Wide receiver Andre Roberts holds on to a catch while getting blasted by Rams cornerback Janoris Jenkins during Sunday's game.
Popping up time after time after he was pounded to the turf in St. Louis, Andre Roberts showed his toughness, even if anyone who wondered about that hadn't paid attention to what Roberts had gone through to get to this point.
As a rookie in the NFL, he suffered through a terrible training camp – enough so that onlookers wondered if the third-round draft pick would even make the roster. And even before that, the wide receiver attended The Citadel in college, a military school renowned for long, structured days and tough treatment of its freshmen.
"I always felt like I was a tough guy," Roberts said. "Obviously, The Citadel was a tough school and I had to go through a
lot of crap that I wouldn't have had to go through at another school. It toughened me up a little bit.
"It was mostly mental. That's part of football. You have to go through getting hit, getting up the next play, and still being able to perform at 100 percent the following play. You have to be tough to be a football player."
It wasn't the eight catches (in nine targets) for a team-leading 97 yards Roberts had in the opener that attracted so much attention as much as the way he did it, absorbing two or three heavy blows as he made the grab in traffic while hanging on.
"He made a couple of catches where he was interfered with and still made the catch when a lot of guys wouldn't," quarterback Carson Palmer said.
Coach Bruce Arians said in St. Louis, he saw the "grit" he thought Roberts had. It didn't surprise teammate Larry Fitzgerald either, after watching Roberts grow from that inconsistent rookie to Fitzgerald's closest friend on the team and solid sidekick to Fitzgerald's Pro Bowl ways.
In Arians' perfect world, the two and Michael Floyd will continue to move around in the formation – Arians said "I don't want anyone knowing who's where" – and have big games.
Sometimes, that means absorbing a big hit or two along the way.
"It's part of our occupation," Fitzgerald said. "You play long enough, you're going to get smacked around. (Andre) showed tremendous toughness hanging on to the football and he showed the competitor he is. Throughout the season, I'm sure I'll get my shot, and Mike will get his shot. We pride ourselves on making the tough catches."
Roberts chuckled at the focus on the hits he handled in St. Louis. It wasn't even the toughest day he's had in that regard (he didn't say which game was worse) and like Fitzgerald, he noted the inherent hazards of the position.
"I got a couple more big hits this game than usual, but as receivers, we're in defenseless positions more often than not," Roberts said. "When we come out of games, we're not always feeling the best.
"The biggest thing we usually tell ourselves is, we are going to get hit anyway, so we might as well catch the ball. It's not as easy as it sounds, but that's what we tell ourselves."
Maybe Roberts is just moving into a more zen state of mind. With his contract set to expire after the season, Roberts admitted that he was worrying about his future a lot during OTAs and minicamps. Then he had a discussion with Arians.
"He pretty much told me not to let it stress me out," Roberts said. "Of course, most guys in their contract year, they think of things they can't control. I'm not thinking about it anymore. I'm just going to play to the best of my ability and let it play out."
The focus is there, and the Cardinals hope it stays there when the ball is arriving at the same time as the defender. Those are the catches that can win games, and Roberts will deal with the rest after the game.
"I did get a little massage (Tuesday)," Roberts said with a smile. "I might need another on Friday."