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John Abraham Provides Overtime For Cardinals

Posted Oct 21, 2013

Heading into game against former team, veteran pass rusher embraces extra workload

Linebacker John Abraham tracks down Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson during Thursday night's game.

Being released from the Atlanta Falcons stung at first, John Abraham admitted, but the linebacker is well past that business move of almost eight months ago – even if he and the Cardinals are going to play the Falcons this weekend.

It’s easy for Abraham to be magnanimous coming off his best game of the season, though. As he talked Monday about his former team and his sudden, necessary importance to the Cardinals’ defense, he also underscored why the Falcons moved on and why the Cards benefit.

“I’m surprised I can still do this,” Abraham said. “For real.”

It isn’t the two sacks – his first two of the season -- and two forced fumbles he had against the Seahawks as much as his playing time that impressed Abraham of himself. The 35-year-old played 65 of 67 defensive snaps and played well. Given that’s more than double the playing time the Cardinals expected to give him when they signed him as a free agent at the outset of training camp, they are feeling fortunate.

So is Abraham.

“When I think about my age, ‘I’m 35,’ you have a lot of young cats around you, but I’m not just doing it at a level I’m doing it at a high level,” Abraham said. “I’m just glad I got some sacks to show I still can.

“I was getting pissed off, talking to my sister, she was like, ‘You’ll be OK, you know how it is.’ I was like, ‘I know, but they pay me for a reason, and it wasn’t because I play the run.’ ”

It should be noted that coach Bruce Arians has given Abraham much praise for his run defense. Abraham also was nursing a shoulder injury for a few weeks that he said is now healed, making him more effective.

The Falcons cut Abraham March 1, one of a handful of veterans let go in a year after Atlanta reached the NFC Championship game. “It hurt when it happened, but now I’m over it,” Abraham said, and said his drive now isn’t to prove anything to those in Atlanta but to those in Arizona seeing him regularly for the first time.

Abraham was going to be a situational pass rusher. Then starting outside linebackers Lorenzo Alexander and Sam Acho both went down with season-ending injuries, and the Cards were forced to turn to Abraham for a whole lot more than they originally planned upon doing.

Arians said Abraham has handled the extra load well. Abraham admitted it was difficult to accept the part-time role at first.

“They tell you something, but until you get into it … it’s tough,” Abraham said. “I wanted to be on the field and I wasn’t. I’m not happy how I got the job because I hate seeing people hurt but I’m glad I got a chance to start and show people I could still play. A lot of people were saying, ‘John, he plays 25 or 30 plays a game’ and I’m saying, ‘Naw, I’m an all-time player.’ I’m glad it showed I can play at this tenure in my life.”

That hasn’t escaped his teammates.

“John is a guy who can change a game,” defensive end Calais Campbell said.

Abraham didn’t celebrate much his two-sack game against the Seahawks. He didn’t see much reason, given that the game ended in a loss. That’s one of the reasons he has no desire to focus on the personal aspect of the Falcons’ game – he doesn’t want it to overshadow the Cardinals’ crucial need for a win.

It’s also become apparent the Cardinals will need Abraham, lots of him. Can he hold up all season playing so much more than the team first asked of the veteran? Abraham didn’t hesitate with his belief.

“Got no choice. Got no choice,” Abraham said. “If we want to win, I’ve got to be on the field. That’s how I feel.”

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