As a kid, Nick Vigil was into bull riding. The rodeo kind.
Football eventually became his preferred sport, and years later, he’s headed into his seventh season as an NFL linebacker.
Vigil signed a one-year contract with the Cardinals this past offseason. He said bull riding helped him with football.
“Just toughness, you’ve got to be tough. You know, you get banged up and hurt,” Vigil said.
Vigil is in line to take hold of a starting inside linebacker spot this season for the Cardinals, with Jordan Hicks now with the Minnesota Vikings. Vigil began his career with the Cincinnati Bengals — the Cardinals’ opponent Friday in Ohio in their preseason opener — and after four seasons there spent the 2020 season with the Los Angeles Chargers and last season with Minnesota.
Having played for former head coach Mike Zimmer with the Vikings, the defensive concepts with the Cardinals are familiar to Vigil, an athletic linebacker who has been sound in training camp as he adjusts to his third team in three seasons.
Arizona defensive coordinator Vance Joseph and Zimmer, himself a former defensive coordinator, have long been a part of NFL coaching circles.
“That’s one of the good things, a lot of concepts are the same. In Cincinnati, too, my first couple years, we ran a lot of the same stuff. So the transition has been pretty smooth,” Vigil said.
“Nick’s been a nice addition for us. He’s a veteran player, has played a lot of football. He hasn’t stuck a lot of places because they keep drafting first-round picks behind him, but he’s always played good football,” Joseph said. “He’s long and smart with recovery. He plays all three downs. He’s called it before. … So it’s similar systems. He’s picked it up fast and he’s helping us. He can really run.”
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Vigil shared a couple of anecdotes about two players Arizona football fans might be familiar with, former Bengal and ASU star Vontaze Burfict and former longtime Cardinals linebacker Karlos Dansby.
Burfict, Vigil said, helped him acclimate to the NFL. They were together in Cincinnati, where in 2019 Vigil was second on the team in combined tackles with 111.
“He was one of the best football players I’ve ever been around. Yeah, very intelligent. Very smart guy,” Vigil said.
Dansby was nearing the end of his career when Vigil was a Bengals rookie, and used to stimulate his muscles electrically with a machine rather than lift weights to keep himself limber.
Vigil has watched the NFL evolve into less downhill running on offense and more side-to-side play and passing on the field, so he’s slimmed down in weight to give himself more quickness. Vigil is learning a Joseph defense that moves players around and brings pressure on opposing quarterbacks.
Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury likes Vigil’s football intellect.
“Jordan’s hard to replace. He was a captain and was well respected, made a bunch of tackles here and was a great leader for us,” Kingsbury said. “But I really like how Nick has approached it. It’s just pretty business. Everywhere he’s been, he’s been highly productive. Very cerebral, very conscientious. He’s been a great addition to our team. I’ve really enjoyed getting to know him and he’s been productive so far.”
Vigil appreciated his coach’s supportive words.
“Anytime somebody gives you a compliment like that I think it’s good, especially in this defense, you know, there’s a lot to it,” Vigil said. “So you have to be smart to play in it, in my opinion.”