In November, former South Carolina safety D.J. Swearinger was out of work after being cut by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Two months later, he is preparing to play in the NFL playoffs for the first time as a member of, arguably, the best team in the NFL.
Swearinger was signed to the Arizona Cardinals’ practice squad Dec. 1, and the next week was added to the active roster. He has played in four games for Arizona with one start, logging seven tackles, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery.
He is set to appear in his fifth game with the Cardinals on Saturday when they host the Packers in the Divisional Round of the NFL playoffs.
“It’s been a long journey for me, a long and interesting journey. I’ve just been learning, taking this year, year three, as a learning experience,” Swearinger told The State this week. “Going to a different team like Tampa and then getting released, seeing it from a different view on the couch and then being blessed to get this opportunity is a tremendous blessing and an honor and I’m humbled. I’m just looking forward to getting better.”
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Swearinger thought his year might be over after being cut by the 4-5 Bucs. Instead he was signed to a Cardinals squad that is the Super Bowl favorite, according to Las Vegas oddsmakers.
“When I got the call, I was excited about the opportunity to be on a roster again, and not just be on a roster but be on a great roster, a team that’s got their eyes on the prize already and got a goal that everybody’s pushing towards,” Swearinger said. “I just want to do whatever I can do to help win.”
With a strong showing in the playoffs, Swearinger could earn a deal with Arizona in the future, or could impress another team and earn a spot somewhere else.
He isn’t thinking about that yet, though.
“My mindset is 1-0. We’ve got to be 1-0 (in the playoffs) whatever it takes. My future, that doesn’t really matter to me right now. Going 1-0 is the only thing that matters,” he said. “If everyone does the extra that we need, the team will get the win and everybody that needs to get their accolades, they’ll get their accolades.”
Swearinger is one of several Arizona players with connections to South Carolina. The Cardinals’ roster also includes Justin Bethel of Blythewood and Presbyterian College, as well as Jaron Brown, Chandler Catanzaro, Chris Clemons, Andre Ellington and Antoine McClain, who played at Clemson.
Swearinger said he was impressed by the Tigers’ season that ended with a spot in the National Championship game, but added he still enjoys some back-and-forth trash talk with former Clemson players.
“Oh yeah, it’s definitely trash talk, me especially. I haven’t lost to Clemson, but, besides that, it’s a great accomplishment for Clemson and for South Carolina period. Getting to the national championship, that’s a tremendous honor, but you know Gamecocks rule it,” he said with a smile. “We talk a lot about Clemson and Carolina here and there, just about who won and who didn’t win and all. But it’s great to play with guys from your home state.”
D.J. Swearinger bio
Team: Arizona Cardinals
Hgt: 5-10 / Wgt: 208
College: South Carolina
Draft: 2013 2nd round by the Houston Texans
Career stats (3 seasons, 3 teams): 43 games played, 164 tackles