September 13, 2020; Santa Clara, California, USA; Arizona Cardinals strong safety Budda Baker (32) during the third quarter against the San Francisco 49ers at Levi's Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Cardinals S Baker returns after thumb surgery

All-Pro safety Budda Baker will return from thumb surgery this week, Arizona Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury said Wednesday.

Baker played in the Cardinals’ Week 3 loss to Detroit with his right thumb heavily bandaged, then missed Sunday’s loss to Carolina following an operation to repair a torn ligament earlier in the week.

Kingsbury said Baker will be on the field Sunday when the Cardinals (2-2) face the New York Jets (0-4) at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J.

“Budda being back this week will definitely make us all feel better,” Kingsbury said, per ESPN. “I mean, he’s one of the best players in the league and brings a lot of things on and off the field to our locker room.”

A two-time Pro Bowl selection (2017, 2019) and a first-team All-Pro in 2017, Baker has recorded 28 tackles in three games this season. He had 15 in the season-opening win at San Francisco.

The 2017 second-round pick has 351 tackles, 19 tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks, 15 passes defensed, four forced fumbles and four fumble recoveries in 49 career games (39 starts).

–Field Level Media

September 13, 2020; Santa Clara, California, USA; San Francisco 49ers tight end George Kittle (85) runs against Arizona Cardinals strong safety Budda Baker (32) during the first quarter at Levi's Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

49ers condemn racist messages sent to Cards S Baker

The San Francisco 49ers on Tuesday publicly condemned racist messages sent to Arizona Cardinals safety Budda Baker and said they are trying to identify the person so they can ban them from future games and events.

On Monday, Baker posted a screenshot of what appeared to be Instagram direct messages sent from the handle “niners8” to Baker that, along with calling Baker the n-word numerous times, called the two-time Pro Bowl selection a “monkey” and a “slave” and telling him to get on his knees.

When he posted the screengrab on Twitter, Baker wrote, “Im all good with opposing fans talking trash. But This right here man… All you can do is pray for ppl like this.”

On Tuesday, the 49ers posted the following message to their social media accounts:

“The San Francisco 49ers unequivocally denounce the racist messages sent to Budda Baker. The individual who sent the messages does not represent the 49ers or the Faithful. Per team policy, we are working to identify this person and will ban them from all 49ers games and events. Incidents like this demonstrate how much work remains to be done to address racism and hate in our society. We remain steadfast in our commitment to that work.”

49ers CEO Jed York added via his own Twitter account, “Sadly, these incidents occur far too often. Permitting these individuals to go unchecked allows racism and hate to spread. I urge other teams in the world of sport to consider our policy of banning those who seek to tear others down with racial slurs and threats of violence.”

The issue appears to be a hit that Baker put on 49ers Pro Bowl tight end George Kittle during the Cardinals’ 24-20 win Sunday in San Francisco. In the final minute of the first half and with the 49ers in the red zone, San Francisco quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo threw a pass to Kittle that sailed high. Kittle was unable to make the catch and Baker, who had begun diving at Kittle as Kittle was in the air trying to make the grab, hit Kittle just as the tight end was coming to the ground.

Kittle’s left knee appeared to hyperextend and he limped to the sideline. He missed one snap but finished the game. Nonetheless, Kittle’s status for next Sunday in New York against the Jets is in the air.

On Tuesday, Kittle posted a photo of himself and Baker, who wears No. 32, during a play with the caption, “Nothing but respect 32! See you down the road.” An hour later, Baker responded to Kittle’s post with “Always Respect Bro.”

Baker, 24, was taken in the second round in 2017 out of Washington. He has 338 tackles, 18 tackles for loss, four forced fumbles and 14 passes defended in 47 games (37 starts) for his career. He made the Pro Bowl in 2017 and ’19 — the first on special teams and the second on defense.

Kittle, 26, was also taken in 2017 (though in the fifth round). The former Iowa star made the Pro Bowl in 2018 & ’19, earning first-team All-Pro honors last season. He has 2,989 yards on 220 catches with 12 touchdowns in his career.

Both players signed contract extensions in the offseason, and each was among the first to congratulate the other.

–Field Level Media

Jan 25, 2020; Kissimmee, Florida, USA; Arizona Cardinals free safety Budda Baker (32)  during NFC Practice at ESPN Wide World of Sports. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Reports: Cardinals make Baker highest-paid safety

The Arizona Cardinals and Budda Baker agreed to a $59 million extension that makes him the highest-paid safety in league history, according to two reports Tuesday.

The four-year deal averages $14.75 million per year for the two-time Pro Bowler. Baker’s agent, David Mulugheta, confirmed the deal to ESPN. NFL Network reports Baker gets $33.1 million guaranteed.

Baker was named All-Pro as a rookie while being selected to the Pro Bowl that season and last season, when he led the NFL with 104 solo tackles.

Baker also had seven tackles for loss, six passes defensed and a forced fumble in 16 starts in 2019.

The Cardinals selected Baker in the second round of the 2017 draft out of Washington. He was entering the final year of his rookie deal.

Chicago Bears Pro Bowler Eddie Jackson signed an extension in January that averages $14.6 million per year. At the time, that deal rated the former Alabama defensive back as the top-paid safety in league history.

–Field Level Media