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Budda Baker Expected To Play Special Teams In Regular Season

S Budda Baker during Thursday morning's training camp practice
S Budda Baker during Thursday morning's training camp practice

Budda Baker was shooed away from a punt coverage drill on the first day of training camp, which made the second-year safety believe his time on special teams was ending.

That doesn’t seem to be the case.

While Baker – a Pro Bowler for his special teams excellence in 2017 – isn’t getting much work with the group in practice, special teams coach Jeff Rodgers plans to use him in the regular season. Rodgers said he knows Baker is a difference-maker at gunner and prefers to dole out reps to others as he maps out his strategy for the season.

Baker’s special teams role was in doubt because he is expected to play a pivotal full-time role on defense.

“Coach (Steve Wilks) has said that whoever can help us in those areas, we’ll do that,” Rodgers said. “Budda grabbed me the other day in the hallway and said, ‘Hey, when am I going to get some reps? What’s the plan? What’s going on?’ He’s eager to get back out there. The preseason is about finding out about guys you don’t know about, giving those other guys some opportunities. We’ll slide him in where we think it’s best.”

Rodgers said there is still much to be determined on special teams. Christian Kirk is listed as the first-team punt returner and T.J. Logan the first-team kick returner, but those are not set in stone. The competition for the gunner spots is wide open, and much will depend on which players make the roster.

“The gunner line is about 15 deep on both sides,” Rodgers said. “We’re trying to find out about plenty of those guys. The wide receivers, obviously that’s a natural thing for them from a release standpoint. That’s where they line up all the time. If you guys (in the media) can figure out who is going to make our team at wide receiver, let me know. We’re trying to give all those guys experience.”

EVERY QUARTERBACK WILL PLAY SATURDAY

The Cardinals have four new quarterbacks on the roster – Sam Bradford, Josh Rosen, Mike Glennon and Charles Kanoff -- and they will all debut in Saturday’s preseason opener against the Chargers, Wilks said.

He did not get into specific snap allotments, but Rosen is expected to see a significant amount of action. Glennon, a six-year veteran, was not under center often this week as the majority of his practice snaps went to Rosen.

“We’re trying to prepare (Rosen) for certain things he may see in the game,” Wilks said.

While there will be plenty of rash judgments after his first appearance, Rosen isn’t concerned about the talking heads.

“It’s part of the game,” Rosen said. “I stay relatively offline for the most part. The most pressure I feel is from myself. I’m very, very highly self-critical, almost too much at times. There’s no pressure that’s going to be greater than my own.”

NKEMDICHE LEAVES PRACTICE BUT SHOULD PLAY

Defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche (knee) left practice early on Thursday but Wilks said it was precautionary. Nkemdiche is expected to play against Los Angeles, but linebacker Deone Bucannon (knee) and linebacker Josh Bynes (neck sprain) will sit.

“We’re looking for maybe one day next week (to return) with Bucannon,” Wilks said. “It’s still up in the air with Josh. He has a little sprain. Nothing serious, but a little sprained neck, and we’re going to make sure we take our time with that.”

Scooby Wright could start at linebacker next to Haason Reddick. He has been practicing with the first team during the absence of Bynes and Bucannon.

Cornerback Lou Young III was injured in coverage late in Thursday’s practice and was moving gingerly afterward. Linebacker Airius Moore and cornerback Jonathan Moxey missed practice again. The Saturday status for that trio is unknown.

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