Defensive tackle Darnell Dockett signed a contract extension through the 2015 season.
In some ways, it was almost too easy of a jab for Ken Whisenhunt to let pass.
The Cardinals' coach sat in Wednesday afternoon's press conference to announce the new contract of Pro Bowl defensive tackle Darnell Dockett. Whisenhunt flanked Dockett on one side, with general manager Rod Graves on the other.
"To be honest, I am a little shocked," Whisenhunt said, grin crawling over his face, "because Darnell hasn't said much about wanting an extension."
Even Dockett cracked up over that one.
Dockett, who signed his last contract extension in 2006 and was already asking for another one before the 2008 season, had mentioned a time or two – or 200 – over the past two years his desire for a new deal. Now he finally has it, a contract that will keep him in Arizona through the 2015 season. Dockett will get about $30 million in guarantees, with the contract's worth about $48 million (Dockett's old contract, which ran through 2011, was to pay him $3.75 million in salary this season and $4 million next season).
Dockett had hinted right before and at the beginning of training camp a new contract might be coming sooner rather than later. Turns out Dockett was just being his normal, brutally honest self.
The Cards believe he was doing the same again Wednesday.
"I do want to retire an Arizona Cardinal," Dockett said. "I do believe in the organization and the people around us.
"I believe for a winning program, you have to keep your guys around, the ones you can count on through thick and thin. I believed them they would work it out. I just focused on football. I knew they were working behind the scenes."
It was a far cry from the offseason of 2008, when Dockett showed up for the mandatory minicamp but none of the voluntary work. Or the offseason of 2009, when Dockett – along with receiver Anquan Boldin – insisted he had sore hamstrings and couldn't practice during minicamp, and again skipped voluntary work.
Dockett showed up to the voluntary work this offseason. The Cards had told him he needed to show that commitment if he expected a new deal. Dockett said he felt obligated to come when he had worked so hard to get others -- notably free-agent linebacker Joey Porter – to sign with the team to skip out on them when they showed up for voluntary work.
"We feel like Darnell has always been vested in this program, even though he may have stated his frustrations from time to time," Graves said. "We always felt he wanted to be here.
"He has always been intricately involved in wanting to see our team improve. I think in the long run we will look back and say he was a good model for our young players in the way he approached the game."
No one would have thought that was the way Dockett would have been described, at least once upon a time.
"The thing that has made is so apparent that we wanted to get this done was his growth as a player and as a person," Whisenhunt said. "Where he sits now, after a couple of Pro Bowls and how he works, it's a little different than four years ago."
Dockett had hinted in training camp he had considered not showing up in protest of no new deal. But he did come to Flagstaff and had arguably the best showing of any player. He also insisted Wednesday that once he showed up, he wasn't thinking about his contract – only football.
And while he had in camp expressed dismay in lost teammates like Boldin, Karlos Dansby and Antrel Rolle, he sounded like a man committed to the Cards going forward.
"Granted we can't keep everybody," Dockett said. "We wish we had those guys, but we tried to get those guys. That's what a lot of people have to understand, we tried to keep people, it wasn't like we ignored them and let them go. I have talked to Coach about those things. I wanted to make sure I am here and will do whatever I can to keep other guys around with a winning attitude."
That starts will his play. Dockett said he knows he will be watched closely now given his deal, but that's OK with him.
His first goal? "Outplay this contract."
"We'll be having this press conference again," he added with a smile.
At the very least, Dockett will make sure everyone knows he would need a new deal.
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