PHOENIX — Arizona Cardinals safety Budda Baker had a big year in 2019. While the Cardinals defense struggled throughout the season, Baker was not part of the problem. He put up career-high numbers in tackles (147) and scored an invite to the Pro Bowl.
Baker is now heading into just his fourth NFL season, but the 24-year-old has the attitude of a veteran already, on and off the field.
Baker sat down with 12 Sports' Cameron Cox Thursday morning for a 1-on-1 interview that had broad range. The two discussed Budda's expectations for the 2020 season, his thoughts on head coach Kliff Kingsbury, his friendship with fellow Pro Bowler Chandler Jones, 2020 NFL Draft prospects, video games, the UFC and even fashion.
As a player, how much do you pay attention to free agency and the NFL Draft?
"There's a lot of great players in this draft, you know, that Isaiah Simmons kid is definitely great," Baker said. "I know Kyler wants CeeDee Lamb, they went to the same college."
Baker went on to say that Clemson's Isaiah Simmons emulates the type of style he himself likes to play: multi-faceted, able to cover and make plays at different positions.
"I feel like the league is getting more pass-friendly and you need guys that can cover that are playing linebacker that are also able to tackle and fit run gaps," Baker said.
What is your mindset going into your fourth season? What's Kliff Kingsbury like behind the scenes?
"I'm just excited because we've got the same coaching staff," Baker said. "My first three years, we haven't had the same coaching staff, so it's been different for me. But this year is the same staff and I'm looking forward to build off what I did personally last year."
Baker went on to talk about Jordan Hicks and head coach Kliff Kingsbury and what he's like behind the scenes.
"For me, Kliff is a laid back coach, he knows what he wants, he knows all the things that he needs," Baker said. "I try to get to the facility early, I always see his car there first. That can attest, he really cares and he's really trying to turn this organization around and I'm really excited for this year for him."
Tell us about your friendship with Chandler Jones and spending so much time with him recently
Chandler Jones and Budda Baker have always been friends but they've undoubtedly gotten closer this season and offseason, especially after both were invited to the Pro Bowl.
"He's selfless, he's always going to be there for me and same thing for him," Baker said about Jones.
Budda also talks about how the two went to UFC 247 in Houston together to watch Chandler's brother Jon "Bones" Jones defend his title.
You've become more of the vocal leader back there, when did you take on that role?
Baker said he's always been vocal on the field but people just haven't been able to see it as much.
"I'd say on the field I'm a totally different guy than I am right now [off the field]," he said. "I feel like that really start last year because I was kind of like the 'vet.' Younger guys were coming up to me, asking me questions whether it was outside of football or on the football field. It's definitely a blessing."
Baker goes on to talk about when he's mic'd up on the field, how he'll sing and dance and more about how he tries to mentor the younger players during training camp and in the season.
"It's a great feeling that they're able to come to me and put their egos aside and come to me and ask questions and I'm able to put my ego aside and come to them and answer their questions to the best of my ability," Baker said.
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