Cardinals safety Budda Baker had seven tackles against the Seahawks.
Budda Baker is ready to be unleashed.
It was an uncharted experience when the Cardinals' safety observed most of the team's snaps from the sideline over the first two months of his rookie year. Even as a diminutive freshman in high school and college, Baker had always found a way to make a quick impact.
"It's the first time in my whole entire life I sat and watched," Baker said.
That's about to change in a hurry. The second-round pick was forced to wait because veterans Tyvon Branch, Tyrann Mathieu and Antoine Bethea were playing at a high level in front of him, but a season-ending knee injury to Branch has thrust Baker into a full-time role.
He took over Branch's strong safety spot against the Seahawks on Thursday and finished tied for the team lead with seven tackles and nearly added an interception. Baker will be the starting safety next to Mathieu moving forward and is confident the opportunity won't overwhelm him.
"Doing all the special teams was great and watching (the veterans) was a good visual, but now it's time to play," Baker said. "I feel like I'm ready."
There were a few times against the Seahawks when Baker needed help from Bethea to line up before the snap, but coach Bruce Arians doesn't believe the inexperience will be an issue. He said Baker is "more than ready" for his opportunity.
"Rookies around Thanksgiving, the first of November, they shouldn't be rookies anymore," Arians said.
ARIANS COULD DEFER AGAIN
The Cardinals have usually chosen to receive after winning the opening coin toss under Arians. That changed on Thursday when Arians deferred, which meant the defense began the game on the field.
"Our defense has been bugging the (expletive) out of me to put them out there first," Arians said.
The plan worked, as the unit forced a three-and-out and gave the offense the ball in terrific field position near midfield. Running back Adrian Peterson spoiled it by losing a fumble, but Arians said the success of the defense will make him more apt to start on defense in the future.
Safety Tyrann Mathieu said cornerback Patrick Peterson was one of the more vocal players in Arians' ear.
"I don't really care," Mathieu said. "Some guys want to go out there. With the way things have been going this year, we just kind of wanted to switch thing s up and see what works, what doesn't work."
PETERS DOESN'T PRACTICE, STANTON DOES
Defensive tackle Corey Peters didn't practice on Tuesday with an unspecified injury, Arians said. Quarterback Drew Stanton did practice, per Arians, despite multiple reports that he will miss Sunday's game with a knee injury.
Running back T.J. Logan, who is on injured reserve after suffering a dislocated wrist in the preseason, is hoping to catch punts this week on his road to recovery but Arians said that hasn't happened yet.
"His wrist is still pretty stiff," Arians said.
The first official injury report of the week will be released on Wednesday.
PATRICK PETERSON RECEIVES SPORTMANSHIP RECOGNITION
Peterson has been nominated for the Art Rooney Sportsmanship Award, which recognizes players who demonstrate integrity and honor on the field.
Each team nominated a player, and eight finalists will be selected. The winner will be announced on Feb. 3 at the NFL Honors show the night before Super Bowl LII in Minnesota. Wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald was the inaugural winner of the award in 2014.
Images of the Cardinals cheerleaders in their Salute to Service uniforms during Week 10 against Seattle