Jalen Thompson was originally expecting to be reporting to Washington State’s training camp in early August.
Instead, the safety was in Tempe Wednesday, arriving with the rest of the Cardinals rookies and signing his initial four-year NFL contract, knowing his first pro training camp would begin in a week.
“I know I can compete with these guys, hang with them at a high level,” Thompson told azcardinals.com. “But for the most part, it’s getting the plays down and once I see it on the field and get through a couple of walkthroughs, I’m going to be fine. I know I will.”
Selected earlier this month in the NFL supplemental draft, Thompson inking his contract was not the only news the Cardinals made Wednesday. The team also cut tackle Desmond Harrison, soon after the news came out that he was being charged with assault against a female in North Carolina. Harrison had been claimed off waivers in June after the Browns had released him. With Harrison's release, the Cardinals now have one open roster spot.
The full roster reports to camp July 24, with the first practice July 25.
Thompson was taken with a fifth-round pick in the supplemental draft, meaning the Cardinals had to surrender one of their two fifth-round picks in the 2020 draft. It made sense to take a flier on a prospect who some felt could rise to a second- or third-round selection next April had he played his senior season in Pullman.
Thompson entered the supplemental draft after the NCAA ruled him ineligible for the 2019 college season, reportedly for taking an unapproved over-the-counter supplement from a nutrition store. The 5-foot-11, 190-pounder had six interceptions and 11 tackles for loss as a three-year starter for Washington State.
“The whole Washington State thing, that happened, but now everything is speeding up and I’m happy to be here, happy to be around the guys and for the most part, I’m just ready to start working,” he said. “I was tired of all the training. It was time to work.”
Thompson joins a safety group that has Budda Baker and D.J. Swearinger slated to start. Other options are April fifth-round pick Deionte Thompson, Josh Shaw, Rudy Ford, Jonathan Owens and undrafted rookie Tyler Sigler.
Learning from veterans like Swearinger and Baker is at the top of Thompson’s early to-do list, given that he is just arriving and the rest of the rookie class had three months of work in the classroom and on the field.
There will be, Thompson acknowledged, a “mental change” in knowing he’s preparing for pro football rather than the college brand he had previously been expecting.
“All these guys are fighting for a job, it’s a bigger business,” he said. “Guys have to do what they have to do, and that’s what I have to do to get on that field. I’m trying to prove I’m (among) the best 11.”
The Packers, Vikings and Texans all showed interest in him prior to the supplemental draft, Thompson said, but he added that the Cards getting him was not a surprise. Now it’s about getting adjusted to NFL life and the “surreal” idea he’s in the pros.
“I’ve been dreaming about this since I was a kid,” he said.