GLENDALE, Ariz. — Apparently you can go home again, and Karlos Dansby is proof.
The linebacker spent his first six NFL seasons in Arizona, but left for Miami as a free agent in 2010. He was released by the Dolphins following three productive seasons, however, and decided to come back to the Cardinals on a one-year contract.
And what a year it has been.
In Sunday’s 30-10 win over the St. Louis Rams, Dansby produced eight tackles, one sack, one pass defensed and one pick-six.
It was his second pick-six in as many home games, and the “Dirty Bird” now has a team-leading 105 tackles to go along with his six sacks and three interceptions.
“This is the best season I’ve had so far,” Dansby said. “I’ve made a lot of sacrifices this season.”
Of course, Dansby noted that his campaign could be going even better. There have been numerous instances where interceptions – possibly of the pick-six variety – have slipped just through his hands or bounced off of him harmlessly to the turf.
Still, it’s been quite a season for someone many teams thought was done as a productive NFL player.
“I put a lot of work in, I’m not going to lie to you,” Dansby said. “Studying, preparing, preparation and all the extra stuff I’m doing.”
The 32-year-old said he catches 130 passes every day in practice, adding he has dropped way too many interceptions this season. Whatever he’s done, it has allowed Dansby to take an already solid game to another level.
It may not have happened had the Dolphins not cut ties with him, which he said happened very suddenly and very disrespectfully.
“So it motivated me, without a doubt,” Dansby said. “And you see the outcome from that.
“A lot of teams were calling my agent trying to get me in, but when I got this call I knew it was perfect, it was right. Timing was right. People thought I was done, washed up. Not on my watch.”
The Cardinals will most certainly take it. Larry Fitzgerald referred to Dansby as the team’s emotional leader and “bell cow,” and even stumped for his teammate to be voted into his first Pro Bowl.
Added Calais Campbell: “Karlos has been consistently just a great player for us. He’s a leader, he always shows up when he’s supposed to.”
As the season comes to a close, though, attention will turn to Dansby’s future. Will it be in Arizona? He thinks he deserves a new, long-term contract.
“Why not? I can do this three, four, five more years, playing at a high level,” Dansby said. “I don’t see nobody outplaying me right now.”
If Dansby hasn’t been the best linebacker in football, he’s certainly in the conversation. He’d love to see his efforts rewarded with a trip to Hawaii.
“Ten strong years it’s been eluding me, man, and right now is just my time,” he said.
That will not be decided for another few weeks, and naturally Dansby’s first goal is to help lift the Cardinals to the playoffs. No doubt, that would make his homecoming even sweeter.
“Words can’t explain,” he said when asked about what it means to be having this kind of season for the team that drafted him back in 2004 and he helped lead to unprecedented success. “They franchised me twice for a reason; they knew I could play the game at a high level.
“For me to come back and have the opportunity to come back, it’s a blessing in disguise. They let me go at the right time — Miami let me go at the right time — I appreciate it. I definitely appreciate it.”