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Tony Jefferson Tries To Maneuver Onto Roster

Posted Aug 20, 2013

Undrafted rookie safety has uphill climb despite big game against Cowboys

Safety Tony Jefferson returns one of his two interceptions Saturday against the Cowboys.

Football, when broken down, is a game about numbers.

Those numbers may determine Tony Jefferson’s future with the Cardinals.

The undrafted rookie safety out of Oklahoma is rooted in a battle for one of the last safety positions behind Rashad Johnson, Yeremiah Bell, Jonathon Amaya and Tyrann Mathieu. And that’s only if coach Bruce Arians wants to keep that many in his secondary.

“It’ll depend on special teams,” Arians said. “There’s no number. We may keep six corners and three safeties, or four (corners) and five (safeties) and go short somewhere else because they’re a better player than another position. We may keep another defensive back because they’re better than the wide receiver. We’re not going to cut a good player.”

With first cuts scheduled for Aug. 27, Jefferson has seven days, including one more game, to continue to prove himself to Arians. He got off to a good start last week.

For the first time since he signed with the Cardinals in late April, Jefferson began totally grasping his role on the defense.

“I think I’m coming along,” Jefferson said. “It’s just going to take practice every day and concentrating on my assignments.”

His teammates could tell when the supposed light went off during practice. Then they saw it get brighter during the Cardinals’ win over the Dallas Cowboys on Saturday.

Jefferson intercepted two passes during his 37 snaps, the second-most playing time on the defense. While Arians is still undecided on his final secondary, Jefferson’s day was enough for him to enter the conversation.

“He’s still young. He had a nice ballgame. He had a really good week of practice,” Arians said. “It’s the first time it looked like the light went on. If he can build on that, he’ll have a chance. He obviously made a statement for at least a practice-squad spot.”

Jefferson’s goal is the 53-man roster and he feels there’s more to show the coaching staff but, as the numbers go, it looks like Jefferson’s best chance to make the roster is through special teams.

He understands that and he’s willing to go down that road if it means his name isn’t called on final cuts.

It may have taken him longer than some but the game is slowing down for the kid who left Oklahoma after his junior year when the NFL projected him as a second-round pick.

Cornerback Jamell Fleming, who played with Jefferson and fellow defensive back Javon Harris at Oklahoma, said Jefferson won’t drop any jaws with his speed or strength, but he’s a solid football player.

Jefferson’s teammates are starting to see that.

“We’ve been telling him the whole time, you practice how you play,” cornerback Jerraud Powers said. “Last week he had a few picks out of the middle of the field and we get into a game and it rolled over. I think if Tony can continue to do what he does, and continue to stay active and show a sense of urgency he’s been showing the past week and a half, two weeks, they’ll definitely find a spot for him.”


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