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After Injury, Alex Okafor Looks Forward

Posted Apr 25, 2016

Linebacker says he's 100 percent recovered from toe injury that cost him postseason

Cardinals linebacker Alex Okafor said he's 100 percent recovered from his toe injury.

Alex Okafor has been back for a week at the Cardinals’ facility, taking part in the voluntary strength and conditioning work with most of the roster.

The linebacker is months removed from the mysterious playoff-bye week toe injury he suffered in January, costing him a chance to participate in the playoffs and leading coach Bruce Arians to simply say “You’ll have to talk to Alex” when the news came out Okafor was done for the season.

Okafor hadn’t talked until now, and now, he emphasized he wanted only to look forward.

“Obviously it was unfortunate,” Okafor told azcardinals.com. “Over the last four months, first and foremost, I got healthy, 100 percent. That’s the most important part. I’m just ready to work. It’s a new season for everybody.

“It’s bigger than me. The team didn’t end the season the way we wanted to and that’s the most important thing. I’m just here to help us get over that hump and get us to the Super Bowl because that’s the ultimate goal.”

Okafor declined to get into specifics of how he hurt his toe, reiterating that he is healthy and ready to take part fully in organized team activities when they begin next month. He acknowledged he likely has some work to do to get back into everyone’s good graces after the ill-timed injury.

“I’ve been here going on four years now,” Okafor said. “I’ve got a pretty close relationship with the guys on the team. I talked to most of the guys on the team right when I got hurt. But you know, the only way you can do that is fight back through hard work and that’s what I am trying to do. That’s what I will do. I’m going to put the work in and help this team however I can.”

The outside linebacker landscape has also changed, most significantly with the addition of Chandler Jones. Jones will start on one side and second-year man Markus Golden has a good chance to start on the other. Okafor, heading into the last year of his rookie contract, will be in the mix.

Okafor lead the Cardinals with eight sacks in 2014. He had only two sacks last season, both coming in the regular-season opener.

The Cardinals could still sign back veteran Dwight Freeney at some point. The Cards hope they can find a gem from Shaq Riddick or Zack Wagenmann or CFL signee Tristan Okpalaugo, and that doesn’t include what they might be able to mine in either the draft or with the undrafted rookies.

Okafor, who has been a starter the last two seasons, said the competition is expected.

“It’s bigger than me,” he said. “It’s about winning the Super Bowl. We saw the formula with the Broncos, we saw what works, and it’s not just this year, it’s the past 10 years or so. The formula is getting after the quarterback. We haven’t been putting up the numbers like we wanted to, and we needed some help. We got some. I think we have one of the best linebacking corps in the league now.”

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