Linebacker Daryl Washington will return to practice this week for the Cardinals after serving a four-game NFL suspension.
Karlos Dansby chuckled at the notion that he now was going to be starting at inside linebacker alongside the man the Cardinals once drafted to replace him – Daryl Washington.
"Hey man," Dansby said. "The world works in mysterious ways."
There was no mystery in Washington's return. He finished serving his NFL-mandated four-game suspension this weekend, and while his official return to the roster is still to come, the Pro Bowler will be back at practice Wednesday.
Washington will also start against Carolina, coach Bruce Arians said. "That one's easy," Arians added, along with the fact Dansby will probably be the other inside starter.
"I'm not surprised, but sometimes you expect the unexpected," Washington said of his planned starting role. "You never
know how it will go in this league. What I have shown over the years, it only makes sense."
There was little certain about Washington's status though, after a tumultuous offseason in which he not only was suspended for violating the league's substance abuse policy but also arrested in an unrelated fight with the mother of his child. That case is currently working its way through the court system (Washington's next court date is in October.)
In the offseason, training camp and preseason games, Washington worked with the second unit. But Arians didn't hesitate when talking about Washington's spot that Washington will be elevated right away.
"The thing he obviously brings is great speed and the ability to play tight ends and backs man-to-man more," Arians said. "He's a devastating blitzer, so he's going to bring a bunch more to the table."
Said cornerback Patrick Peterson, "He is going to add a whole new dimension to the defense. We're going to be able to play much more aggressive than we have the last four weeks."
When the league first implemented their policies, suspended players used to have to stay completely away from team facilities. Those rules have been amended in recent years, so Washington did work out with strength and conditioning coordinator John Lott the last month and has been attending meetings.
Washington even flew out to Florida last week to attend meetings while the team was staying in Sarasota.
He likened the workouts with no football to training for the NFL Scouting combine, which he did back in 2010.
"I felt like I have been a part of (the team) for the most part, being around the guys and being able to look at the game plan," Washington said. "Not being out there on the field, that's the negative part of going through the preparation.
As for rust in his play, "We'll see," Washington said. "Give me one or two series. I think Wednesday (at practice) will define how the week goes for me."
Washington acknowledged he could have helped the Cardinals when tight ends Jared Cook and Jimmy Graham were beating them up in Arizona's two losses. But he wasn't making any grand predictions what his impact could be.
The defense in his absence has "done a great job over the four games," Washington said. "Adding me, I'm just a small part of it and hopefully a big piece of it. We'll see how it goes."
He did say he still hoped to play well enough to return to the Pro Bowl in just 12 games. "It would have to be a good 12 games," he said.
The time away has been hard, Washington said, and especially "brutal" on Sundays when the Cardinals are playing. Washington records the games to watch later; he cannot watch them live, instead watching other games around the league.
That's not a problem now. Dansby said he was eager to get back on the field with Washington. While the two played a little together in the offseason, Washington's second-unit stint means he and Dansby could use reps together as they build chemistry.
But it's clear the Cardinals' defense is better now that Washington is back.
"Having a guy like Daryl in the middle, he really allows you to do so much more," defensive end Calais Campbell said. "He's the best player on the field, in my opinion, hands down."