TEMPE — For the first time since he arrived in the desert in 2019, cornerback Robert Alford enters Week 1 with a clean bill of health.
Plagued with season-ending injuries his first two seasons in the desert, Alford has had to overcome a lot of adversity during his time with the Cardinals.
Now, the corner’s just two days out from making his debut with the team he first signed with just over two years ago.
“It means everything, I’ve been hurt the past two years, so just to get through camp and get to Week 1 was major for me,” Alford said after practice Friday. “It’s a blessing at the end of the day and I’m ready to roll on Sunday.”
Cardinals CB Robert Alford is “ready to roll” against Tennessee after missing the past two seasons due to injuries. pic.twitter.com/1Y7kiBsn1j
— Tyler Drake (@Tdrake4sports) September 10, 2021
But Alford won’t be the only cornerback expected to take meaningful snaps while taking the field for the first time in a Cardinals uniform.
With Malcolm Butler’s recent retirement at the end of August, rookie Marco Wilson has been quickly been elevated into a much more meaningful role in Arizona’s defense.
Despite the sudden in change on the depth chart, the fourth-round pick out of Florida has remained even keel.
“Marco since Day 1, he was always locked in. He was always preparing no matter how many reps he was getting,” Alford said. “He was always preparing to be a starter or whatever he had to do.
“Since Malcolm left, you still see the same demeanor. He comes out there and wants to be better each and every day. That’s all you ask for as a coach and as a teammate.”
The Cardinals will need every bit of Alford and Wilson alongside the emerging Byron Murphy against a tough Titans offense that features Julio Jones and A.J. Brown, two proven commodities in the receiving game.
Arizona’s Week 1 draw of Tennessee and its receiving corps has left many to question how exactly the Cardinals plan to cover two of the best receivers they’ll face all season.
It’s all about cutting out the outside noise and focusing on what you can control for Alford.
“You’re always gonna hear the chatter, but at the end of the day, we’re confident in the group we have here,” he said.
“The coaches put together a great game plan for this upcoming Sunday and all we gotta do is go out there and execute and let the chatter be the chatter. At the end of the day, we’re the ones going out there playing.”
– Alford on Butler’s retirement:
“It was a bit surprising but at the end of the day, we want the best for Malcolm. Malcolm was a great player, a great friend in the locker room. All I can say is we wish the best for him. … I talk to Malcolm almost every day. We just talk about life, we talk about the friendships, we talk about football. He’s doing great and … I wish the best for him and it is what it is.”