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Robert Nkemdiche uses self-criticism to find success on the field

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- There’s one voice Robert Nkemdiche listens to more than any other.

His own.

The Arizona Cardinals’ second-year defensive tackle has been self-critical for years, picking apart his performances in games and practices on tape and through memory, figuring out where he needs to improve, before a coach digs in.

“If you’re trying to play for somebody else, you’re not going to get results,” Nkemdiche said. “If you know yourself and what you’re supposed to do and you’re a self-critic and know you could’ve done better and things you did good and you did worse, that’ll help you succeed.”

Nkemdiche’s competitive instincts have allowed him to judge himself, he said. There are two things that Nkemdiche feels any player should say to themselves when they take the proverbial look in the mirror: “I know what I have to do” and “Every day, what can I get better at?”

“(When) you look at the film, you should be your biggest critic,” Nkemdiche said. “You shouldn't have to have a coach tell you what you did right or wrong, because you should know right away.”

Nkemdiche’s criticism of himself has been a steadying voice when he’s getting lambasted or praised from his coaches. And he’s heard both. Loud and clear.

In November of his rookie season last year, Arians criticized Nkemdiche for a lack of maturity and sense of urgency and for playing overaggressive. Arians began to ease up on Nkemdiche late last season as it became clear that Nkemdiche was finding his way on and off the field in the NFL. During the first two weeks of training camp, Arians has showered praise on Nkemdiche for being “disruptive” both in practice and during Arizona’s Hall of Fame Game loss on Thursday.

Nkemdiche didn’t want to rehash Arians’ specific complaints from last season, but he said his coach’s tactic worked.

However, while the 22-year-old Nkemdiche saw Arians’ comments last season as a vessel of motivation, he doesn’t let the praise linger too long, either.

“It is what it is,” Nkemdiche said. “(You have to) come back to practice, got to do it again. It’s a rigorous process. Got to do it over and over, over and over. Got to keep getting better.

“You want to make sure you’re doing the things that consistently are trying to help you be a better football player.”

Although Nkemdiche leans on his own voice to stay in the middle of the criticism and the praise, hearing good things from others has had a positive effect on him.

“Of course it helps,” Nkemdiche said. “Although you have to have self-confidence, it helps when you have other people around you that believe in you, especially people that’s your family.

“It makes a difference.”