If Perrish Cox had any emotion about returning to Denver, it came and went two years ago when the 49ers visited in the preseason. Sunday’s game against the Broncos, the 49ers cornerback said, is purely a business trip.
“The past is the past,” Cox said. “Like I said, it made me stronger. I’m not really looking at it that way or (at) what everybody else has got to say. If you want to say it, say it. I’m mean, there ain’t nothing (I) can do about it. I’m just going to move on and play football.”
Cox’s past in Denver involved a sexual assault trial during which the man Cox will be covering at times Sunday, Broncos wide receiver Demaryius Thomas, was called to testify against Cox. He faced two years to life in prison if convicted, but he was acquitted by a jury early in 2012, a year and a half after the alleged assault on Labor Day 2010.
Cox was a fifth-round pick by the Broncos that year and, along with Thomas, was part of a promising draft class. The Broncos cut him before the 2011 season, he took that year off to fight the charges and then was signed by the 49ers during the 2012 offseason.
Now, through six games, he’s one of the top cornerbacks in the league and in a seven-way tie for the NFL lead in interceptions with three.
Asked about the 49ers’ defense this week, Broncos coach John Fox said Cox has stood out. The Broncos hired Fox in 2011, and he coached Cox during the offseason before Cox was cut in September that year.
“I wasn’t part of the process of drafting him, but he was definitely a very good athlete,” Fox said.
Cox has been playing on the outside in place of injured Tramaine Brock. Against the Broncos, he’s also likely to play nickel cornerback because of a quadriceps injury to regular nickel cornerback Jimmie Ward.
Cox has said several times that he has grown from his experience in Denver, and he invariably is one of the most positive players in the 49ers’ locker room.
“It’s just that I’ve been through so much – the criticism and all the negative things that came my way,” he said. “I’ve been through so much, and it’s made me stronger as a whole. It showed me the people who really have my back, and I’ve just go on from there. I’m just happy.”
Cox said he has covered Thomas in preseason games since joining the 49ers and that playing against him hasn’t been a big deal. His chief concern now isn’t just Thomas but the other Broncos receivers such as Wes Welker and Emmanuel Sanders he is likely to face when lined up at the nickel spot.
“I take pride in the competition,” Cox said. “I mean, I love to go out and see what I can do and make my statement. I know they’re going to come out and they’re going to try to attack it the best way they can. I’m hungry for more. If you’re going to bring it, bring it.”
Read Matt Barrows’ blogs and archives at www.sacbee.com/sf49ers.