On a recent livestream edition of “Listen In With KNN,” award-winning sports talk podcast and radio show, executive producer and host Kelsey Nicole Nelson sat down with former National Football League defensive tackle Chris “Swaggy” Baker. Baker played nine seasons in the NFL. He spent time with the Denver Broncos, Miami Dolphins, Washington Redskins (now known as the Washington Commanders), Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and the Cincinnati Bengals.
To start things off, Nelson and Baker discussed the big news of the week in the NFL with the reported sale of the Washington Commanders to Josh Harris and other investors part of his group. Baker gave his thoughts on the $6.05 billion sale by saying “It’s bittersweet, obviously. I didn’t have any bad experiences with Dan Snyder or Tanya. They’ve always been like family towards me. So, it is bittersweet, but I understand that changes need to be made. Baker said “I know the fanbase will definitely be happy to see that the team has been sold. Hopefully we can get ourselves a new stadium. Washington deserves a good stadium to come to, and watch the game. It would be great to see the stadium live and rocking like it used to be. From my experience, the best time that we had in Washington Stadium was RG3’s rookie year. It was rocking.”
While on the topic of the Washington team, and the potential location of a needed new stadium for the Washington Commanders, Baker said, “I guess they can knock down RFK [Stadium] and rebuild it. I wouldn’t mind seeing it in Ashburn. Right now, it sucks for us as players to practice in Ashburn, and then have to drive all the way out to Maryland.”
With the topic of the Commanders’ sale being a hot topic locally and nationally, Nelson asked Baker what kind of impact the sale would have on the franchise if it moves forward. Baker said “I think it will be good. As long as the guys are winning, D.C. will always back the team. There has just been so much bad news around Dan Snyder, the things that have happened with the team. Whether it’s ticket money or allegations with employees and stuff. It’s just always bad stuff, so I can only imagine how crazy our fans would be if we became a dominant team again.”
Baker began his college football career at Pennsylvania State University and later transferred to the Historically Black College and University, Hampton University. Baker signed with the Denver Broncos on April 27, 2009. He played one game for the Broncos for the 2009 season.
Baker’s football career included multiple stops. On October 7, 2010, Baker was signed to the practice squad of the Miami Dolphins. He was promoted to the active 53-man roster on November 26, 2010. Baker played one game for the Dolphins in the 2010 season. On September 5, 2011, the Washington Redskins signed Baker to its practice squad. On December 6, 2011, Baker was promoted from the practice squad to the active 53-man roster. Without even playing a game for the Redskins, he was placed on injured reserve due to a quad injury on December 13, 2011. By the start of 2012 training camp, Baker was fully healed and was expected to compete with Chris Neild for the backup nose tackle position. After Neild was placed on injured reserve in the preseason, Baker made the final 53-man roster in his place.
Originally set to become a restricted free agent, the Redskins tendered a restricted free-agent right-of-first-refusal qualifying offer to Baker on March 11, 2013. He officially accepted and signed the team’s tender on April 10. He recorded his first career sack on Jay Cutler in the Week 7 win against the Chicago Bears. Set to become a restricted free agent again for the 2014 season, the Redskins announced they had re-signed Baker to a three-year deal worth $12 million, with $4 million guaranteed.
In continuing to discuss his time in Washington, with the Redskins, Baker said, “I was always on the active roster, but they never activated me on game day. I was on the practice squad pretty much that whole first year. Then I finally got the chance to be the backup to Barry Cofield. That’s how I got my foot in the door. I always knew I could play. I just needed an opportunity. I needed the coaches to let me get out there and play.”
Another topic of discussion between the duo was keeping your emotions leveled as far as being a leader on a team. This past NFL season we saw tempers flare between teammates including with the Commanders on the defensive side of the football. Baker elaborated by saying “If you’re a player that plays well, people will respect you when you have something to say. Being that we’re football players, and really aggressive, sometimes things do get physical. But, hopefully you have enough self composure to not let it get to where you guys are trying to hurt each other. Sometimes you do need to raise your voice, but hopefully you’re doing it out of love.”
Nelson and Baker discussed his early beginnings and what it was like for him growing up in Connecticut, and chatted about where his love for football originally came from. Baker said “When I was young, I was 6 feet tall at 10-years-old. So, I was really big. I was 235 pounds, and I could never play little league football because there was always a weight limit, but that’s how I got into basketball. I played basketball, and I was really good. I was like Shaquille O’Neal as a kid. In my junior year (of high school) my friend John Manning suggested that I come to spring ball.” Baker went to the spring tryout, and found out he was pretty good at it. After one year of playing, Baker wound up getting looks from Big Ten schools. Baker added, “I guess I thought that football is going to be the way.”
On March 9, 2017, Baker signed a three-year contract with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. His contract was worth $15.75 million with $9 million guaranteed. In his lone season with the Buccaneers, Baker recorded 33 tackles and 0.5 sacks.
Football has become family to Baker. Baker has been childhood friends with nose tackle Terrance Knighton and Damik Scafe since high school, where the three of them were teammates. Knighton was Baker’s best man in his wedding to ESPN talent producer, Jamila Phillips, on March 14, 2015.
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