Linebacker Karlos Dansby basks in the aftermath of his game-winning touchdown Sunday against the Packers.
The numbers weren't there for Karlos Dansby, not like usual.
Oh, the Cardinals' linebacker tackled – 113 during the regular season – but he had just one sack, one forced fumble and one interception, and the statistics didn't seem to match up with a player earning $9.7 million on the franchise tag.
For the Cardinals, Dansby gives the defense an anchor around which the rest of the pieces can be placed. While the veteran still can step into the spotlight – witness Sunday's Wild Card performance, when he tipped a pass to cause an interception, forced a key fumble and later returned a fumble for the game-winning touchdown – it's Dansby's reliability that makes him valuable.
"Karlos does a lot for us that don't get noticed in the stats, as far as being a leader, running our defense, being in there on every snap," coach Ken Whisenhunt said. "With Karlos, you just say, 'Karlos, you play the way you've been playing and those things are going to come.' Fortunately, it happened in our biggest game of the year (Sunday)."
Of course, that makes it more difficult to evaluate what to do with Dansby after the season. The veteran will once again be scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent, and it is unlikely the Cards will use the franchise tag on him for a third straight season.
The kind of money Dansby wants usually is reserved for those whose stats columns are jammed with numbers. When it comes to his contract, Dansby shrugs it off, saying "I've done my part" and is open to whatever the future brings – whether it is in Arizona or elsewhere.
He definitely isn't worried about a lack of interceptions or sacks or the other glory-gaining plays.
"Not at all," Dansby said. "As long as I am doing my part, as long as I am doing what the coaches are requiring me to do that week, if I did it to the best of my ability it allowed everyone else around me to make plays, that's what I try to do."
The final play was a great example, even if Dansby hadn't come up with the loose ball. The reason cornerback Michael Adams – who got a late start off the line of scrimmage because of a chip block – had time to get to Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers was because Dansby had the presence of mind to get his hand up in the passing lane when Rodgers was first going to release the ball.
Rodgers had to hesitate, and that's when Adams delivered the sack heard round the Cards' world.
"Karlos has been giving that to us all year," defensive tackle Bryan Robinson said. "It gets magnified in the playoffs because you're the only team playing and everyone is watching, but Karlos has been that type of player for us the whole year. There is a reason he is our franchise player."
Like many other of the Cards' now veteran core, Dansby does have one stat that can't be challenged – victories, and his part in helping turn the Cardinals into winners.
Whisenhunt praised Dansby's ability to play in so many different packages, his physical style of play yet the versatility to drop back in coverage. Dansby has also played through injuries and stayed on the field, showing a maturity that may have been missing earlier in his career.
That doesn't automatically draw a giant contract, nor Pro Bowl berths. But Dansby isn't concerned.
"Pro Bowls will come eventually once people realize what I do for this team, what I do for the scheme of this defense, freeing everybody else up to go get it," Dansby said. "I am just having fun. This game is fun for me."
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