New linebacker Paris Lenon runs in the sand pits during a recent workout with Cardinals' teammates in Tempe.
There have been a series of Paris Lenons.
The Cardinals' new inside linebacker is Paris Michael Lenon, whose father is Paris Milton Lenon. The linebacker's son is Paris Mason Lenon, while his grandfather was simply Paris Lenon.
Now that he's in Arizona, though, Lenon just wants to make a name for himself.
He's Paris Lenon. He isn't Karlos Dansby – the free agent whom Lenon is replacing and the linebacker who bolted the Cards for riches with the Miami Dolphins. Dansby had the name recognition. Lenon, despite his name's uniqueness, does not.
"I don't look at it like that," Lenon said after a recent workout at the team's Tempe facility. "(Dansby) was a very good player. He did a lot for this organization in the years he was here. But I am coming in as myself.
"That's for everybody else to talk about. My thing is that each person is different. I am who I am."
Playing weak inside linebacker for the Cards, Dansby finished 2009 with 113 total tackles, one sack and one interception. He also closed out the season with a flourish, starring in the Cards' Wild Card playoff win with a pick, a forced fumble and, in overtime, a fumble return for a touchdown.
Those were the flashy things that were easy to notice. Flashy probably won't be Lenon's calling card, defensive coordinator Bill Davis said.
"Paris is a mentally tough, quiet, just-get-your-job-done, lunch-pail kind of guy," Davis said. "He comes in every day and doesn't say much. He doesn't give you the 'wow' factor, you don't see the dynamic stuff. He is smart, he has a high football IQ and he has a lot of toughness."
The vibe of serious radiates from Lenon as he talks, even early in the offseason. He describes himself not with great detail, instead emphasizing "I just say I'm a football player."
That's good enough for the Cardinals. Davis said each player the Cards have acquired in the offseason has been thoroughly investigated, and Lenon was no different. The 6-foot-2, 235-pounder fit best when he played his first four seasons in Green Bay (his past four seasons were with the Lions for three before going to the Rams in 2009).
There is "no nonsense or silliness to him," Davis said, emphasizing Lenon fills a void – the obvious one left when Dansby did.
"The plan is to find an inside linebacker high in the draft and watch him grow and wait until he eventually beats out Paris," Davis said.
Chemistry in the linebacking corps will obviously change. Lenon and outside linebacker Joey Porter are in. Dansby and outside linebackers Chike Okeafor and Bertrand Berry are out. Davis understands it's impossible to know what the transition will equate to on the field until the unit actually gets on the field.
But he sees the personality Porter and Lenon bring and believes "that's what we need."
"There is a tenacity you cannot make a guy have – he either has it or he doesn't," Davis said. "The more tenacious – and good -- football players you have , that's what separates NFL teams, and I think we are adding that. I'm not taking away from anybody. I'd love to have Karlos and everybody back, but that's not the way it works. They are gone."
Now, Lenon is here. While he had traits the Cardinals wanted, the Cards too gave him something: A chance to win. The past two seasons, Lenon has found himself on the winning side in just one game and playing each season for the worst team in the league.
"You can let it wear on you or you can decide not to," Lenon said. "I decided not to let it bother me. That doesn't define who I am. It's a team game. You do your part of the puzzle. If the rest of the puzzle doesn't work out and it's a bad season, it is frustrating, but it doesn't define you as a player or a person."
Neither does a name.
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