GLENDALE, Ariz. — John Abraham is finally back with the Arizona Cardinals.
After thanking team president Michael Bidwill, head coach Bruce Arians and general manager Steve Keim, among others, for their understanding of the personal issues that kept him away from the team, the veteran linebacker said he was glad to be back and is ready to get back to football.
It’s been a long time coming for Abraham, the NFL’s active sack leader who had 11.5 quarterback sacks last season and is once again expected to anchor the Cardinals’ defense.
But for now, after an offseason that saw him get arrested for DUI in Georgia in June, he’s just happy to be with his team.
“Just being back to see the guys. I’ve been doing this for more than half my life, so just being around football, seeing the fans, seeing old teammates, just being around, just having a positive thing,” he said. “And knowing that we are trying to do something this year — this is definitely a good situation.”
Abraham, 36, declared himself to be in “no-camp” shape, meaning he’s not quite ready to get back on the field and be himself just yet. He added that he’s been doing this long enough to where he won’t need a lot of time to get back into the swing of things, but understands that being away as long as he has did set him back a bit.
When he is ready to play, Arians said Abraham will be inserted right back into the starting lineup.
“We’ll just see what kind of condition he’s in and get him physically ready, but yeah, he’s going to be our starting Will linebacker, there ain’t no doubt about that,” he said. “He’s never been out of those plans.”
The coach said with more than three weeks left until the regular season opener, there should be enough time to get the five-time Pro Bowl selection to where he and the team want him to be. Abraham wouldn’t put a timetable on his return to the field.
“We’re taking it day-by-day right now,” he said, adding that he does not want to rush himself and risk getting injured. While he has been absent over the last few weeks, his teammates have been getting in shape and hitting each other, getting ready for the season. “I don’t want to put myself in jeopardy of trying to come back too fast and getting injured and missing more time than I need to.”
But for now, just being around is enough.
Abraham wouldn’t elaborate on why exactly he was away, only referring to it as “personal stuff” that had less to do with the DUI than people think.
“I’m just going to let that handle itself, because I’m still going through that, but it was more just personal stuff,” he said. “Just handling personal stuff in life. Just getting back so I would have a clear mind when I got back.”
Abraham struck a markedly different tone than the one he displayed in statement that was released just a couple weeks ago, where he apologized for what he had done and said he was working to “handle” his personal business. Back with the team, he was much more positive .
And his teammates are happy to have him.
While he was speaking to the media, Darnell Dockett interrupted to the session to give his teammate a hug and welcome him back, while Sam Acho and defensive line coach Brentson Buckner shouted well wishes from across the way.
“You always want to be supportive,” linebacker Lorenzo Alexander said. “I’m pretty sure there are certain guys on this team that he’ll talk to and lean on, that he has an intimate relationship with. Other guys, just making sure that, kind of watching out for him and making sure everything is up to par.”
Alexander added that every player has their own issues to deal with, so the team will have little problem bringing Abraham back into the fold, regardless of what’s been going on off the field.
The team is welcoming back an impact starter, after all.
“If it was an issue where I had to work for it, I would have no problem with that,” he said of his role with the team. “But knowing the guys, and they know me. Getting a relationship with the guys that I have now, I think they know what kind of guy and what kind of player I am. I put the numbers up and they know when I get in football season I’m football John.”
A veteran of 14 NFL seasons with three different teams, Abraham is still regarded as one of the premier sack artists in the game. His 53 total tackles last season represented his highest mark since 2005, showing he may have more left in the tank than was believed. His 133.5 career sacks place him ninth on the NFL’s all-time list, and he’d like to climb up that list a bit more. He’s specifically eyeing former New York Giant Michael Strahan, who is fifth with 141.5.
That’s part of the reason why, he said, there was never any thought to walking away from the game and not coming back at all.
“Hell no,” he said when asked if he considered it. “That would have been dumb as hell for me to do that. Football has given a lot to me. The Cardinals have given a lot to me; even have the advantage of still playing football. A lot of people kind of gave up on me after Atlanta let me go, and to come back and be blessed to play…and I’ve still got to get like nine sacks to so I can get Strahan, so that’s one of my goals. I can’t do that sitting on the couch.”