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Darnell Dockett: "My Loyalty Is To Arizona"

Rehabbing defensive lineman hoping to make comeback with Cards, but contract could be hurdle

Defensive lineman Darnell Dockett has a $9.8 million salary cap number right now for 2015.

As Darnell Dockett spent the season playing the role of cheerleader on the sideline during most games as he rehabbed his wrecked knee, coach Bruce Arians often talked about Dockett's leadership even while hurt.

The discussion all along was that Dockett would be back in 2015, looking to rebound strongly from the only lost season of his entire football career.

But Dockett also heads into the final year of his current contract with a scheduled salary of $6.5 million and an option bonus of $3 million, giving him a hefty salary cap number of almost $10 million. It isn't in the same realm of Larry Fitzgerald's $23.6 million salary cap number, but the Cardinals may want to address it, especially with a soon-to-be-34-year-old defensive lineman.

On this topic, Dockett is not unaware of the circumstances.

"I can only control what I can control," Dockett said Wednesday during an interview on "The Drive with Jody, MJ and Bauer" on Fox Sports 910. "I know what I bring to the game. The situation is what it is. I love playing for B.A. I love playing for Todd (Bowles). I've been here for 10 years and my heart and soul is in this organization. My loyalty lies with that organization probably more than anybody who puts that uniform on. But I understand it's a business.

"When you are dealing with certain guys like myself you have to make certain decisions. I just know I'm one of the most passionate people to put on any uniform."

The Cardinals don't have to do anything with Dockett's contract. They could extend his deal, softening the salary cap number. If they were to release him, it would create $3 million of "dead" money on the Cards' cap, saving almost $7 million on the cap.

"Do I want to leave Arizona? No," Dockett said. "But if I had to, despite being frustrated having to go somewhere else, I would. I can't say I would be happy with the situation if that decision if it was made, but I understand this is a business. It's happened to the best of them. At the end of the day my loyalty is to Arizona."

Arians said Sunday he expects Dockett to be back with the team, but he also acknowledged he doesn't deal with the salary cap

and those aspects of the personnel.

Dockett has been anxious to return after tearing his ACL during a training camp practice in August. He went as far as to hire a special cook to prepare a strict diet, allowing him to gain mobility and heal faster. Dockett said he initially lost "15 to 20" pounds and got all the way down to 270, before slowly getting back to his current weight of 280. His body fat is nine percent and he's "stronger than I have ever been." Dockett said he is two months ahead of his rehabilitation schedule, and he is already running and backpedaling.

He said he's used the frustration of losing his season as fuel to focus on coming back.

"It was probably the worst (expletive) in my life," Dockett said. "Very hurtful, disappointing. That's probably the second worst thing that's happened in my life besides with my Mom."

Dockett's mother was murdered when Dockett was a child.

Dockett said it wasn't until about a month ago before he "really accepted" his fate this season, but it didn't make watching from the sideline any easier. He was frustrated yet again in Carolina as the Cardinals went down in the playoffs, having to stand in the rain feeling like he could have made a difference.

He admitted his turn as cheerleader on the sidelines took some getting used to, noting specifically the Denver game when teammate Calais Campbell was sidelined by a chop block from tight end Julius Thomas. Dockett said it "would have been a big issue" had he been in the game.

"It was hard to watch certain things happen," Dockett said, adding, "I appreciate the role B.A. gave me this season."

The question will be what kind of role Dockett will have next season, and whether there is a chance it isn't with the Cardinals. Dockett, who had only missed two games since being drafted before missing this season, said he never quite understood what the players who suffered major injuries had gone through. Now he does.

"The lesson I learned, and I told my teammates, be humble about every situation but just know it can be taken away from you," Dockett said. "Don't take it for granted. Cherish the moment."

Images of DT Darnell Dockett, who tore his ACL on Monday and is out for the season

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