Arizona Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury sounded confident Wednesday that Pro Bowl safety Budda Baker will play Sunday against the New York Jets, less than two weeks after undergoing thumb surgery.
The team hinted at such a belief Tuesday when it released safety Curtis Riley, who started in Arizona’s Week 4 loss to the Tennessee Titans before being replaced by backup Charles Washington.
“Budda being back this week will definitely make us all feel better,” Kingsbury said Wednesday. “He’s one of the best players in the league and brings a lot of things on and off the field to our locker room.
“I thought those young guys were kind of thrown into the fire and I thought they played hard. We have to continue to get better at that position.”
Riley and second-year man Deionte Thompson started Sunday in the Cardinals’ 31-21 loss with safeties Baker, Jalen Thompson (ankle) and Chris Banjo (hamstring) all out due to injuries. Washington was the only other player listed as a safety who was healthy and active for the game.
But it was clear Arizona missed Baker, who recorded 22 tackles and a pass defensed through Week 3.
While Kingsbury appears sure that Baker will return having missed a week of action, the Cardinals remain in wait-and-see mode regarding Jalen Thompson, the other starting safety to begin the year. They also don’t know whether Banjo we will available. He replaced Thompson from the season opener onward with relative success.
This is the first week Thompson is eligible to return after he was placed in the injured reserve list. Players must sit out three games if placed on IR this season, but teams can activate as many players off the list as they want due to regulations altered due to the coronavirus.
Just having Baker back, the Cardinals believe, will erase problems on the backend and even with his ability to make stops in the box.
“We feel good about Budda playing this week,” Kingsbury said. “I know they’ll have some sort of apparatus on his hand to protect him.
“Not sure yet on Banjo and J.T. They’re still working through it. Kind of a day-to-day situation with them.”