TEMPE, ARIZ. – Cardinals second-round pick Kevin Minter got undercard billing at his introductory press conference Thursday at the team’s practice complex.
It wasn’t because top pick Jonathan Cooper was in attendance. That event had already come and gone. It’s just that third-round pick and former LSU teammate Tyrann Mathieu’s story is a bit more compelling at this stage of his career – a point the Cardinals’ deft media relations staff understood when they brought Mathieu to the podium first.
“It is what it is,” Minter said. “Even though I was obviously picked before him, the guy was a playmaker. He did a lot for us that national championship year.”
Coach Bruce Arians and general manager Steve Keim believe Minter will do just as much for the Cardinals in the coming years. And it all starts with his reputation as a thumper – a reputation he said he “relishes.”
“I’m not necessarily a hoo-rah type of guy. I’m more of a speak-softly, carry-a-big-stick type of a dude, and y’all will see when the season starts,” said Minter, who signed his four-year, rookie-scale deal with the team on Monday. “I’m a pretty intense player. I probably don’t seem that way in this press conference, but I’m very passionate when I’m on the field.”
Minter is one part of an insurance policy at inside linebacker if things go sour with budding Pro Bowler Daryl Washingon, who is suspended for the first four games of next year for violating the NFL’s Policy and Program for Substances of Abuse and could also be facing additional penalties following his arrest in a domestic violence incident.
But recent moves may allow the Cardinals to bring Minter along a little more slowly. They already have veteran Reggie Walker and signed Jasper Brinkley early in free agency. On Friday, they also brought back former Cardinal Karlos Dansby on a one-year deal to help mitigate Washington’s absence and smooth the transition for the newcomers.
“It adds great depth,” Arians said of Dansby, “but again, the leadership presence that he’s always had in the locker room is the type of player that we want.”
Dansby is the type of player who can shepherd Minter into the ranks of professional football.
“I’m not sure Kevin’s going to need a lot of help. He has that bell-cow instinct in him already,” Arians said. “But I think Karlos can bring more of that out and just let him know that what he’s doing is right.”
In his junior and final season at LSU, Minter recorded a team-high 130 tackles, was named team MVP and was one of three finalists for the Butkus Award as the nation’s top linebacker.
“I’ve got to assert myself,” he said. “I’m the middle linebacker. I’m the quarterback of that defense. I’ve got to make my presence felt.”
One of the greatest challenges for NFL rookies has always been learning the playbook and then being able to apply it at top speed on the field. That aspect of the game does not concern Minter.
“One of my best attributes that everybody talks about is me being able to get into the playbook fast,” he said. “I feel like I’m going to get it. I’m used to making the calls. I’m used to being the leader out there. You all will see when the season starts.”