Defensive tackle Darnell Dockett, dancing after a play against Dallas, said double-teams on him will just allow teammates to flourish.
Perhaps the realization signifies how much Darnell Dockett has matured, even if it took – by his description – a phone call with friend and Bears defensive tackle Tommie Harris.
Dockett wasn't shy about telling people how he was facing double-teams last season as his profile grew along with his sacks – in part to explain why those sacks were drying up. Eventually, the Cardinals' Pro Bowl defensive tackle talked to Harris about dealing with the extra attention from blockers.
Harris' response was simple: Don't get mad. Don't get frustrated. Treat it as a sign of respect.
"If I get double-teamed, that's cool," Dockett said, "because I know I've got (fellow linemen) Gabe (Watson), Antonio (Smith), Bryan Robinson, Chike (Okeafor), Bert (Berry), all those guys will step up and make plays.
"You can't double-team everybody. Eventually it's going to bust open and we're going to win the ballgame."
Reading the emotional Dockett is an impossible task. But his mood has certainly shifted from the offseason, when he hoped he could parlay his Pro Bowl appearance into a contract upgrade.
Since Dockett's recently signed extension had just kicked in before the 2007 season, the Cardinals flatly said no to any talk of a new deal. Dockett then decided to voluntarily skip all the voluntary offseason workouts.
But he arrived at training camp seemingly happy and certainly ready to work. His play has been mostly impressive before he was the star of the win over Dallas, a beast ripping through the Cowboys' offense.
And Dockett seems to gained perspective on his situation.
"I am having fun," Dockett said. "I am having the time of my life. I have a wrist banged up, my neck is sore, my hamstring is sore, but when I put the helmet on and I step on the field, knowing we are 4-2 and leading this division, it makes all of that go away."
Dockett has two sacks in six games, although he was robbed of one against Dallas when Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo was saved by the infamous "tuck" rule.
The lack of sacks had long been a bother to Dockett, who knew the stats were a key to benefits like Pro Bowl appearances and a bigger contract. That's why the increase in blocking double-teams ate at him.
In a recent discussion with veteran defensive tackle Bryan Robinson, though, Robinson made sure to point out to Dockett that since Dockett had a nine-sack season (and a Pro Bowl because of it), he is already noticed in the league.
Now, Robinson said, it's Dockett's job to become a complete tackle.
"The sky is the limit for him," Robinson said. "He is a young guy and he is still a little raw, but he is working with his technique. If he stays healthy before his career is over, he'll probably make six or seven Pro Bowls. Why not?"
Indeed, when Dockett talks about Pro Bowl defensive tackles he studies – players that might not pile up sack totals – he mentions Harris and the Minnesota tandem of Kevin Williams and Pat Williams. Probably not coincidentally, those were the three originally named to last year's NFC Pro Bowl squad before Harris' knee injury allowed Dockett to go to Hawaii.
Defensive line coach Ron Aiken is working with Dockett to improve technique, specifically his hands coming off the ball, while careful not to slow him down on the initial takeoff from the snap. That quickness is Dockett's best attribute.
"He still has room to grow," Aiken said. "He just has to continue to push."
That's another assist Dockett gives to Harris, saying Harris told him that once the double-teams come, it means Dockett should be putting in extra work – because it means Dockett isn't an average player anymore.
Dockett emphasized he thinks he has improved every offseason and he hasn't come close to peaking.
"I do whatever I can do to put my résumé out there and say, 'Here, whatever it is, my future, I am just trying to help this team win,' " Dockett said. "I'm trying not to get stupid penalties even though guys are trying to do little things to get to me in the games. I am trying to stay focused. At the end of the day, you put the film on, it don't lie."
Dockett said it was the Cowboys' insistence in using more one-on-one blocking schemes that allowed him to flourish against Dallas. He added he understood it means more inevitable double-teaming.
Dockett already got that idea talking with some of his buddies who play for Carolina, like former Cardinal offensive lineman Jeremy Bridges, defensive end Julius Peppers and cornerback Chris Gamble.
"They said, 'Oh yeah, you're definitely in the spotlight,' " Dockett said. "Know what I tell 'em? 'I'm coming. And I ain't coming by myself.' "
Contact Darren Urban at firstname.lastname@example.org. Posted 10/23/08.