Markus Golden has been chasing quarterbacks for years, so his half-sack of Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins on Sunday was nothing new.
This one felt special, though, because it marked the first sack since his return from last year's torn ACL. The Cardinals defensive end was consistently disruptive in the contest, as Pro Football Focus gave him a pass rush grade of 77.8 – third-best on the team -- in 38 snaps.
"That was the best I've felt since I've been back," Golden said. "Just getting out there and not thinking about my knee. Just running around. It's not like it's been bothering me to where I've been thinking about it, but just naturally thinking about it. It was the first time I was able to run around and be myself."
Golden led the Cardinals with 12½ sacks in 2016 before last year's major injury. Fellow defensive end Chandler Jones has since risen to All-Pro status, and if Golden can return to his apex, it gives the team a formidable duo of edge rushers once again.
Any player who goes through a major injury has moments of insecurity, and last week's performance helped ease Golden's mind.
"I wouldn't call it doubt -- it's just like when you care about something so much," Golden said. "Just like you care about your family. You don't want something to happen to your family. You care about your career, and you don't want something to happen to your career. Especially as much as I've been playing. I've been playing football since I was a kid, waking up and taking it serious every day. I thought about it like that – not nervous or wary, but like, 'Damn, I better get to work, because I want my career to go how I want it.'"
Health permitting, Golden's role figures to keep expanding. He believes Sunday was a takeoff point for a fruitful rest of the season.
"If you're able to get out there and make plays, start doing what you're used to doing, it makes you feel good," Golden said. "It builds your confidence and makes you want to fly around and help the team win. That's what I've been about since I got in the league."