Aqib Talib and Marcus Peters were laughing and joking like old friends shortly after the start of their first day together at the Los Angeles Rams' training complex.
The Rams' opponents might not have that much fun this fall when they face two of the NFL's best pass defenders in the same secondary.
The defending NFC West champions kicked off their offseason by acquiring bookend elite cornerbacks in two trades that were formally announced Wednesday. Talib and Peters say they're thrilled to play under coordinator Wade Phillips on a defense undergoing an intriguing overhaul.
"These guys are special players Kyle Rudolph Jersey ," head coach Sean McVay said. "They bring a great passion for the game. You can see these are both cerebral players, and then they have the physical talents to match up. Guys that love football, these are the types of guys we love to be around."
Rams general manager Les Snead has created a seemingly stellar secondary after entering the season with the uncertainty of top cornerback Trumaine Johnson, slot cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman and starting safety Lamarcus Joyner all heading for free agency.
They lost Johnson to a lavish deal from the New York Jets, but the Rams re-signed Robey-Coleman, franchised Joyner and swung trades for two cornerbacks with seven combined Pro Bowl selections to play alongside Joyner and safety John Johnson III in a potent starting lineup. Los Angeles even added talented veteran cornerback Sam Shields, who missed last season due to concussions, as a probable backup alongside 2017 starting cornerback Kayvon Webster, who has a long road back from a heel injury.
Peters has known for nearly three weeks that he was headed out of Kansas City, where he spent his first three NFL seasons. When he heard last week that Talib would join him with the up-and-coming Rams, the Oakland native was thrilled.
"Oh, let's do it," Peters said. "For me, I get to have another All-Pro corner on the other side Rick Leonard Jersey , so now you don't know where you're going to go. And then when you've got a safety like Joyner and then you're adding Sam Shields and you keep Robey? Come on now. It's just going to be fun. You've got to find a way. Pick your poison."
Talib and Peters both paid attention last season when McVay and Phillips led this long-struggling franchise to its first winning season since 2003 and its first playoff appearance since 2004. After winning the Super Bowl two seasons ago under Phillips' direction in Denver, Talib was eager to be a part of another potential powerhouse.
"I saw a bunch of guys having fun," Talib said of watching the Rams last season. "They were playing for somebody who they believed in. You watch half the teams in the league, they just go through the motions and kind of collect a check, but there's another half of those teams, and playoff teams, they've got a coach who they respect, and whatever he's preaching, he's got guys believing that they can really go do it."
Peters and Talib are two world-class talents with just enough apparent questions surrounding them to make them available to the Rams.
Peters, who was dismissed from his college team at Washington, argued with an assistant coach late last season with the Chiefs, leading to a one-game suspension. McVay and Snead are confident Peters' competitiveness is the only reason for the trouble, and he intends to direct that energy toward the Rams' goals.
"When we look back into the game, passionate players have always been the ones that got the bad rep of not being a team player and being selfish Marquise Goodwin Jersey ," Peters said. "That's not the case for me. My ultimate goal is to be a winner. I was born a champion."
Talib has been in scrapes with the law, his employers and opponents during his 10 professional seasons. His rivalry with receiver Michael Crabtree has attracted the most attention, but teammates also praise his loyalty and competitiveness. McVay, who is 20 days older than the 32-year-old Talib, expects the veteran to be an immediate team leader.
The additions came at a cost to the Rams, who had to trade defensive captain Alec Ogletree to the New York Giants to make room for Talib.
"It's rare to be able to acquire two players of this caliber," McVay said. "So when the opportunity does present itself, you want to be ready."
Su’a Cravens has found happiness, harmony and himself just in time for his do-over in Denver.
Elated over John Elway’s call and Von Miller’s text, the former standout safety from Southern Cal celebrated his trade from the Redskins to the Broncos by posting ”A Whole New World” from the Disney movie ”Aladdin” on his Twitter account.
”I felt like it was perfect,” said Cravens, who missed all of last season and even mulled retirement while dealing with the lingering effects of a head injury.
Selected in the second round of the 2016 NFL draft, Cravens played in 11 games his rookie season but he sustained a concussion in Week 4 and later suffered an elbow injury. He said he felt off-kilter heading into training camp last year, and things only got worse after he underwent knee surgery in August to repair a torn meniscus.
Cravens had to be talked out of retiring in early September during a meeting with team President Bruce Allen Reshad Jones Jersey , and the Redskins placed him on their exempt list, forcing him to miss the entire season. They sent him to see sports concussion expert Micky Collins in Pittsburgh, who had an answer for all of his mood swings, personality changes and feelings that something just wasn’t quite right: post-concussion syndrome.
”I didn’t really know what was going on until I went to see Dr. Collins and he made me fully aware of the situation,” Cravens said. ”At first I just thought that something was wrong with me, something’s not right and I didn’t feel the same. Once he explained, `This is why you feel this way,’ he’d ask me questions, I’d tell him, `Yes,’ and he’d say, `Well that’s a correlation to this.’ Everything started making sense and once we started working on it progressively I got better and better.”
Cravens said he never lost his love for the game but did succumb to feelings his football career was finished.
”Certainly. I was going through something that I wasn’t even aware I was going through,” Cravens said. ”The mindset that I had last year was just completely different from how I am now. Once I got cleared, I took a step back and looked at the way I was acting and the way I was treating my loved ones. The way my whole thought process was Dave Robinson Jersey , it was a stranger.
”It was just crazy that I didn’t realize that I was in a predicament I was completely unaware of. So yeah, there was a point that I thought I was done with football, but that love for it and that need to compete, that need to be on the field and be with your brothers, that never went away.”
Cravens even had to deal with accusations that he’d quit on his teammates.
He was finally cleared in December and the Redskins began shopping him during the NFL combine last month.
The Broncos essentially sent a fifth-round selection in this year’s draft for the safety-linebacker hybrid whose instincts and athleticism wowed scouts two years ago.
Cravens is eager to put his past behind him and start anew in Denver.
”I think there’s a false narrative on what exactly happened,” Cravens said. ”Right now my focus is just on being a Denver Bronco. One day I’ll be able to speak a little further on that, but I’m not a quitter. I’m not a guy who lacks love for the game. I definitely don’t know where the `quitting in college’ came from, but like I said, I’m here to play for the Broncos and do whatever I can to help this team win games.”
He sees himself as a strong safety but is willing to play wherever the Broncos feel he fits best in a revamped secondary that lost standout safety T.J. Ward last fall and elite cornerback Aqib Talib this spring.
”I’m just grateful to be on the field,” Cravens said, adding that last season made him appreciate his chance to play pro football and he has no qualms about getting right back into the fray.
”We’re all grown men and I know what I’m signing myself up for. I’m aware of the situation that I was in and I’m aware of the dangers of the game,” he said. ”I’ve experienced it firsthand and I’m still willing to go out there and put everything I have on the line. I wanted a fresh start just because I don’t like the way things happened. It wasn’t a part of my plan. I never thought at 22 years old that I’d be at the house watching football instead of playing football.”
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