Beanie Wells (left) and Karlos Dansby plant flowers during Tuesday's Hometown Huddle event. For a full photo gallery, click here.
Karlos Dansby and Matt Leinart were among the handful of Cardinals taking part in the event the NFL calls "Hometown Huddle" Tuesday, a chance through The United Way for players and teams to give back to the community.
In this case, it was rebuilding a garden-area in the middle of Academia Del Pueblo Charter School in downtown Phoenix, which serves low-income children.
Beanie Wells was there too, as was Jerheme Urban and, later in the day, Ben Graham, Mike Leach and Rashad Barksdale. But Dansby and Leinart were the highest-profile, a pair of players whose futures are among the most talked subjects on the team. Dansby, the linebacker, will be a free agent after the season. Leinart sits and waits at quarterback behind Kurt Warner.
The two have been asked about what their future holds countless times. But that's about football. Thinking about their future – their real future, beyond football – is what crosses the mind when looking at places like Academia Del Pueblo.
"It's been tough, well, not tough, but there just hasn't been a lot of stuff going on the last couple of years (in football)," Leinart said. "I've been working my butt off and feel ready to play and I know I am ready but at the same time, you have to enjoy life, know you are blessed and know your time will come.
"You have to think about what's important, like your family and things like this."
Dansby said he often peppers himself with questions. Will he be able to maintain his lifestyle when he's older? Will he be able to play with his kids, or will his body be so beat down by his NFL years that it will cost him in that regard?
"I think, 'What will be the outcome after football?' " Dansby said.
Money will never be an issue with either guy. Leinart is working on his lucrative rookie contract and Dansby, who is making near $10 million this season alone, will be paid handsomely by some team after this season.
Both have already gained perspective with regard to their football exploits, anyway. Leinart has dealt with fans that either seem to love him or hate him since he arrived in the NFL. Dansby believes he is close to breaking out with some dynamic play but doesn't concern himself with those who analyze him positively or negatively, noting "I can't be worried about what people say about me or how people view me."
Planting a tree or organizing a flower bed reminds them of the other side of life. The smiles from children (and their teachers) emphasize what it means just by the players showing up.
"It makes you feel worthy," Dansby said.
Leinart already is active in his own charitable foundation and plans to keep it going long after his football career is over. That has helped him deal with football, as has having his son.
"I have done so many things with kids -- hospital visits, football with inner city kids, all sorts of things -- and I look at my son and think, 'This is really what it is all about,' " Leinart said. "He will always be there no matter how bad things are going … and you forget about everything else."
In their three wins this season, the Cardinals have bettred their opponents by a halftime score of 62-6.
Two of the NFL's three quarterbacks to have every started 20 games in a season face each other Sunday when Warner (2008) and Eli Manning (2007) face off. The other was Denver's John Elway (1997).
The Cardinals had never won their first two road games in a season since moving to Arizona in 1988 before this year.
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