Hunter Eager To Play CB; Will Play Safety If Needed
Hunter Eager To Play CB; Will Play Safety If Needed
By Nick Eatman
DallasCowboys.com Staff Writer
May 28, 2005, 6:40 PM (CDT)
IRVING, Texas - Few players on the Cowboys roster have had such uncertainty surrounding them this off-season as cornerback Pete Hunter.
And yes, for now, that's cornerback Pete Hunter.
See, that's where the root of the problems have occurred this off-season for Hunter, who has been quoted in the past few months voicing his displeasure with not only Cowboys signing a pair of veteran free-agent cornerbacks in the off-season, but also with the possibility of him being moved to free safety.
So in between practices Saturday during the team's three-day mini-camp out here at Valley Ranch, Hunter did his best to clear the air, and his name for that matter, attempting to set the record straight.
"Right now, I consider myself a cornerback," said Hunter, who is back on the practice field after missing the final 13 games last year recovering from reconstructive surgery on his left knee. "And I would love to stay at cornerback. But if they need me to play safety, I'll do that. I'm not one of those guys.
"A lot was made about what I said about wanting to play corner. But if I have to play safety, I will. Whatever it takes to get on the field, I'll do that."
With the Cowboys this off-season adding veterans Anthony Henry and Aaron Glenn to the cornerback position, which already included Terence Newman and four more players heading into their second seasons, things are getting a bit crowded at corner. Couple that with the team's glaring weakness at free safety, a position head coach Bill Parcells said Friday the team might have to address if no one steps up rather quickly, a move to safety might behoove Hunter.
In some regards, it seems a natural move for Hunter to go to free safety, where he would be competing with Lynn Scott, Keith Davis, Clint Finley, rookie Justin Beriault and possibly Woody Dantzler.
And it's not just because of the numbers at each position. Hunter certainly looks the part, standing at 6-2, 208 pounds. In fact, the fourth-year corner is just as big as every safety on the roster, other than Roy Williams, (6-0, 226) who is moving to strong safety. And if that's not enough reason for the move, Hunter actually played the position in college, although not at a high-level and not because it was his best position.
Playing at tiny Virginia Union, a Division II school, Hunter was moved to free safety before his senior season because opponents had simply stopped throwing in his direction at cornerback. He was moved to safety to utilize his athletic ability and to freelance in the secondary like a centerfielder.
"It's not really the same," Hunter said of playing safety in the NFL. "But like I've said, if they need me to do it, I will. But cornerback is my position. It's what I've been training to do since I got here. It won't be an easy move. But if the coaches decide that's the best move, then I'll do it.
"And that's always been my stance. A lot of stuff through my agent kind of got mixed up, but if this team needs me to play safety, I will."
All that being said, Parcells said he plans on keeping Hunter at cornerback - for now.
During the rookie mini-camp about a month ago, Parcells said he didn't have any intention of moving Hunter to safety at the moment. He also said he had no plans to trade him, either, as rumors of him being traded to the Jets were floating around for a day before both teams publicly squashed the reports.
While Hunter said he is happy to be in Dallas, he made it clear he is looking for the best opportunity to get on the field. And that's not just because of his competitive nature, but because he missed most of last season after tearing his ACL in a Monday night game in Washington, forcing him to miss the final 13 games.
The injury occurred after Hunter had won the starting job at right cornerback, beating out Jemeel Powell and Bruce Thornton in training camp.
"For me, last year, I was put in the starting role and I felt like my teammates were counting on me," Hunter said. "When I got hurt, I felt like I let them down a little bit. But something like that happens. I'm just trying to bounce back and learn from it."
Not only did Hunter sit helplessly while the Cowboys struggled to find consistency at right cornerback, where rookie Lance Frazier ended up starting nine games, but Hunter then saw the club give Henry a $25 million contract in the off-season and sign Glenn to a one-year deal.
"It's definitely frustrating, but I can't worry about things I can't control," Hunter said. "They're great guys and great competitors. But this thing is a business. They've made the decisions and I've got to live with it and keep going."
During the mini-camp Hunter is working with the second-team, and while normally a backup might learn a thing or two from the starters, Hunter said he'll likely pick up more from Glenn, the 12th-year veteran who is lining up opposite him on the second team at left corner.
"That guy . . . his footwork is great and his knowledge of the game," Hunter said of Glenn. "Man, I watched him on tape and it's like, 'Wow!' He's a great guy and he'll be a great help for all of the cornerbacks. This is my fourth year, but you can always get better."
And Hunter should know all about that, already having an up-and-down three-year career.
Hunter, a fifth-round draft pick in 2002, played mostly on special teams as a rookie, but figured to take on a bigger role the following year when Parcells took over. But Hunter broke his forearm in the first preseason game in Arizona, keeping him out for the rest of training camp. Playing with a cast, Hunter struggled in his return, while also trying to play a new position as a slot cornerback in the nickel defense.
But after being removed from the slot for about six games, Hunter was given another shot toward the end of the 2003 season and flourished. Then when the Cowboys chose not to re-sign Mario Edwards, Hunter was given every opportunity to win the job last year in training camp, which he eventually did.
However, disaster struck only three games into the season, ending his season prematurely when he suffered the ACL injury in the first quarter against the Redskins.
Instead of calling it a setback now, Hunter is taking a different approach, actually calling the injury a blessing in disguise.
"It really worked out for me because I got a lot stronger and that gave me a lot more confidence," Hunter said. "Overall, I think the rehab went well. I feel better than I've ever felt before. I'm so excited to get out there and play again. I'm not thinking about anything else but that."
Hunter said he's not even thinking about a new contact, and he basically is in a contract-drive season since he's playing on the $656,000 restricted free-agent tender he signed last month. He will become an unrestricted free agent next off-season for the first time in his career.
But Hunter is not preoccupied with those thoughts.
"It's not about contract or any of that," Hunter said. "It's about me getting on the field and playing. I'm a football player. I just want to get out there and compete - wherever it is on the field." For now it's cornerback. But at least we know safety isn't out of the question. </FONT>