TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) — Kerry Rhodes has found a rebirth in Arizona, where his off-the-field Hollywood interests have taken a back seat to his fast start with the Cardinals.
The talkative free safety said after Wednesday’s practice that those who have criticized him as being distracted by his music video and other show business interests “can call me what they want.”
“I know at the end of the day they’re going to see that I’m a great player in this league,” he said. “That’s all I want to get back to. The Hollywood thing, it is what it is. I’m going to do that when I get done.”
The Cardinals traded a fourth-round 2010 draft pick and a seventh-round 2011 selection to get Rhodes after Antrel Rolle left as a free agent and signed with the New York Giants.
Rhodes has returned fumbles for touchdowns in the past two games, including a 27-yarder in last Sunday’s 30-20 victory over the Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints. After that score, he leaped into the crowd to help the fans celebrate.
“I saw the fans getting happy so I thought ‘Maybe I should give them a little love, too,’” he said.
The Cardinals have this weekend off. Their short workout on Wednesday was their only practice of the week. They will gather Monday to resume preparation for their Oct. 24 game at Seattle.
Rhodes has 30 tackles, 27 of them solo, in four games. In his debut for Arizona, he intercepted one of Sam Bradford’s passes and returned it 65 yards in the Cardinals’ 17-13 victory in St. Louis.
Rhodes said he appreciates the way he has been moved around at the free safety position under the system of defensive coordinator Bill Davis.
“It just lets me utilize my talents and show everything I have,” he said. “I’m not just a free safety. I can go in the box, I can blitz, I can cover man-to-man on receivers. It doesn’t matter. Just being able to showcase that ability on a given down will show my talents.”
It also keeps him on his toes throughout the game.
“Last year, I’ll play free safety and I’ll have one tackle and one breakup and in prior years before that I’ll have 10 tackles, a sack, a pick and just being more involved in the game plan and being able to move around,” Rhodes said. “It just keeps you more involved in the game. It keeps you interested.”
Rhodes, who got a $2 million roster bonus from the Jets in March and has a $2.7 million base contract this year, was benched in the 12th game of last season.
There were rumblings he didn’t get along with some of his coaches and some teammates. That certainly has not been a problem so far in Arizona.
When he arrived in Arizona, Rhodes criticized the coaching staff in New York and said the suggestion that he had lost his commitment to football was ridiculous. He said he was highly motivated the moment he joined his new team.
“I wanted to have a strong start, no question,” Rhodes said. “This league, perception is a big thing. When you get labeled in one place you’re at, ‘Going Hollywood. He doesn’t focus on football, blah, blah, blah’ Whatever that may be, it can stick with you. So I wanted to come back this year and make sure it didn’t stick.”
Arizona strong safety Adrian Wilson said he and Rhodes have meshed well.
“It’s come together kind of quickly,” Wilson said. “Whenever you have a great player like Kerry that comes into a team, he’s willing to learn, he’s willing to listen and he hates to make mistakes. Whenever you have a guy like that he’s easy to play with.”
Wilson appreciates having a veteran back there with him.
“He’s going to be where he’s supposed to be,” Wilson said. “That’s the main thing because you’re not forcing yourself to go out there and make a play. He’s letting the game come to him.”
Rhodes’ Hollywood reputation evaporated once he got to the desert, Wilson said.
“I think that was kind of water under the bridge once he got here,” Wilson said. “More than anything he’s proven to himself he can go out there and make plays and be a great football player.”
Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.