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Budda “Fish Bait” Baker Latest Nickname Victim

Posted Aug 9, 2017

Notes: Second-round pick playing well despite moniker; Rookies ailing

Cardinals safety Budda Baker during a training camp practice.

Budda Baker is playing well in training camp, but he hasn’t been perfect, and that slight opening is all Bruce Arians needed to dip back into his bag of nicknames.

The Cardinals coach has dubbed his rookie safety “Fish Bait” for his penchant to get hooked by fake handoffs in practice.

“He don’t like it,” Arians said. “Quit biting on the play-action passes and he’ll get rid of it quick. I like the aggressiveness.”

Baker isn’t the first young player to earn a derisive nickname from Arians. Left tackle D.J. Humphries was labeled “Knee Deep” as a rookie because a foot in the rear wasn’t enough to motivate him. Tight end Troy Niklas is called “Hercules” now that he’s playing well, but it wasn’t long ago that his intelligence was profanely questioned by Arians.

“It was not pretty,” Arians said. “I can’t say it in here. I’d get fined. A lot of them have that name. (One-time Steeler) Emmanuel Sanders called his mom and said, ‘I don’t think he knows my name because he keeps calling me this.’”

Arians was asked if the clever monikers were his creations alone or a group effort.

“It’s me,” Arians said with a smile.

Even though Baker is the latest victim of the name game, he’s not in the doghouse as “Fish Bait” would suggest. Arians has actually been quite pleased, as evidenced by Baker’s presence with the first team in a dime package during Tuesday’s practice.

“As he continues to get better and better, that role could increase quickly,” Arians said.

Safety Tyrann Mathieu smirked when he heard about Baker’s nickname. The “Honey Badger” knows Baker would prefer to be known as Budda, but getting called out by Arians is almost a rite of passage for the players.

“He has a lot of different ways of encouraging and motivating people,” Mathieu said. “The rookies will catch on pretty quickly.”

Mathieu doesn’t want the criticism to affect Baker’s aggressiveness. The diminutive safeties have been compared to one another a lot since the Cardinals drafted Baker in the second round, and Mathieu agrees with the parallels.

“It’s kind of like me,” Mathieu said. “I take chances and sometimes I lose, but for the majority of the time I make the play. Any time I see a guy like that, I’ll never tell him to stop doing that, because that’s what makes him special. He just has to be mindful of when to do it.”

Mathieu couldn’t resist getting in on the fun, though. He has a designation for Baker, one that makes “Fish Bait” sound attractive.

“I just call him a weirdo,” Mathieu said. “His eyes are always closed. I don’t know if he’s awake or not.”

JARON BROWN COMING ON STRONG

Torn knee ligaments usually won’t keep a player off the field for more than one season any more, but it can still affect performance. Mathieu is proof of that, struggling in the subsequent seasons after his torn ACLs.

Wideout Jaron Brown is bucking that trend, looking no worse for the wear throughout training camp. Without Michael Floyd on the roster, a healthy Brown could be in line for a bigger role than in past years.

“He doesn’t need a brace anymore,” Arians said. “It’s amazing, because usually a guy has a gimp that year after knee surgery. I don’t see anything out of him. ”

ROOKIES WILLIAMS, FORD UNLIKELY TO PLAY SATURDAY

Wide receiver Chad Williams (shin splints) and safety Rudy Ford (hamstring) are unlikely to play in the preseason home opener against the Raiders, Arians said. Tackle D.J. Humphries (hamstring) missed practice Wednesday and is questionable for the contest.

Wide receiver John Brown (quad) ran “about 10 routes” during practice on Tuesday and ramped up a bit more Wednesday. Quarterback Carson Palmer had a veteran’s day off Wednesday.

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