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Omnipresent Budda Baker Has To Find Other Ways To Help

Safety won't play Sunday against Rams with ankle injury

Safety Budda Baker gives a pregame speech before the game against the Seahawks last week.
Safety Budda Baker gives a pregame speech before the game against the Seahawks last week.

Budda Baker was everywhere on the first episode of "Hard Knocks."

He was giving an impassioned speech (after the Eagles game) about being tired of losing. He was teasing his little sister about having to pay for laundry if she lived with him while attending Arizona State University. He was practicing hard in the rain, he was interacting with a little girl prior to the Seahawks game, and then he was making plays all over the field.

And, oh yeah, he wrecked his ankle near the end of the game.

Suddenly, the Cardinals' All-Pro safety won't be everywhere against the Rams in Los Angeles Sunday. And that's an issue.

"We won't be better without Budda," defensive coordinator Vance Joseph said. "That's part of the game.

"You can't replace Budda. But we'll move on and play."

And Baker, who coach Kliff Kingsbury said will miss at least one game with his injury, will help where he can.

"I definitely feel I can be a big leader still," Baker told "Whether it is just talking to the guys, watching film with the guys, telling guys what I see on film, whether that is the rotational stuff will look like, or plays – and the Rams have specific plays they do – man, zone, all the aspects I know playing against them for six years, I'll help those guys out."

If it wasn't clear how much Baker means to this team, it was crystalized on "Hard Knocks." Of note wasn't just the energy Baker always seems to have, but his play itself. Multiple coaches implored their guys to try and match or exceed the effort and energy Baker had during a loss in Minnesota as they went into the Seahawks game.

Joseph sounded as if he expects Charles Washington to be activated from Injured Reserve before the Rams game. Chris Banjo – the only other safety currently on the active roster aside from fellow starter Jalen Thompson – is in line to start.

"Everyone knows what Budda means to the team, what he means to the league honestly," Banjo said. "But we also have the next-man-up mentality. It takes all of us."

Baker has only missed one game since Kingsbury arrived in 2019. Whenever things have been rocky, he is the guy to try and settle the troops (or inspire them) or serve as one as a spokesman to the media.

Playing against a Rams team that has struggled mightily – and who very well will be missing quarterback Matthew Stafford, who is in concussion protocol – the Cardinals defense will simultaneously try and get out of rut that has seen them allow nine straight touchdowns when the opponents reach the red zone.

"Budda is Budda," linebacker Zaven Collins said. "There is no one else like him in the league. The aspect of him being gone changes a lot of things for offenses. It changes a few things for us, but I think it's more for them because they are so scared of Budda's presence."

If there is more Baker to come in next week's "Hard Knocks," it'll have to be as hype man only.

"The fire and passion he brings to the game I don't think you can't replicate that anywhere in the league," Banjo said. "Him not being on the field is going to be impactful."

Images of the Cardinals practicing at the Dignity Health Sports Complex before the Week 10 regular season matchup against the Los Angeles Rams