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Budda Baker Expected To Return Against Jets

Cardinals defense struggled last week without Pro Bowl safety

Arizona Cardinals safety Budda Baker makes a tackle against the Detroit Lions on September 27, 2020.
Safety Budda Baker's tackling ability was missed against the Panthers.

The Cardinals made Budda Baker the highest-paid safety in the NFL in training camp, and his worth was abundantly evident last week against the Panthers.

The Pro Bowler missed the game after having thumb surgery and the defense struggled noticeably without him. The Cardinals don't have to worry about that on Sunday as Baker is expected to make his return against the Jets.

"Budda being back this week will definitely make us all feel better," coach Kliff Kingsbury said. "He's one of the best players in the league and brings a lot of things on and off the field."

Kingsbury said Baker will wear "some sort of apparatus on his hand" as protection. While that may make corralling interceptions tougher, having Baker's speed and sure tackling ability on the field again will be a boon for the Cardinals.

"That dude is everything that y'all see and more on the field," fellow safety Charles Washington said. "Budda, he flies around. He brings the energy. He's subtle, quiet outside of it, but once he gets on the field, man, it's something to see. I'm looking forward to him being back, giving us that spark and making plays like he always does."

The defense was without its top three safeties against Carolina. It is unclear at this point if Jalen Thompson (ankle) or Chris Banjo (hamstring) will be ready to return against New York, Kingsbury said.

Deionte Thompson will likely start if they cannot go, while Washington aims to get some playing time after doing a nice job in relief last week.

"There wasn't too much time to think," Washington said. "Once I got into the groove and rhythm of things, I was able to make a play early, so that kind of gave me a bump to keep going throughout the game."

Veteran T.J. Ward is on the practice squad if the Cardinals deem it prudent to elevate him to the active roster.

"Ward is getting back into it, an accomplished player in this league, so we'll kind of see how that develops," Kingsbury said.

The Cardinals also re-signed safety Curtis Riley to the practice squad and restored safety Kentrell Brice to the practice squad.

While there are a bevy of other options on the roster, Baker has proven to be an irreplaceable piece on defense, as the Cardinals missed his talent and motor in Carolina.

"Budda plays 100 percent on every snap," Washington said. "You can't put on the film and say, 'Budda took this play off.' Budda is chasing sideline to sideline all game. He's willing to sell out and hurt whatever on his body. He messed up his thumb, and he's willing to go out there and have a broken bone to put it all on tape. I salute him for that – the emotion he plays with, the drive, all of that. Budda is just a special player."

Images from the Week 4 loss to Carolina.