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Jordan Hicks Earning Snaps, Respect After Frustrating Offseason

Linebacker has played 96 percent of time on defense thus far

Linebacker Jordan Hicks in a zone during the Cardinals' win over the Vikings last weekend.
Linebacker Jordan Hicks in a zone during the Cardinals' win over the Vikings last weekend.

Jordan Hicks found out on the Cardinals' "bonus Monday," the extra practice day heading into the first game of the regular season in Tennessee.

After an impressive camp – and after a lot of offseason drama about the veteran linebacker's status and depth chart place behind rookie Zaven Collins – he was going to play a major role on the defense after all.

"I play this game to play it," Hicks said. "I want to play. I want to be out there. Honestly, I had no clue what was going to happen coming into training camp."

It was the way Hicks handled the situation, aside from his actual play, of course, that put Hicks back to where he was the last two seasons. He again was named a captain by his teammates. And in two games, he has played 120 of a possible 125 defensive snaps, including what should have been a game-clinching third-down pass breakup late in the win over Minnesota.

Collins, who went through the offseason as the presumed starter, has played 47 defensive snaps.

"You didn't hear complaining," said second-year linebacker Isaiah Simmons. "(Jordan) easily could have come in here and had an 'injury.' You know how that goes. But he came in here and worked and helps the team out. He helps Zaven a ton. Zaven's progressions probably wouldn't have been as fast as it was without Jordan."

Hicks promised early in training camp that while he was upset after the events of the offseason – taking a pay cut, being told Collins would be the starter without a competition, requesting a trade that did not go anywhere – he would still work hard, and still mentor Simmons and Collins.

Along the way, he found his way into the starting lineup, and, at least at this point, is the starter over Collins – although Collins, Hicks and Simmons have played a lot of snaps together.  

With two young sons, Hicks said he is proud of the way he has handled the situation and the example he has set for his kids.

"It wasn't easy because in some respect you feel like you're being screwed over and you have no clue what is going to happen," Hicks said.

"Not once did I waver in my faith or my approach to the game and my approach to my teammates."

Collins has the youth and the athleticism that comes with it. Hicks, though, has the experience, defensive coordinator Vance Joseph said, before emphasizing that Hicks also remains a good player.

"As a playcaller, you want somebody who can see like you see it," Joseph said. "That's what he does for me."

How the season plays out is an unknown. Joseph already said gameplans can change, and at some point, the keys are going to be handled to Collins. Maybe that isn't fully until 2022, but maybe it would still be this season.

Hicks just wants to show well enough to make any decision difficult.

"All you want is respect in this league," Hicks said. "I know that's what I play for. To do that, become captain, and to be able to be placed in the role that I'm in … we all have our roles on this defense, and you want to shine in that role you've been given. I've been given this role and that's what I'm trying to do."