Perrish Cox pushing to make 49ers roster
SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP)
After sitting out last year with legal problems, Cox is pushing to make the roster and earn playing time in a competitive secondary after joining the 49ers in March.
Cox continued to make an impression during San Francisco's preseason opener against Minnesota last Friday, putting an exclamation point on the 49ers' 17-6 victory with an interception to end the Vikings' final offensive possession.
The second-year cornerback has gained attention throughout training camp with his consistent play and is challenging for a role in coverage packages in a secondary that returns all four starters from last season, including two Pro Bowlers.
''He's the same as he's been all summer,'' 49ers defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said Monday. ''Perrish did well in the game the other night with his opportunities. He's doing well in nickel (coverage) and he's doing well at cornerback. He's going to factor into our plans somehow, someway.''
Cox is just relishing his new opportunity to get on the field. He didn't play last season after the Denver Broncos released him in early September.
Denver's fifth-round draft pick in 2010, Cox started nine games as a rookie and showed potential as a coverage corner with 14 passes defensed. But his career took a jolt late in that season when Cox was arrested and charged with felonious sexual assault.
With legal issues hovering over him and a trial looming, Cox was not signed by another team and spent last season out of the NFL. He was found not guilty of criminal charges in a Colorado court on March 2, and the 49ers signed him to a two-year deal later that month.
During his season out of the league, Cox remained in touch with 49ers secondary coach Ed Donatell, who held the same position with the Broncos during Cox's rookie season. There was an opportunity waiting for Cox with the 49ers once he was legally cleared.
Cox has been making the most of it while getting a long look at the nickel back role in San Francisco's multiple coverage packages.
''It was tough for me last year, as far as sitting on the sidelines and watching,'' Cox said. ''Being out for a year, you kind of look back on what you could have done. But it was a positive for me as far as learning what I needed to work on, and also everything that I needed to work on off the field. The whole thing was a learning experience.''
Cox is learning a new position this season playing inside against slot receivers. He's battling veteran Tramaine Brock for playing time behind San Francisco's top three cornerbacks - starters Carlos Rogers and Tarell Brown and Chris Culliver, the 49ers' top nickel back as a rookie in 2011 who could have an expanded role this year.
Cox has been taken under the wing of Rogers, who became a Pro Bowl starter after his first year with the 49ers last season. Rogers played several of the inside coverage roles last season that Cox is learning this summer.
''The nickel is something tough, and Perrish continues to work at it,'' Rogers said. ''That's one guy I'm kind of sticking with and working with a whole lot. It's something new for him and he's always asking me something about all the positions. For a guy that's coming in learning and playing nickel for the first time, he's doing a good job and progressing every day.''
Cox got an opportunity for some regular cornerback duty with San Francisco's reserve units against Minnesota and showed he can be effective playing on the edge. He was second on the team with three tackles, and his diving interception in front of Minnesota receiver Jarius Wright was one of the defensive highlights of the game.
Cox said playing outside at cornerback ''is just more natural for me. It's what I've been doing basically my whole life coming up playing football.'' But he is with the 49ers to fit in and play wherever they can use him.
''I think about where I was at this time last year and I wasn't involved,'' Cox said. ''Whatever they need me to do, I'm here to do it.''
NOTES: The standards for San Francisco's defense are so high that Fangio was upset about his unit's performance against the Vikings on a night the 49ers allowed just two field goals and 208 total yards. ''We were not sharp and we definitely did not play the way we are capable of playing,'' Fangio said. . The 49ers waived guard Garrett Chisolm and signed tight ends Gijon Robinson and Joe Sawyer to their roster.