Veteran nose tackle Domata Peko Sr. didn’t have to sign with the Arizona Cardinals. The 36-year-old told the media Friday he had received phone calls from other teams seeking his services dating back to the offseason. But, he was waiting for the “right call,” and after he signed a contract on Nov. 23, he landed in his ideal spot.
"I had a couple other calls during the the offseason to join a couple different teams," Peko said. "But, I was just waiting for the right call. In Year 15, I want to go somewhere that has a chance to contend, a chance to go and lift up that trophy in February. So, that was part of my decision, making sure I'm going to a contender.
"And then Coach (Vance) Joseph. Once the nose guy went down, he reached out to me and told me that he needs some help. And I love Coach Vance."
Peko joined a Cardinals team in the playoff chase and in desperate need of defensive line help after several injuries. The veteran has made the playoffs seven times in his career with Cincinnati and Baltimore, but has yet to win a game. Still, he has postseason experience as recent as last year.
He was able to play last Sunday despite limited time to practice with the team. The nose tackle played 33 defensive snaps, 62 percent of the team’s total.
He and Joseph have both acknowledged that the learning curve will be easier for the new Cardinal given his past with the coordinator. Peko was with Cincinnati during Joseph’s two years as a defensive backs coach there, and he was with his current coordinator in Denver when Joseph was the head coach for two seasons.
"It really can help a lot when you know a coach, you know the system and you've been through the system before," Peko said. "When you come in the middle of the season, you want to make sure you kind of know the playbook.
"There's a lot of the same terminology and so I was able to just plug right in and start last week."
Joseph said last week that Peko didn’t make a single mistake in his first practice, something good for the team’s younger defenders up front to witness.
The coordinator and Cardinals general manager Steve Keim have recently talked about how fortunate the Cardinals are to land someone with Peko’s experience to help so late in the season.
Tackles Corey Peters and Jordan Phillips both went on reserve/injured during the same week. Peters is out for the season and while the team is hopeful Phillips will return, the Cardinals were faced with using more practice-squad players, bringing in cuts from other teams or signing a guy like Peko who could fit right in.
“He's showing some leadership qualities early on,” Keim said on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM last week. “The guy has played a lot of football; I think he started 14 years in the National Football League. So he certainly brings some credibility to that locker room.”
Joseph added: “It’s been good to acquire guys who know what they're doing with the right experience and the right people. That's also important for our football team.”