The number with the 602 area code came up on Karlos Dansby’s phone, and he thought it would be a good idea to answer.
On the line was Cardinals General Manager Steve Keim with a simple question: “You ready to come home?”
Dansby didn’t hesitate.
“Man, there’s no place like home,” the linebacker said, a huge grin on his face after signing a one-year contract to return to the Cardinals for a third time in his career.
“I couldn’t write this (story) if I tried,” he added.
Indeed, it seemed improbable that the team’s 2004 second-round pick would eventually return to the Cardinals yet again. His first tenure ended after back-to-back franchise tags and then a huge free-agent deal in Miami. His 2013 return was spurred after a release from the Dolphins and then being humbled on the open market.
Dansby played arguably his best season as a pro that year – 2013, Bruce Arians’ first as coach – before earning another big payday in Cleveland. That lasted three seasons before a release, and then a single season in Cincinnati as the team’s leading tackler.
A free agent once again, Keim made his call, and Dansby is a Cardinal.
“Time to finish what we started,” Dansby said.
The veteran inside linebacker is needed. With Kevin Minter and Sio Moore both free agents, Dansby could easily end up as the starter alongside
Emphasizing he’s “got a lot left,” he good-naturedly scoffed when asked if he was still a three-down linebacker.
“Without a doubt,” Dansby said. “Three-down linebacker? Man, I’m one interception away from being a legend, man. That’d be silly of me to say I’m a two-down linebacker.”
Dansby is just one interception away from getting 20 in his career, a milestone he said he has been chasing since watching former Cardinals safety Adrian Wilson achieve the 20-20 club – 20 interceptions, 20 sacks. With 42 career sacks, Dansby with one pick would become only the fifth player in NFL history with 40 sacks and 20 interceptions.
(The others: Ray Lewis, Seth Joyner, Wilber Marshall and Brian Urlacher.)
He’ll have a chance to build on that. Dansby said this will not be his final season, so with only a one-year contract he could end up leaving the Cardinals for a third time. In the meantime, he can help not only on the field but with leadership in a locker room that lost Calais Campbell in free agency and still could lose Frostee Rucker.
Dansby made it clear the Cardinals should be successful – “You got this much talent in the building, you’ve got to take advantage of it,” he said – and smiled when it was brought up that that first-round pick in his 2004 draft class,
“We’re the last two of the Mohicans,” Dansby said with a smile. “I think we’re gonna have some fun, though.”