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D.J. Swearinger Wants His Play To Do The Talking

Fiery safety returns to Cardinals after high-profile departure from Redskins

Safety D.J. Swearinger (35), back on the Cardinals after the team claimed him off waivers on Christmas, talks with teammates Larry Fitzgerald and Antoine Bethea at practice Wednesday.
Safety D.J. Swearinger (35), back on the Cardinals after the team claimed him off waivers on Christmas, talks with teammates Larry Fitzgerald and Antoine Bethea at practice Wednesday.

The Cardinals are excited about the fiery nature D.J. Swearinger will bring back to their defense – provided it doesn't cross the line.

The talented safety was named a Pro Bowl alternate for the Redskins this season but was released Monday after criticizing defensive coordinator Greg Manusky's play calling in the team's Week 16 loss to the Titans.

Cardinals coach Steve Wilks said he will have a conversation with Swearinger about speaking up publicly.

"I don't stand in front of (the media) and throw coaches or players underneath the bus," Wilks said. "That's not my style. But best believe it gets addressed (behind closed doors). He would understand the same thing. I don't have a problem with his opinion, but we're not going to air that opinion outside the building.

"He wants to win," Wilks added. "I want guys that want to win. He's very passionate about that. But he's got to understand that that communication has to be dealt with inside."

Swearinger, who played for the Cardinals in 2015 and 2016, admitted it was a "rocky Christmas" but said he's excited to return to Arizona. He played alongside Patrick Peterson during the first tenure and Swearinger said the star cornerback and other former teammates welcomed him back warmly on Wednesday.

Swearinger is one of the more emotional players in the NFL and has always been willing to voice his opinions, but plans to tone it down after the recent repercussions. Swearinger thought he might get disciplined by the Redskins but not released.

"I'll keep my mouth shut next time," Swearinger said. "Just keep it moving, play football. Just do what I need to do on the field and let my pads do the talking."

Swearinger admitted it is something easier said than done for someone with his personality.

"I'm a very passionate player," Swearinger said. "I put my heart into this game. You put the camera in my face after we lose a game where we're supposed to go to the playoffs, and I might say some things I shouldn't say. That's on me. I've got to control that and be better at that. But like I said, I live and learn and keep moving forward. That's life."

If Swearinger allows his play to do the talking, there will still be plenty to say. He has 53 tackles, four interceptions, a forced fumble and a sack this season. Swearinger has allowed the ninth-lowest passer rating among NFL safeties at 67.1, per Pro Football Focus.

Wilks believes the passion that can hinder Swearinger is also one of his biggest strengths.

"When you go through the process coming out of the draft, you know what they can do on tape," Wilks said. "We've got to make sure we get guys who love football-- just love the freaking game. I think D.J. is one of those guys."

Swearinger is trying to learn the defense quickly, but it's unknown if he will be active in the regular season finale on Sunday in Seattle. He has one year and $4.5 million left on his contract after Sunday – a bargain based on his talent level -- so the Cardinals could choose to keep him for 2019.

While Swearinger is wearing No. 35 instead of No. 36 and has a locker far from his old one, he hopes similarities reign on the field when he returns to it.

"I had a good career here," Swearinger said. "I'm looking forward to adding on to that career that I had here."

Images of Cardinals fans during the Week 16 contest at State Farm Stadium