What this reputation has done, however, is drown out Swearinger the player. He is a video junkie, studying his position more than most. He has been overlooked – in Swearinger’s eyes, all the time – as a top safety. But he emerged after a bumpy start to his career during his first go-round with the Cardinals, going from a brief stint on the practice squad in 2015 to a starter in 2016, leading to a big free-agent contract in Washington.
“They see me as the hitter, the trash-talker,” Swearinger said. “A lot of people don’t like that. They envy those types of guys. I’m going to be myself regardless of what people think. Only God can judge me. So what people say goes in one ear and out the other.”
But he believes recognition will finally come this year, after back-to-back four-interception seasons in Washington.
He probably still should be with the Redskins, cut late last season after he publicly questioned some coaching moves, despite being one of the team’s best players. The Cardinals were thrilled to scoop him back up with the top waiver claim in the league, a Christmas present for the 2019 roster.
Swearinger, who was cut from both Houston and Tampa Bay earlier in his career when those teams felt his production didn’t match his attitude, acknowledged he was humbled by the move. He noted all the things he learned in Washington, about the business of the NFL and “things to say and things not to say.” But he also has said multiple times how happy he was to have returned to the Cardinals.
“He’s calmed down some since Houston,” Joseph said. “It’s a fun game and it’s an emotional game, so I don’t mind that.”
Swearinger will team with Budda Baker for what the Cardinals believe is one of the top safety tandems in the league – a duo that has more pressure on them now that the cornerback situation has gone through upheaval, facing Patrick Peterson’s suspension and Robert Alford’s broken leg.
“He can seem like a loudmouth guy, that he doesn’t really listen, but he takes all the coaching, he listens, he helps the young guys and he does everything he has to do to be the player he wants to be,” Baker said. “I think it’s great. That’s how he is. He has a lot of passion for the game.”
That passion isn’t going anywhere, humbled or not. That’s what makes Swearinger who he is.
“Whether it may get me screwed, I’m always my brother’s keeper,” Swearinger said. “If you’re going to be loud and boisterous, it’s going to be loud and boisterous for the right reasons. It’s not singling anyone out. My guys make a play, I’m going to let it be known. I make a play, I’m going to let it be known. You got to have some swagger about it.”