TEMPE, Ariz. — The Arizona Cardinals appear to have found a gem in linebacker Larry Foote.
The veteran has been on the field for every one of the team’s 397 defensive snaps this season, tallying 35 tackles (28 solo), one sack, three tackles for loss, two passes defensed and one interception.
Not bad for a 34-year-old signed to a one-year, $955,000 contract.
“Oh, gosh, Larry’s kind of the glue over there right now, he and Jerraud Powers,” Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said Monday after his team’s 24-13 win over the Oakland Raiders, a game in which Foote led the team with four tackles and tallied its only quarterback sack. “He calls the defense, he sets the defense, he’s the cheerleader; he’s everything I knew he would be. He’s been that way for a long time.
“But, he brings a lot of passion to the practice field, too, and the locker room. Yeah, he’s everything we needed.”
Everything the team needed, but perhaps did not think it would.
When the team signed Foote, the idea was to have him be part of an inside linebacker trio that would feature him along with Kevin Minter and Daryl Washington. Unfortunately, Washington was suspended for the entire season due to violating the league’s policy on substance abuse, which then forced the veteran into a larger-than-anticipated role.
“Contract-wise, he was supposed to be suspended four to six games,” Foote said of Washington. “So I said ‘OK, I can come play, and kick back and coach,’ and he ends up gone for the year and I’m in there every snap.
“But competitively I love being out there, but six games and I was looking at the money, and I was, ‘OK, that makes sense.'”
“All I know is that Daryl was supposed to be gone four to six games and I was going to be in there and hopefully keep us .500 until he gets back,” Foote said of what he thought his job would be. “But I’ve always been a third down linebacker.”
Foote’s value is not just in his raw talent, but in his smarts and ability to help line up the defense, especially late in games. He has been asked to do more than he bargained for, and in turn has been one of the best deals of the 2014 offseason.