When the 49ers signed cornerback Perrish Cox last week, he figured he’d play perhaps a handful of snaps against the Green Bay Packers and serve as insurance if one of the other cornerbacks had to leave the game with an injury.
As it turned out, Cox not only started Sunday’s game but was on the field for all but one defensive play – 62 total – the most he’s played in a non-preseason game since he was a rookie with the Denver Broncos in 2010.
“I had no clue at all,” Cox said Tuesday. “I actually didn’t know I’d be starting the nickel until right before the game. I had no clue. It was fun, though.”
Perhaps Cox should have expected another sharp turn on the roller coaster he’s been riding the past two months.
It started in early November when the 49ers cut him in an effort to create roster space for, among others, fellow cornerback Eric Wright. He was then signed and eventually cut by the Seahawks – welcomed a baby girl, Carter, into the world – and was re-signed and cut again by Seattle.
When the Seahawks let him go the second time, the 49ers didn’t hesitate snapping him up. Cox had played in the team’s “dime” defense in previous seasons, and he had his most extensive outing as a 49er against the Packers in that package during the opening game of the 2012 season. Cox said he thought that would be his role last Sunday.
But with Carlos Rogers dealing with a hamstring issue and with Wright tweaking his hamstring in practice last week, the coaching staff made Cox the nickel cornerback, a far more demanding role. He ended up playing 98 percent of the team’s snaps and found himself typically matched against one of two of Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers’ favorite targets, wide receivers Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb.
As for Wright, he said he was ready to play against the Packers and that he didn’t know why he didn’t get any defensive snaps at Lambeau Field. Wright ended up playing five snaps on special teams.
“I got warmed up and ready as if I was going to play and ... was ready to go,” Wright said.
He agreed, however, his hamstring may have played a role in the coaches’ decision, especially given the 5-degree temperatures at kickoff.
“Obviously, when you have a hamstring injury, it’s something that’s hard to get warm and stay warm,” he said.
Rogers, meanwhile, is optimistic he’ll be able to play against Carolina. The weather certainly will be more accommodating for someone dealing with a muscle strain, with forecasts calling for temperatures in the mid-60s.
“I think so,” Rogers said when asked if he’ll be ready for the Panthers. “I’ve been running.”
If he can’t play, Tarell Brown and Tramaine Brock would start on the outside and Cox likely would resume the prominent role as the nickel back.
After being released three times this year and welcoming a baby girl, has Cox been able to reflect on his tumultuous season?
“That runs through my mind all the time,” he said. “I tell everybody – it’s the craziest two months I’ve been through in my life.”