Background: Aug 27, 2021; Kansas City, Missouri, USA; Minnesota Vikings cornerback Jeff Gladney (20) runs the ball as Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Darius Harris (47) makes the tackle during the second half at GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley
A tempestuous off-season for the Cardinals turned tragic yesterday when the news came in from Dallas, Texas that Jeff Gladney and his girlfriend Mercedes Palacios had lost their lives in a car accident.
How will the Cardinals handle such a devastating loss?
The Cardinals have an opportunity to handle this devastating tragedy with unified class and grace.
From the outset, one can imagine that team owner Michael Bidwill will take care of Jeff Gladney’s family and will use the team jet, if necessary, to fly Gladney’s short-lived Cardinals’ teammates to his funeral.
Or perhaps, J.J. Watt will intercept Bidwill by informing the Gladney family that he would like to take care of the funeral expenses. Mr. Watt has done so at times for complete strangers who were victims of horrible tragedies.
Just recently, Jeff Gladney was feeling so proud that he was able to purchase a new house for his mom.
Quentin Harris, the Cardinals Executive Director of College Scouting, was recently raving to Dave Pasch about Jeff Gladney’s extraordinary potential as the team’s new starter at left cornerback.
Early last week, Budda Baker surprised the local media by asserting” “Personally I feel like it’s the best (defensive back room) that I’ve had in my career. We’re all kind of young, we all have the same kind of personalities and we’re all friends. We’ve got some guys that you’ll be excited to see.”
Clearly, one of the main reasons why Budda felt as passionate about his secondary was the addition of a physical press man cover corner like Jeff Gladney.
if now feels somewhat surreal that Budda Baker stated at the start of the Cardinals’ on-the-field OTAs that his reasons for showing up for OTAs were: “I’m a camaraderie guy, understanding people’s personalities, what they like to do on the field, of course, exchange numbers, talk a little football and all that type of stuff. And that’s (showing up) what I just personally like to do, just because growing up, that’s just how it was, that’s what you just had to do. Now that I’m one of the leaders on the team, I definitely want to do that, because it just helps the younger guys kind of get a head start before training camp and all that stuff starts.”
One can only imagine how exciting and encouraging it was last week for Jeff Gladney to feel the support he was getting from an NFL superstar and all-out baller like Budda Baker.
The Cardinals quickly need to figure out the best ways in which they, as an organization and as a team, can properly handle their heartbreak and lay their fallen teammate to rest. Even though the roster is chock-full of big, rough and tumble football players, it would be wise of Michael Bidwill to make sure that there are guidance counselors in the building to help the players grieve such an unfathomable loss.
The Cardinals need to gather as a team and to grieve as a team. And they need to find the strength to carry on through the off-season program. The only way for coaches and players to do this is to do it together. If the unthinkable loss of Jeff Gladney doesn’t fully unite this team, then nothing will.
If need be, the Cardinals can draw inspiration by looking at the exemplary way in which the Pittsburgh Steelers honored Dwayne Haskins:
Tomorrow we can take a look at what potential moves the Cardinals can make to try to compensate for their loss. It would be a great idea for Steve Keim to include Budda Baker in the decision making. But, all that matters today is paying homage to Jeff Gladney and Mercedes Palacios and their heartbroken families, teammates and friends.