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Cards Add Pass Rusher -- With Alex Okafor Return

Linebacker set to play after bye following calf injury


Linebacker Alex Okafor (57) is set to return to the lineup next week after hurting his calf against the Lions last month.

The trade deadline came and went Tuesday, and if there was a position that was suggested for the Cardinals to chase, it was pass rusher.

Bruce Arians noticed.

"Everyone says go trade for a pass rusher," the coach said, talking about the return from calf injury by outside linebacker Alex Okafor. "I don't think there's a better one on the market. There's one in the training room. I think he'll add a lot to

our mix."

Okafor is ready to play, after hurting himself in Detroit Oct. 11. He took part in a few snaps of the lone practice of the bye week Tuesday, and is expected to play when the Cardinals resume their schedule Nov. 15 in Seattle.

It's hard to know if Okafor is indeed better than every pass rusher that might have been on the market, but then again, any decent pass rusher usually never is on the trade market. And Okafor showed last season with his eight sacks he can get to the quarterback at times.

"(Arians) has always believed in me," Okafor said. "There was never a doubt of that in my mind. So it's just more encouraging (to hear.) Now I have to produce and make his words true."

The Cardinals' pass rush is still looking for more consistency, especially with the four-man rush. Okafor is tied for the team lead in sacks with two. Dwight Freeney, the linebacker signed to fill the Okafor void after the Detroit game, also has two in three games. (Defensive tackle Frostee Rucker is the other player with two.)

While statistics aren't everything, the Cardinals have just 13 sacks in eight games.

With Okafor's return, there figures to be more of a rotation at outside linebacker. Freeney has been serving as the pass-

rush specialist, subbing in for LaMarr Woodley, while rookie Markus Golden has played every down. Before Okafor got hurt – and before Freeney had signed – it was Golden as pass-rush specialist.

"Guys are going to be fighting and clawing for snaps every week," defensive coordinator James Bettcher said.

Okafor acknowledged he was going to have to earn snaps again and find his way back into the mix, although he is expected to rejoin the starting lineup sooner rather than later.

"It's about depth in this league, to be able to come at teams with numbers," Freeney said. "When that offensive tackle he has somebody's number, or a guy is gassed and exhausted, it's like a hockey-shift thing. Keep on sending guys at them. We'll do it in numbers."

The bye week provides a little bit of frustration for Okafor. While all his teammates are anxious for the time off, Okafor admitted he is "itching" to get back out on the field after missing the last three games.

The Cardinals could use his help. He said he was excited to keep learning from Freeney, although he smiled when he was asked if he was going to start using Freeney's iconic spin move.

"The thing about the spin move, you've got to have it in the tool box," Okafor said. "You can't just do it out of thin air. I don't know if I've got that yet. I'll stick to what I do best."

The Cardinals' statistical leaders through the first half of the season

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