David Amerson has been around the Cardinals a little bit, having signed with the team in mid-November last season and starting five games.
That makes him unique among the cornerbacks who will eventually be tasked to fill in for Patrick Peterson in the early part of the regular season, once Peterson’s six-game suspension kicks in. Robert Alford, who was already set to start across from Peterson, signed as a free agent in March. Veteran Tramaine Brock Sr. is also a free-agent signee. Byron Murphy was a second-round draft pick.
"Being in this league and knowing that anything can happen any day, whether it is injuries or something else, you have to be ready," Amerson said. "You have to make sure you're ready for the opportunity, and I think everybody – including myself -- knows that."
Coach Kliff Kingsbury said it was "disappointing, obviously" that Peterson is suspended but that the Cardinals support Peterson as a player and person.
Peterson is still eligible to practice with the team from now until the end of the preseason and can play in preseason games. The Cardinals do have a mandatory minicamp next month, and Peterson sounded Thursday as if he plans to attend. (Peterson did not attend Monday's voluntary workout, although there were other veterans such as Terrell Suggs, Larry Fitzgerald and David Johnson also absent. Every OTA is voluntary.)
What the Cardinals do in Peterson's stead once the regular season begins is far from decided, Kingsbury said.
"We'll see how it all plays out through training camp and what adjustments will be made, but you don't replace a guy like that," Kingsbury added. "On the bright side, you get to Week 7 and he comes back, you get a huge boost."
It's an odd situation for the Cardinals to find themselves in. Peterson has never missed a game in his NFL career, playing (and starting) all 128 games in his eight seasons. Alford's signing is another attempt to solidify the spot across from Peterson, and Peterson even helped recruit Alford as a free agent.
"Pat is a close friend of mine and we support him," Alford said. "At the end of the day, those are the league's rules, and it's the next man up."
Amerson has started 61 games in his career, although only 11 over the past two seasons combined. He finished last year as Peterson's fellow starter. Brock started five games in Denver last year and knows the scheme of defensive coordinator Vance Joseph – the Broncos' head coach the past two seasons – intimately. Brock also was a full-time starter in San Francisco as recently as 2016.
Then there is Murphy, who was highly rated by the Cardinals as the best cornerback available in the draft.
"(Peterson) is part of our team and he's a brother to us," Murphy said. "But the challenge is out there and I came here to compete."
The good news is the Cardinals have the balance of OTAs, minicamp and then all of preseason to prepare for life without Peterson. It's won't be like a scramble drill it can be when a starter goes down with injury during the preseason.
"We feel like we'll approach it the same," Brock Sr. said. "It's just that more guys will have more opportunities than usual, presented with a big stage. There's a lot of room to cover, but we will live up to the challenge, I believe."
Images from the first OTA of the 2019 offseason