Linebacker Karlos Dansby ready to take on the 49ers on a play during last week's game.
Karlos Dansby was released in the offseason by Miami and came back to the Arizona Cardinals on a one-year contract for a lot less money than he had been making and, in all honesty, what he thought he would be making.
The veteran linebacker couldn't get his old jersey number 58 back – Daryl Washington had made it his own since Dansby left Arizona the first time – and then was willing to give up his new number 55 to new teammate John Abraham, switching then to 56.
Yet Dansby is smiling constantly. Don't bother asking why. He feels it should be obvious.
"I have no worries," Dansby said. "I'm a blessed young man. I'm playing this game, I'm 10 years in, I'm still playing at a
high level. Family is good, everybody is good, I'm not worried about the contract situation. I just want to win ball games. I wanted to be able to compete against the best, this is the best division, so why not?"
Of all the moves the Cardinals made in the offseason, bringing back Dansby was perhaps the most intriguing at the time thanks to his history with the club. Six games into the season, it may have been the most important, given the way Dansby is playing.
Dansby has a team-high 60 tackles. He has 2½ sacks. He has an interception – he should have two, except he somehow missed one against Calvin Johnson and the Lions – and 10 passes defensed. At 31, Dansby is playing at a level that would have been hard to predict when he was signed.
"A rejuvenated youngster," coach Bruce Arians called him.
"I'm motivated," Dansby said.
The thing is, Dansby isn't motivated by his one-year, $2.25 million contract that expires after this season (although that's probably run through his head.) He said he motivated by the energy in the locker room, by the play of inside linebacker mate Washington, the man once drafted to replace him, by his role on the team.
Dansby, dating back to his first tenure with the team, was always a guy quick with a smile. Now, there is knowledge and maturity behind it.
"I think I'm playing better than I ever have before," Dansby said. "The guys around me are great. The energy is great, the competitive nature in all the rooms is great. It pushes me to be that much better.
"I am so happy. It's unreal. Just the position I am in. I couldn't have drawn it up any better than this."
Defensive coordinator Todd Bowles coached Dansby when Dansby first got to Miami for his three-year stint. He sees similar consistency from Dansby as he did when Dansby was a Dolphin, growing into a vocal leader on and off the field and feeding off the return of Washington.
Dansby acknowledged Washington has forced Dansby to play better and faster to keep up with the younger Pro Bowler. Bowles is just impressed at Dansby's improvements in all areas. The Cardinals brought him in in part to be a mentor. Dansby embraced that notion – one of the reasons he had no issues with the number switches – and is as close to wearing a "C" without having one on his jersey as he can get.
"As he has gotten older he has become a better leader than he already was," Bowles said. "He still has the ability to make plays and he is making them, so the expectations for him coming in was to be a playmaker for us."
It isn't all intangibles for Dansby. He admitted he showed up to the Dolphins after the lockout at 268 pounds, much too heavy. These days, he is some 30 pounds lighter, munching daily on his own packed lunch of fruit and meat that is pre-proportioned.
"I thought I was eating good but it was bad for me," Dansby said. "I starting eating right, weight started falling off. Started getting stronger, started getting my speed back, started feeling better, and you see the product. You see the product. That's what is taking place right now."
The product is everything the Cardinals could have hoped for. Why wouldn't Dansby be smiling?
"Like Coach said, I'm rejuvenated," Dansby said.