on Sunday, just let me know, message me fans,” he said. “I’ll try and get you the off day. Let’s have a good time and most importantly, let’s get a W.”

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