The visit, Quentin Groves thought, would be a precursor, not a misfire.
The Cardinals linebacker was a free agent for the first time, knowing he hadn’t performed as he should for four seasons since coming out of Auburn. Reality, though, was still to come. He worked out for the New York Giants – the Super Bowl champions – and instead of a contract offer, got a mental slap.
“You’re not athletic enough to play in our scheme,” Groves was told, and while he was reeling from that, a trip to Miami left the Dolphins telling him nearly the same thing. Groves, who lived in Jacksonville thanks to his stint with the Jaguars when he came into the league, drove home the 300-plus miles searching himself for answers.
He was lucky enough to find them.
Groves went on a “three-month binge” as he called it, although it was a reverse binge. “I took all the b.s. out of my life,” he said.
The linebacker signed with the Cardinals during that time, and from the start, coach Ken Whisenhunt would talk about how Groves was a good fit for the defensive scheme. For a man still stinging from the words he had heard on his other trips, it was pleasant to hear.
His binge was absolute. Gone were the nights out. Gone was the drinking. “Had to eliminate some people out of my life” too, he said, and then he buckled down on his fitness and diet. The first four years of his career, he took for granted. No longer.
“I didn’t study as much as I should, not putting in the extra film work as much as I should, not taking care of my body and eating right as much as I should,” Groves said. “By the grace of God, I’ve been an exceptional athlete. To be drafted in the second round and coming into the league, I got complacent. Now I’m back on my grind, doing the little things better. Instead of going home and picking up a video game, I pick up my playbook or pick up my iPad and watch film.”
The Cardinals suddenly had a find.
Desperate for outside linebacker depth, Groves came at a perfect time. He has played just 24 total snaps on defense in two games in relief of starter O’Brien Schofield, but got his first sack since his rookie season of 2008 when he took down Tom Brady in New England and would have had a second sack had Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson not intentionally grounded the ball Week 1.
That doesn’t even include the punt Groves blocked against the Patriots, the Cards’ first punt block since Sean Morey’s famous overtime game winner against Dallas in 2008.
Already, some fans are talking about Groves’ contract status – he signed just for 2012 – and given what he’s been through, that notion makes him chuckle. The “binge” put him in a week-to-week NFL mindset, if not day-to-day.
“He’s definitely a focused guy,” fellow linebacker
It isn’t lost on Groves that, after his epiphany, the Cardinals weren’t even supposed to be his first free-agent stop. He was supposed to check out the Bengals first. Then the Ravens. The Cards were going to be last and instead, ended up first when schedules changed.
“Not to take it all religious,” Groves said, but the change happened for a reason.
“My best friend sent me a Bible verse, Genesis 12, and it says, ‘I brought to this place, that you would take over this land. What I did for Abraham, I’ll do for you,’ ” Groves recalled, a notion that resounded with him.
“Ken (Whisenhunt) told me, ‘This is a great fit for you and you’re going to make plays.’ (GM) Rod (Graves) told me, ‘You’ll make big plays,’ ” Groves said. “For the longest time, people would believe in me more than I would believe in myself. I was like, ‘What do you all see that I don’t see?’ As it goes on, I get more comfortable. Now things are happening.
“God is showing me, ‘Q, this is what you had before but you were too busy and too caught up and wouldn’t get out of your own way to listen to me.’ ”
There is no hesitation in Groves’ admission. He feels he is in the right place, with both his football team and his professional focus.
The binge worked.
“There comes a time in every man’s life,” Groves said, “when he needs to settle down, buckle down and say, ‘OK, is this what I want to do?’ ”