Arizona Cardinals safety Kerry Rhodes has worn many hats over the years: quarterback, safety, Jet, Cardinal, actor and model.
After leading the Cardinals with four interceptions in 2010, Rhodes broke a bone in his left foot last season, forcing him to miss eight games and post the worst statistical season of his career. He spent the offseason getting healthy – mentally and physically. Rhodes began his eighth NFL season, his third with Arizona, Tuesday as the Cardinals opened training camp.
Rhodes grew up outside Birmingham, Ala., and attended the University of Louisville. He was drafted in the fourth round by the New York Jets in 2005 and was named to the NFL’s all-rookie team that season.
Rhodes performed well throughout five years with the Jets, but he earned the nickname “Hollywood” because of his extracurricular activities, television appearances and status as a media darling.
By the end of the 2009 season, Rhodes was clashing with outspoken first-year coach Rex Ryan. Rhodes' commitment to football was questioned, and Ryan benched Rhodes for two games. In March 2010, the Jets traded him to the Cardinals.
ESPN Playbook recently caught up with Rhodes to discuss his time in New York, his future with the Cardinals and his off-the-field aspirations.
Playbook: After two years in Arizona, do you feel like you’ve started to settle in there?
Rhodes: I think I do call Phoenix home. It’s a really nice place to live, and the people are great. The fans have been great out here, and I really feel like they’ve welcomed me. I feel like I’m part of Cardinal Nation now.
Larry Fitzgerald [visited ESPN recently] and was running routes against [star receiver-turned-analyst] Cris Carter.
Tell Cris to leave the covering to me. He can do the one-handed catches, but he needs to leave the covering to me.
What are your expectations for yourself this season?
Personally, I expect to have a great year. I’ve put in all the work and worked on little things to tweak my game a little bit to try to make myself a little quicker. I’m a veteran guy now, so I need to improve my footwork to sharpen my game.
You were a quarterback [at Lanier High in Bessemer, Ala.]. What is your take on the quarterback battle between Kevin Kolb and John Skelton?
I have a little experience. I wanted to throw my hat into the ring, but Coach [Ken Whisenhunt] told me to stay over there and do my job first. Both of those guys are capable of playing. Skelton did a good job for us down the stretch. Kolb didn’t really have training camp to get himself into our system last season. He has that this year, and I really expect big things from him. I’ve played against him since college, so I know what he can do, and I know he has the potential to be a really good quarterback. It’s going to be exciting to see who wins that battle.
Last season was your first in the NFL without an interception. How much did that eat at you?
That killed me. I missed eight games. That was my first year being hurt and actually missing time. It was tough from that standpoint alone. To not have a pick, for me, that doesn’t happen. It’s a big deal to me just for my psyche. Having a goose egg up there isn’t something that I’m used to. I’m ready for a good year. My body feels good. I’m 100 percent going into camp, and 100 percent means good things for me.
What was that like for you to sit and watch two months of football from the sidelines after breaking a bone in your left foot?
At first, I didn’t even go to the games. I didn’t want to be around it. I wanted to get away from it, and then when I got back out there, seeing the guys interacting, having fun, being a team, seeing them from afar made me miss being around them, and it made me appreciate being in this game. This game isn’t promised to anybody, so when you’re out and you sit back and see how much you really care about it, it was actually beneficial for me.
When you were in New York, people were questioning your commitment. Was that renewed sense of passion reassuring for you?
Those old things about not being all the way in during that last year with New York, that was kind of bogus. Reports come from anywhere, and they start to take a life of their own. Being away from it and seeing how much I cared about the game was very good.
How does playing in Arizona differ from playing in New York?
I made the all-rookie team. Second year, All-Pro. I was "the guy" there for my first four years, and then when Rex came, it didn’t go that way. It opened my eyes a little bit, and then I came out here to Arizona. People were trying to see how Kerry was going to react and bounce back from that fifth year. "Is he going to be the same guy?" I came out and was MVP of the team here in Arizona. It catapulted my love for the game back. That fifth year in New York was hard on me mentally. People can turn on you so fast and say that you’re not all in after you’ve done so much for the organization.
Are you glad to be out of New York? Do you think things were too magnified there?
Definitely. One minute, you’re the superstar and the next you can’t carry water to a table. There’s no middle ground there. It’s always an extreme, good or bad. You have to deal with it. That’s just how it is in that market. Out here, fans appreciate the effort that you put out there every week because Arizona hasn’t been one of the top teams, historically. They’ve been doing well the last 10 or 15 years and they’ve started to build in the right direction. Fans here appreciate effort when they see it.
How’s your modeling and acting career coming along?
That’s still there. I’m going to try to milk that as long as I can. As long as I have the opportunity to do those types of things in the offseason, on my time, I’m going to take advantage of it. ... I’m going to do the movie stuff soon. I have some things lined up that I can’t really talk about yet. I’m not a one-trick pony.
Your nickname in New York was "Hollywood." Have you hung on to that in Arizona?
Not as much. It’s died down a little bit. It blossomed into its own thing in New York. People just call me "K" out here.
You quoted “West Side Story” in an interview once. Do you miss Broadway?
I’m a big Broadway guy. I love people being able to be artistic and expressing themselves in the way they want. You have one chance to do it on Broadway. That may be the only chance you have. Being able to do that every night is a hell of a deal.
So when will we be seeing your name up in lights?
I would love to do that. Being able to perform every night under those circumstances would be great. When you’re making a movie, you can edit it how you want it. But when you’re on stage, you have to get it right that one time. I last saw "Rock of Ages." It was great.
You used to be active on Twitter. Are you dialing it down?
I got away from it for a little while. This is a big year for me, so I was just trying to get my mind right and start some things over. It will be back. I will probably start it back up when the season starts. I needed to get some things straight. I’m in a great place in my life right now. I’m in a great relationship, and everything is on the up and up. Once I’m back, the followers will come. They want to see what types of things will be said. They’ll be back.