On Sunday, Arizona Cardinals outside linebacker John Abraham looked like his former self, tallying three sacks and surpassing legendary pass rusher Lawrence Taylor in career sacks, becoming ninth on the all-time sacks list.
The performance perpetuated a streak of seven strong games, recording a sack in all but one.
And to many, including the prolific linebacker himself, Sunday’s rendering — and his season, in general — was unthinkable back in March, when he was cut by the Atlanta Falcons.
“When I got cut, I thought I was over,” Abraham candidly told to The Doug and Wolf show on Monday. “I thought I was just done.”
Following his release by the Falcons, whom the 35-year-old spent the previous seven seasons with, Abraham garnered relatively no interest from NFL teams. For nearly five months, the 14-year veteran sat without a contract.
“So I’m like, ‘I must be falling off,'” Abraham recounted. “‘Hell, I can barely get on a team. Everybody wants to give me two dollars a play now because I’m 35.'”
Confidence depleted, simply didn’t foresee a future in the NFL.
“If everybody says you’re terrible, something ain’t right,” Abraham joked. “Like, if 10 people say you stink, you probably stink. So I’m like, ‘I must be terrible.’
“And really, I started doubting myself, which you never should do, but I really was on that path. I had 13 years in the league, I felt like, ‘Hey, I got 122 sacks right now, what else do I got to play for?'”
As if he didn’t have listeners convinced enough, Abraham sought to drive his point even further, going on about his lack of confidence.
“You can ask my sister,” he continued. “I was down to like 235 (pounds). You know, I thought I was going to be done.”
Then, along came first year general manager Steve Keim on the day veterans were to report to training camp.
“And then the Cardinals gave me a chance to play and I got on the team,” told Abraham.
Camp, and the first half of the season in general, was basically more of the same for the NFL’s active sack leader. The self-confidence was still lacking and his body was still 35 years old. He was beaten up both physically and mentally and his role was limited.
“I was pretty much a special pass rusher when I first got (to Arizona),” said Abraham. “I got like 10 plays the first game.”
Things have changed. A lot.
“After my shoulder got healthy, I was just being myself again,” Abraham explained.
“And now I’m playing every play, so there’s a lot more opportunities to get the quarterback.”
After failing to record a sack in the Cardinals’ first six games, Abraham has team-best 11 in his past seven games. He has 30 total tackles on the season and four forced fumbles, which leads the team. The 263-pound former first-round pick has also moved opponents back nearly 100 yards on the season, recording 97 yards for loss thus far in 2013.
Just five months ago, the sacker was himself down. But he’s returned to form, now the preeminent fixture in the Cardinals’ pass rush.
“I got a lot more opportunities and I got a lot more time to play,” he says, “and I’m pretty much healthy now and I’m playing like I’m supposed to play.”