Coming into the 2014 season, Perrish Cox’s goal was to prove to the 49ers coaches that he deserved to be on the field. With Tramaine Brock and Chris Culliver named the starting corners, Cox had to wait for his opportunity.
The 27-year-old Texas native didn't have to wait long.
Brock went down with a toe injury in the first quarter of the season opener against the Cowboys in Dallas. Cox entered, and in the four games since, has become one of only four players in the NFL with three interceptions.
Cox’s tenure with the 49ers has not been smooth. They first signed him in 2012, then released him in November of last year. He was then signed and released by Seattle, twice. He contemplated leaving the game. But San Francisco came calling for the postseason when Carlos Rogers went down with an injury.
And now, it's tough to imagine where the 49ers defense would be without him.
I had the chance to sit down with Cox and ask him about his return to the 49ers and the goals he's set now that he's shown that he does indeed deserve to be on the field:
MB: How are you a better defensive back now, compared to the postseason from just last year?
PC: I’m actually on the field playing, and I’m out there having fun compared to then. I was having fun then, but when you’re on the sideline it’s just tough to stay focused, just keep into it. It’s frustrating to see plays out there you could have made.
MB: When you’re on the sideline, is there more pressure when you go in to perform in that limited time?
PC: It’s that, plus when you’re going in every other series, you’re not warm. You don’t know when you’re going in, so it’s kind of tough to actually keep that mind frame going of playing time. That’s the difference from now. I’m in, I’m in my game flow. I’m in my mode, I’m more in tune. I’m more having fun so that’s the difference.
MB: Is the left side more natural to you? Does it really matter?
PC: It really doesn’t matter. The difference between what I play now and then is I’m more comfortable outside at corner. I didn’t learn nickel or inside stuff until I got here which was three years ago. But that actually helped me at the corner position, because I know where everybody is supposed to be at, so it helps me out a lot.
MB: That’s interesting because you played that nickel position against the Packers in the postseason, and you did pretty well. Are you still getting work there in practice so that when Tramaine Brock is healthy, that's an option to keep all three of you (with starting right cornerback Chris Culliver) on the field?
PC: Coach always tells me once we put in a new play for the nickel or we go over everything for the nickel in the meeting room, he always tells me just to keep my eye on it just in case something does happen. If something was to happen, I am the next man up so I’m always prepared for it.
MB: What has Vic Fangio said to you about what happens once Brock is ready to come back?
PC: I mean, not really much. He’s always telling me just keep playing, just keep doing what you’re doing, and that’s my main focus especially being here these past couple years and not actually playing as much. I also saw what Tramaine went through last year and a couple more players, and you never know when that time will get here. So it’s always better to stay focused and know what you’re doing. So that’s about it.
MB: You spent a year out of the league and then last year when the 49ers let you go, you thought about leaving the game. Why then? You had a successful rookie year (with Denver) before your year away.
PC: It was because from when I came in, I saw my play action decrease. And it came to that point where I actually got let go, and I really didn’t even understand the reason why I got let go at the time. I was already kind of in a frustrating mode that I wasn’t playing and seeing all the plays that I know I could have made being on the sideline. But when I got let go, and I was bouncing around everywhere, it was kind of frustrating. I didn’t know if I was ever going to be back in the league again or if I was going to get another chance so my whole mind frame was to think of my next choice in life. At the time, my baby was born so I was really just happy and excited to be there for her.
MB: You were picked up by Seattle. Did that mindset switch when the Seahawks picked you up or was it mainly when you came back to the 49ers?
PC: It was during that process while I was going back and forth. Seattle called. I was there for one day. The good thing was I got paid for that week, and then the very next day my baby was born. It was one of the things I got let go at that time and that’s when I started thinking about it like, 'I’m still bouncing around.' Once this started happening, the people that I know, they were calling me telling me that, ‘Keep your head focused. Do you want to go to the Canadian league?’ and all this. Nah. I’m just going to focus on what I got going on. Shortly after that they called me back, and I was telling my girlfriend at the time, I’m tired of doing this. I’m tired of going back and forth, and when I do go I’m not really playing. But my chance came again, in the playoffs against Green Bay. And I knew everything and my confidence is always there. You can never break that. I know the position and I just put it all out there.
MB: So how was it different coming into training camp this year, because this is a game you cannot go into without full mental focus and commitment?
PC: The difference was I understood at the time my reason for not actually playing at the time. Right at the time they brought me in they already had the corner position filled and they asked me about the nickel position and would I be able? I told them, ‘Yeah.’ But they also had that position filled. At that time, I didn’t like it, but I understood the situation. You’re going to always go with the player that you know the best in those positions, and I understand that. But the thing for me was that I knew I wasn’t going to really get that much playing time. Coming in this year those players were gone. There wasn’t much actually really locked in, so it was like, ‘OK, if I go here and ball and show what I can do.’ Also, Trent Baalke and Vic [Fangio] also, they all called me, Coach Ed [Donatell], they all called me and told me that they wanted me back here. I just felt that I had a chance and go out and give my all.
MB: Now that you’ve had that opportunity, what is your focus now?
PC: When I first got back they also gave me a heads up on the draft that was coming up and they may take a DB or you may not be able to get much playing time. My only words for them were, ‘I’ll show you. I’ll go out and take it. I’ll promise you that.’ That’s it. I told them the same thing when they first brought me in, and I don’t know how much it stuck in but obviously it didn’t really stick that much. It was just that I was going to show them. The whole camp I was going to show them that I’m the best, and that’s still my goal today. To show them that I deserve to be on the field.
MB: What do you need to do to get where you want to be? What do you need to do better?
PC: Just continue being perfect. That’s my goal. I know nobody can be perfect but my goal everyday, and I always talk about that with my teammates and coaches, is that I’m going to try to be perfect. I figure as close as I get to perfect, that’s only bettering myself. That’s in the weight room, off the field, with my family. All of that actually helps me as a whole. It keeps a lot of pressure off my back. It keeps me happy. It keeps me focused on what I need to do. My whole goal is, if not Pro Bowl, I’m going to win the Super Bowl. I’m thinking more bigger than the position I am now. As long as I strive for that, I think I’ll make it there.