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Isaiah Simmons Won't Lower Expectations Amid Abnormal Rookie Year

Cardinals' first-round pick plans on major impact despite COVID-19-related hurdles

Arizona Cardinals linebacker Isaiah Simmons speaks with Cardinals owner Michael Bidwill before signing his rookie contract on July 25, 2020.
LB Isaiah Simmons speaks with Cardinals owner Michael Bidwill before signing his rookie contract on Saturday.

Isaiah Simmons finally arrived at the Dignity Health Arizona Cardinals Training Center last week, nearly three months later than usual for rookies.

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected myriad parts of the 2020 season, and the first-year players are receiving a particularly rough hand.

The No. 8 overall pick acknowledged on Wednesday that virtual meetings and a lack of practice have been to his detriment, but it is far from woe-is-me for Simmons, who is adamant he can still have a successful rookie campaign.

"I'm not going to adjust my personal goals because we're having a little adversity with this whole pandemic," Simmons said. "It's either I'm going to achieve my goals or I'm not at the end of the day. I don't feel like I should lower my expectations or my standards for myself just because there are a few obstacles in the road."

Simmons said he hasn't made many specific goals, instead focusing on overall impact.

"I'm not going to come out here and say I want to be Defensive Rookie of the Year," Simmons said. "That would be great and all, but I believe if I come out there and play, everything will fall in place. My biggest goal is to just make as big of an impact as I can for this organization.'

The Cardinals' defense has more question marks than the offense, and if Simmons can make an immediate difference, it would be a big help.

Simmons, who played linebacker, edge rusher, cornerback and safety in college, said he has been focusing exclusively on inside linebacker this offseason.

"Everybody is paid to do their job out here, so I don't know if I'm necessarily needed to do everything I did in college," Simmons said.

While his versatility could be reined in early, Simmons' skillset is so vast that he figures to still do much more than a normal inside linebacker.

Simmons said he's been watching tape of defensive backs Jalen Ramsey and Tyrann Mathieu for coverage tips, and edge-rushers Chandler Jones and Von Miller for pass-rush moves.

"I wouldn't really call myself a traditional linebacker," Simmons said.

Kliff Kingsbury is excited to have Simmons in the flesh. The Cardinals coach was happy with Simmons' virtual work, but the anticipation grew upon his arrival.

"They don't make them much prettier when he walks in the building," Kingsbury said. "It will be fun to get him out there and watch him run around here soon."

It is far from full-go for Simmons and the other rookies, who in a normal year would be practicing with the whole team at training camp this week.

While the setup is less than ideal, Simmons is taking the truncated camp, the daily testing, the social distancing and the other implemented precautions in stride.

"Everything that's going on is to help us have a season this year," Simmons said. "I'm thinking of it in that way, opposed to, 'Ahh, this is not what I want for my rookie year,' thinking of all the negatives. I'm thinking of all the positive things that are coming out of this. If everybody follows the rules, then we'll have a season. Players will be happy, fans will be happy. Going about it with a negative mindset, that's just not the way I go with it."

Images of the Cardinals' six draft picks inking their rookie deals on Saturday