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Post-Injury, Robert Alford Patiently Planning Return To Field

Cornerback working out in Atlanta as he comes back from broken leg

Cornerback Robert Alford missed all of 2019 with a broken leg.
Cornerback Robert Alford missed all of 2019 with a broken leg.

Robert Alford appeared on the Zoom call, proudly wearing a black T-shirt with Michael Jordan on the front.

The Cardinals cornerback watched and loved every moment of the recent Jordan/Chicago Bulls documentary "The Last Dance." Alford was only 9 when Jordan won the last of his six championships, but through the series "you were able to see the character (of Jordan) on display."

Alford isn't going to have a 10-part series about him someday, but like Jordan, who came off a broken foot early in his career driven to get back on the court, Alford's recent broken leg just pushes his motivation for a return to the field.

From his home in Atlanta, Alford said he's 100 percent recovered from the training camp injury that sidelined him all season. He has a place to lift weights, he found grass fields near his place to get on-field work and turf fields for days that it rains. He's enjoyed the virtual meetings the Cardinals are holding, and devouring video review.

"At the end of the day," Alford said, "it's on you to take advantage of this time."

Alford has been taking advantage, nearly from the time he got tangled up with wide receiver Damiere Byrd during the outdoor training camp practice when he got hurt. After the initial rehab, Alford made sure he went to meetings and went out to practice each week, preparing like he was in the game week each time even though he wouldn't suit up on Sundays.

Despite an inability to practice since mid-training camp, Alford said defensive coordinator Vance Joseph's playbook is "second nature to me now."

"I didn't want the injury to make me feel like I wasn't part of the team," Alford said.

It's easy to feel disconnected now, with the coronavirus preventing players to gather at the team facility in Arizona. But Alford simply repeats his message of optimism and determination to ready himself for whenever the players can get back together.

The rookies can't get valuable on-field reps? Study harder and pick the brains of your veteran teammates. The chance there could be games where fans aren't there to provide energy? You have to find that within. "I come from a small school, there weren't hardly that many fans in the stands anyway," said Alford, who went to Southeastern Louisiana.

The Cardinals looked at the secondary this year with a status-quo approach. Patrick Peterson is still in place as the No. 1 cornerback. Alford, who turns 32 in November, will be his No. 2, with Byron Murphy playing the slot. Then again, that was the plan at this time last year, until Peterson's suspension came to light, Alford broke his leg and it all took a harsh turn.

The expectations will be high for Peterson after he played well at the end of the season. They will be high for Murphy, the 2019 second-round pick, as well.

Alford has been more under-the-radar, his presence dimmed by a lost year.

"I always use stuff like that. I hear a lot of chatter, but at the end of the day I'm self-motivated," Alford said. "All I do is take advantage of each and every day … I'm very confident in what I'm bringing to the team.

"I always play with a chip on my shoulder and that will never leave me."