During his time in Arizona, cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie did everything asked of him. As a rookie in 2008, he recorded four interceptions and helped the Cardinals make it to the Super Bowl. He followed it up a year later by making the Pro Bowl. In three years with the Cardinals, he picked off 13 passes, returning four of them for touchdowns.
So you can imagine why, at the end of the 2011 lockout, Rodgers-Cromartie was surprised to hear he was being traded.
"Going out there, being drafted in the first round, having what I thought (were a) pretty good three years there ... (I) really didn't have any off-the-field issues or any of that, so I was kind of surprised," Rodgers-Cromartis said.
In exchange for Rodgers-Cromartie and a second-round pick, the Eagles gave Arizona quarterback Kevin Kolb. And as the Eagles prepare to face the Cardinals on Sunday, Rodgers-Cromartie prepares to face the man for whom he was traded.
Even without the trade, the Cardinals and Eagles have a dramatic recent history. The Cardinals have won the two previous meetings, including the 2008 NFC Championship Game. Though he was victorious that day, there is one moment during the game Rodgers-Cromartie's new teammates won't let him forget.
"I just have a memory of DeSean (Jackson) just going deep on me," he said. "That hit me right (in the heart) because I see him every day in this locker room. And they're always bringing that up, from (wide receivers coach David Culley) to the trainers, they always say, 'Hey DR, remember when DeSean went past you?' So that's always the memory."
It's not often players traded for one another get to face off head-to-head. But just as Kolb will be looking to take advantage of the Eagles' secondary, Rodgers-Cromartie will be looking to get the best of the Cardinals' offense. And it doesn't take a former Cardinal to know where that offense gets its juice – wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald.
Rodgers-Cromartie's first three years in the league were spent on a team that also employed the services of Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin, who at the time formed one of the best receiving duos in the league. Last week, the Eagles beat Boldin's new team in the Ravens. And it's possible that he will be matched up against Fitzgerald this Sunday.
"They understand how you play, and they understand what you're doing," Rodgers-Cromartie said. "So the main thing is just to be focused, because you know they know how to attack you. So the main thing is to just go out there and be disciplined."
And it's certainly not lost on him that the quarterback throwing to Fitzgerald is a large reason Rodgers-Cromartie is now an Eagle. But he knows the NFL is a business and doesn't take the trade personally.
"They're the ones who gave me the opportunity to be in the National Football League, so you always want to thank them for that," he said. "I had fun times (in Arizona); there are no hard feelings."
The corner's job this week is not to dwell on the past, but to help the Eagles achieve a bright future. To do that, Rodgers-Cromartie and the defense must stop an efficient and effective Cardinals offense led by Kolb.
"He's making smart decisions," Rodgers-Cromartie said. "He's getting the ball out quickly. You look at his preseason, he had the turnovers; he had a couple mental errors. But you look at him right now, he's really running the offense,. He has a nice tempo and he's really getting the ball out quickly."
So yes, Rodgers-Cromartie and Kolb will likely be the prevailing storyline for as long as they face each other. But that's for the fans. For Rodgers-Cromartie, it's all about taking care of business on Sunday.
"I'm just looking at it like another game," he said. "I know a lot of people are probably looking at (the trade angle), but I'm just going in there facing an Arizona team that's on the rise."
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