FRISCO, Texas - After signing with the team prior to the 2020 season and then subsequently choosing to opt-out of last season due to personal reasons, it would be easy to overlook Maurice Canady coming into training camp
But since camp's started the 27-year-old veteran cornerback has been anything but forgettable. A trusted reserve and occasional starter for the Baltimore Ravens for most of his career, Canady was supposed to be a key player on special teams.
And while he might have that role as well, Canady brings a professionalism and, perhaps surprisingly to some, exciting skillset to the Cowboys' secondary.
Defensive coordinator Dan Quinn stated on Thursday that he puts ball skills as "super high on the list of priorities" for how he is evaluating the team's cornerbacks and he mentioned Canady by name. And for good reason: Canady apparently leads the team in training camp interceptions, trailed just slightly by second-year cornerback Trevon Diggs (according to Canady, the two are taking the competition quite seriously and have daily "undisclosed" wagers over who gets more interceptions in any given practice).
Fans, members of the media, and even head coach Mike McCarthy have expressed various levels of surprise over Canady's ability to make plays on the ball. It's understandable considering he didn't play an NFL snap in 2020, but the cornerback says that this is not a new version of him, citing a practice in Baltimore when he had three interceptions.
"It's nothing new," Canady said. "It's all about the opportunity that you get for your time slot. It's the NFL. There's always new people coming in. There's always somebody getting hurt. When your number's called, you just have to make sure you capitalize."
Canady is seemingly capitalizing on his opportunities in the nickelback spot. He only has one interception in his career, but the abilities are clearly there and he cites his past as an offensive player as the difference-maker.
"I never played defense until I got to college so, from my perspective with my ball skills, I think I'm a receiver," Canady explained.
The year off from football might have led some to write Canady off, but he kept his training up and claims the time away was good for his body and helped him improve his mental balance, taking up reading during that year in a way that he never had before.
"High IQ will get you a long way in the NFL regardless of your position," Canady said. "I know some vets out there who can barely run, but they're still out there making plays."
On top of everything else, Canady says he has found a comfort level with secondary coach Al Harris, who played cornerback for 14 years in the NFL, claiming that the coach's background has been a big asset in getting through to the players. Canady said on Thursday that he still remembers watching Harris' overtime interception of Matt Hasselbeck to advance the Green Bay Packers in the 2003 NFC Wildcard game.
"I haven't had that conversation with him yet, but I guess I will when I get a game-winner."