GLENDALE, Ariz. — In the NFL, one man’s misfortune is another man’s opportunity.
With Deone Bucannon still recovering from ankle surgery, first-round draft pick Haason Reddick is playing with the starters at inside linebacker for the Arizona Cardinals.
The lessons have been invaluable, he said, particularly because he lines up alongside 14-year NFL veteran Karlos Dansby.
“It means a lot, just being able to be out there with Karlos,” Reddick said. “It means the most because I see the way he takes charge of the huddle, how he commands the defense. For a guy to be in the league for 14 years, that’s where I want to be, a 14-year vet. I want to be able to take command of the defense when it’s my time to come.”
Cardinals coaches love the versatility they see in Reddick, a 6-foot-1, 235-pounder out of Temple who was drafted 13th overall.
“Unbelievable athlete, extremely serious about it,” coach Bruce Arians said. “Over-serious as a matter of fact, too conscientious, but when he turns it loose, it’s extremely impressive to watch.”
Reddick acknowledges he’s easing into his role, trying to learn the intricacies of the job.
“I’ve been I would say a little throttled down because I’m not trying to make so many mistakes,” he said. “I’m trying to learn as much as I can. Once you know what you’re supposed to do, when you really know, that’s when you can let loose.”
It’s essentially a hybrid inside linebacker position, where sometimes he focuses on stopping the run and at other times finds himself in pass coverage. The Cardinals also eventually want him to play some on the edge because of his pass-rushing skills.
It’s a position that sees a lot of action. Bucannon led the team in tackles two seasons ago.
“I love it because a lot of the defense, it depends on me,” Reddick said. “I’m depended on in the run game as well as the passing game. It’s a really special thing and I’m glad that I’m there.”
Reddick is learning not only from Dansby but from linebackers coach Larry Foote, who played the position for 13 NFL seasons.
“I’m constantly learning,” Reddick said. “I’ve got one in this year and one in the other ear, but to have those two has been the best thing that could have happened to me as a rookie.”
Dansby likes what he sees from the rookie
“He has all the potential in the world,” Dansby said. “He’s just got to continue to work on it and continue to trust the technique and trust what he sees.”
Reddick is getting help from Bucannon. Both had to change to a new position from college. Reddick was a tight end/outside linebacker, Bucannon a safety.
“He always lets me know, ‘Don’t be frustrated. There’s going to be a learning curve,'” Reddick said. “He lets me know about how he went through the same things.”
At first, like most rookies, he was shocked by the speed of the game.
“The speed is just crazy, it’s just crazy ridiculous being out there with the vets,” Reddick said, “being out there with Karlos, Pat P. (Patrick Peterson), Tyrann (Mathieu), Markus (Golden), Chandler (Jones). Being out there and seeing how they’re able to recognize things so fast compared to me recognizing things right now. It’s like crazy, they’re on a different level. I’m just trying to catch up. I’m trying to be like them, be one of the greats.”
And make no mistake, being a good player will not be enough for him.
“I think I could be great,” he said. “I’ve always believed in myself. As soon as I really learn what I’m supposed to do and why, that’s when I’m going to let loose and let my talent take over, and I’ll be able to be great.”
Notes: Safety Ronald Zamort, who had been playing in the first unit in the absence of injured Justin Bethel, was carted off the field after being injured in practice on Saturday. … Saturday was the annual fan-friendly Red and White Practice.