GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Linebacker Daryl Washington made his much anticipated 2013 debut Sunday for the Arizona Cardinals, and to say it went well would be an understatement.
Suspended the first four games of the season due to violating the NFL's policy on substance abuse, the Pro Bowler started for the Cardinals and finished with nine total tackles, two sacks, an interception and a pass defensed in the 22-6 win over the Carolina Panthers.
"I didn't know I had a game like that," Washington said when informed of his stats. "But I just try to come out here and play the best football I can play and help my teammates out.
"I didn't try to do anymore than what I needed to do, just help my teammates and get a win."
The Cardinals earned the win in large part because of how Washington and the rest of the defense played, sacking quarterback Cam Newton seven times, intercepting four passes and recording a safety. Arizona also kept Carolina out of the end zone the entire game, and kept them off the scoreboard the entire second half.
While Washington was not the reason for the defensive dominance, he was certainly a key factor in what transpired.
"D-Wash is special," defensive end Calais Campbell said. "He's the best linebacker in the game. Who knows, when his career is over, how good he could be."
In his fourth season, Washington's career is really still in its infancy. This offseason provided some roadblocks, but Sunday was a big step back toward once again being one of the NFL's most feared defenders.
"The guy was flying around, making plays, got a pick, a couple sacks, chased Cam down," linebacker Karlos Dansby said. "The guy was all over the place."
"Happy to have him back," cornerback Patrick Peterson said. "We knew he was going to have an immediate impact on the game."
In fact, the one gripe Peterson had with Washington was he said the linebacker stole an interception from him. Indeed, replays appeared to show Peterson ready to step in front of Newton's pass before Washington stepped in front of Peterson.
But that's a good "problem" to have, Just like Washington is a good player to have back on the field.
Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said he though Washington played "extremely well," and the gaudy numbers would seem to back up that claim.
But for a player who had to sit and watch the first quarter of the 2013 season, being productive may have been secondary to just being back out on the field.
"It feels good, it feels good, especially with a win at home," Washington said of getting to play again. "My teammates are so supportive, my coaches are so supportive, the organization is so supportive.
"It makes it a lot easier on me so I can come and do what I do, which is play football."