Arizona Cardinals second round draft pick Budda Baker (36) works out during an NFL football rookie minicamp at the team’s training facility, Friday, May 12, 2017, in Tempe, Ariz. (AP Photo/Matt York)
LISTEN: Budda Baker, Cardinals safety
Unfortunately Budda Baker’s college schedule prevented him from joining his Cardinals teammates for OTAs and mini-camp.
Besides missing out on practices and the chance to get to know everyone, the second-round pick also did not get to ease into the Arizona summer.
“I’m not going to lie, the first week I was dying,” Baker, formerly of the Washington Huskies, told the Blitz with B-Train and Jurecki on 98.7 FM, Arizona’s Sports Station Wednesday. “You can do all the conditioning you can in Seattle and all that type of stuff, but once that heat hits you it’s a whole different type of story.
“The first couple days I was dying, but I got acclimated to it and now it’s what, it’s 100 out here right now, and I’m thinking it’s cool.”
Baker will probably figure out that you never truly get acclimated to the desert heat, though one can get used to it. In time he will also learn that it’s the bit of suffering Valley residents must push through in order to be rewarded with fall, winter and spring.
That knowledge will come in time, same as his understanding of Arizona’s defense and his role within the team.
Baker was with the Cardinals during rookie mini-camp but not around for the full-team practices, and though he would have preferred to be around for all the offseason work, he does not feel like he’s too far behind.
“For me, I always try to watch film, watch film of the practices,” he said, adding he stayed in close contact with safeties coach Nick Rapone. “So I feel like I’m not really that far behind.
“The only thing I haven’t done is really taken the reps with the whole team; the rookies have done seven-on-seven and all that type of stuff, so I’ve been able to run the plays consistently during seven-on-seven so now it’s just a matter of doing it at camp.”
The 5-foot-10, 195-pound defensive back whom the Cardinals traded up in the second round to acquire 36th overall said the defense he is part of now is “very similar” to what he ran in college, with the main difference really being the language used by defensive coordinator James Bettcher.
A smaller safety, Baker is capable of playing in the box or as a nickel cornerback, which is the kind of role Tyrann Mathieu fills. In 2016, Baker notched 70 tackles, 9.5 tackles for loss, three sacks and two interceptions, displaying the kind of all-around game that has made Mathieu such a force.
“I believe I have a similar skillset,” Baker said. “He’s been doing it for a while now, longer than me, so for me it’s just I can learn as much as I can from Tyrann just because we have the same type of body stature, we can do similar type of things.”
How much of those things the Cardinals ask him to do will be dictated by how quickly he picks up their system.
Baker will really get to immerse himself in it all when training camp begins in late July, and then when preseason games start not long after. He said he is excited for that time because he will finally get to take the field with all of his new teammates, which will be a fun experience but also one he plans on learning from.
“So for these preseason games, I know the rookies get a lot of reps, so get as much reps as I can. I like to think of it as these preseason games are like my OTAs and mini-camp that I missed,” he said. “Just getting all these reps, taking as much reps as I can — whether it’s defense or special teams — and ultimately competing. That’s my goal.”