Linebacker Larry Foote takes down Raiders quarterback Derek Carr for Foote's first sack of the season during Sunday's 24-13 Cardinals' win.
Larry Foote smiled. His long career had wheeled off path last season with a biceps injury that ended his season after one game, and there were no guarantees coming back this season – and certainly no lock he would be a major part of a defense.
But the veteran linebacker also knows the Cardinals have leaned on him much more than planned, and certainly more than he was expecting when he signed his one-year contract for the veteran minimum salary of $955,000.
"Contract-wise, (linebacker) Daryl (Washington) was supposed to be suspended four to six games and I was, 'OK, I can come play and coach' and he ended up gone for the year and now I play every snap," Foote said Monday. "Competitively I love being out there. (To play a lot in)
six games, I was looking at the money, 'OK, that makes sense.' "
It wasn't a plea for a raise, not that Foote would turn it down. But like Tommy Kelly this year and John Abraham a year ago, Foote has been a bargain find for the Cardinals, a self-acknowledged blue light special that has kept the defense playing well.
Foote, 34, got his first sack of the season Sunday during the Cards' 24-13 win in Oakland, a perfect blend of Todd Bowles' scheme and execution. There was little flashy about how the defense played against a struggling Raiders' offense and the performance was overshadowed by Andre Ellington and an offense that played ball control for the first time.
But the Cardinals gave up only 220 yards -- "According to our coaches, it should've been lower than that," Foote said – and allowed 20 or fewer points for the fifth time in six games. The Cards are now ranked as the best run defense in the NFL.
That's without defensive end Calais Campbell – who could practice later in the week – or linebacker Matt Shaughnessy or defensive tackle Darnell Dockett or Abraham or Washington.
Foote has been one of the constants, even if that wasn't the plan.
"All I know was Daryl was supposed to be gone four to six games and I was gonna be in there and hopefully keep us .500 until he gets back," Foote repeated at another point in his interview.
Foote was only with the Cardinals a little more than three weeks when the year-long suspension for Washington – which was for violating the substance abuse policy and not for Washington's assault conviction, which was what was planned for when Foote arrived – was announced.
Foote was going to help back up Washington and Kevin Minter. Instead, it's Minter coming off the field in non-base defense situations and Foote grinding it out. The Cardinals have played 389 defensive snaps this season. Foote has yet to sit one out.
He has a team-leading 40 tackles, including three for loss, and an interception to go with his sack.
"Larry's kind of the glue over there right now," coach Bruce Arians said. "He calls the defense, he sets the defense, he's the cheerleader; he's everything I knew he would be."
Foote joked about being the old man of the defense, how some of the young guys are teaching him new slang words and how Bowles' defense can hide an "old, slow linebacker."
"Good thing I am married with kids and I'm at home at night, while them guys are running the streets," Foote said. "That helps me a lot."
But Foote noted that the near year off last season has kept his body fresher than it might have been. He also pointed out that when running with a lot of the younger players Monday he was winning some of the sprints. The mere fact he was in the building despite Arians providing a "Victory Monday" for veterans makes a point in itself.
Foote knows his career doesn't have a long time left – "At this point I'm week to week. I've never been in the training room this much" – so he wants to take advantage of the time he has. Maybe his salary isn't quite in line with his playing time, but in the end, Foote said, he's getting other side benefits.
"I am having fun," Foote said. "When you are winning, that's what football is about. When you are winning, being on a run, those memories, that's worth more than money."
Arians said the Cardinals came out of the Oakland game relatively clean, injury-wise. Safety Rashad Johnson was getting his patella tendon checked, but the Cardinals believe it is just a tendinitis issue. Campbell has a chance to practice this week with his knee injury, although tight end Troy Niklas remains doubtful to play with a bad ankle. …
Running back Andre Ellington, who came out of the locker room late after halftime because of a rib problem, does not have any structural damage, Arians said.
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