Fabulous Baker Boy Budda prays Cardinals can fly up the NFC West

Bishard “Budda” Baker is in his fifth season as an NFL player, and says “average” will not be accepted in Phoenix any longer. The two-time All-Pro and three-time Pro Bowl safety expects better….

RSNG You’re a very ambitious guy and I know you’ve not been happy with some of the defensive performances during your time at Arizona. What have you done to try to boost the defense this season and for the future? BUDDA BAKER, DEFENSIVE DEMON IN ARIZONA “None of us are happy enough with the numbers and as a team, that has contributed to no higher than a 3rd place finish in my time here.”

“So, we sat down and we had a talk over the summer and we made certain to put things in place which will help us achieve a higher finish and I know we have got two 8-8 seasons in the four years I’ve been here.”

RSNG And now there will be an extra game, so unless you draw one match, there’s no room for a level score season? BB “Yeah, you’re either going to have a winning season or a losing one and we need to make sure that it’s the former.”

“The defense being tighter, tougher and stronger means that it’s going to concede less points and that it is easier for the offense to make their points count, although the offense can look after themselves.”

“As a defense, we need more tackles, more sacks, more takeaways, more interceptions and the odd pick-6 won’t go amiss. That would be nice!"

“We don’t want to be average, so we’ve got to make sure we’re better and I will be speaking about it if I see it happening. But I want my team-mates to call me out if they see something I’m doing wrong, because at the end of the day, we’re all brothers, team-mates and teams win and lose together.”

RSNG Is it a help or a hindrance to have so much tech, science and reporting in the sport nowadays? BB “It’s a help when you’re winning and a hindrance when you’re losing. It’s like anything – you love to look over the numbers when the plan works; but they are hard to take when it doesn’t. I think that counts for any sportsman in any field.”

RSNG When did you first realize that you loved football? BB “Well, I think I crossed over to football when I was about 12. When I was growing up, I played a lot of soccer, I ran track, I played basketball and I was a really big fan of that. I didn’t play any football, to be honest up to that time although I did watch a lot of NFL matches on the television.”

“That was until I was placed into a youth football programme in Bellevue, in Washington where I was born, and it all started from there.”

RSNG What prompted that change? BB “I loved soccer and I still do, but the far more physical aspects of football attracted me to it. People have asked me whether it was just because you can hit people, but that’s not exactly true. If it was just that I may have wound up going into boxing or MMA/UFC or whatever.”

“Football is a brutal game, of course it is. But you have to remember that the large majority of hits in football are done the right way and a legal way. I love that thing about being a defensive player and I’m not going out to hurt people, but we’re all big guys and we all look after ourselves. At the end of the day, it’s a game – a violent one, but a game.”

RSNG You went to Washington and played for the Huskies, but is it true that you nearly went to UCLA? BB “I wouldn’t say that I almost went there, but I was certainly considering it because one of my closest friends is Myles Jack who now plays for Jacksonville and he went to UCLA.”

“But one of the things which did stop me was that I knew he would be gone the year after I started there because he’s a year older than I am, so I thought that I should go my own way and stay at home in Washington.”

“But I had to also consider which was going to give me the best opportunity to move forward with football and also my academics. With Coach Petersen and his staff coming in from Boise State, where he was very successful, that was always going to influence my decision.”

Coach Petersen is just a really honest guy, a proper football man and he really impressed me from the moment I met him

RSNG He’s very well respected in the college football scene, isn’t he? BB “Coach Petersen is just a really honest guy, a proper football man and he really impressed me from the moment I met him. He talks straight, no BS and he lets you know what the lay of the land is.”

“When I was going through the recruitment stage, I had a few different coaches and reps coming from the other colleges and I got the impression that some were almost like used car sellers, haha!”

“I just couldn’t put my trust in those types of people and I knew that what they were saying may not have been the full truth. But with Chris, it was all there in front of me. He told me that it would be very hard work but if I did everything that was asked of me, if I listened and we all worked together, then the path was there to get what I needed and wanted from U-Dub (UW).”

It takes no energy to believe – what takes energy and depletes you is rallying against it

RSNG You’re not the biggest safety in the league, but you sure play like it? BB “Well, there’s nothing I can do about my stature, I just have to make the best of what I got in the toolbox.”

“A lot of people have commented and some made a pass to take me because of that. But I knew that if and when someone did take that chance on me and give me the opportunity to show them what I could do, I would repay them with everything I got.”

“That’s all you can do when you play football. You can get stronger and fitter and maybe put a bit more bulk on, but you can’t make yourself taller. You’ve just got to go with what you’ve got and practise as much as you can, proving not only to others, but to yourself, that you deserve to be here around the best players.”

RSNG Arizona showed faith in you by trading up picks to get you in the second round of the 2017 Draft, as you were 36th overall pick? BB “Yeah, that made me feel so good and I was pumped after being initially disappointed to have not made it to a first-round pick. And when that call came from Arizona, I was so excited to get the chance to play here.”

“I never thought that Arizona was somewhere I saw myself being, not because I didn’t want to, I just didn’t think it would happen. My first year here was a huge learning curve and I took everything onboard – you wouldn’t imagine how much – and it was vital that I soaked all the knowledge up.”

“But I will always keep taking advice, guidance and knowledge from those around me. There is some unbelievable talent and experience in this group of players, as well as the great staff and it can only help for the rest of my career.”

RSNG What’s your best piece of advice? BB “Believe. Believe in yourself, believe in your team-mates, believe in your coaches, believe in the process.”

“It takes no energy to believe – what takes energy and depletes you is rallying against it.”

WHAT NEXT? Want more grid iron? Then read the RSNG interview with Aaron Rodgers...