Cardinals’ Dennis Gardeck says old knee injury impacted him in 2021

May 23, 2022, 2:20 PM | Updated: 5:07 pm
Dennis Gardeck #45 of the Arizona Cardinals reacts after Zaven Collins #25 of the Arizona Cardinals...
Dennis Gardeck #45 of the Arizona Cardinals reacts after Zaven Collins #25 of the Arizona Cardinals recovers an onside kick during the fourth quarter against the Los Angeles Rams at State Farm Stadium on December 13, 2021 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images)
(Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images)

Arizona Cardinals outside linebacker Dennis Gardeck really believed his ACL-repaired knee felt not just recovered, but back to normal when we made a quick return from early 2021 surgery.

Gardeck was in line to play in Week 1 last season before a hand injury gave him a few weeks of extra rest, and he appeared in 14 games with three starts under his belt. The production, though, didn’t carry over from his breakout 2020 campaign.

The seven sacks in 94 total snaps as a reserve that season before the ACL tear were followed by zero sacks and four quarterback hits in 173 defensive snaps last year.

“It felt good. I wasn’t lying to you guys,” Gardeck said when he joined Arizona Sports’ Wolf & Luke on Monday. “You just don’t know how good feels until you feel good. I thought I was back to my normal speed and I felt way more confident than I did weeks previous, months previous, until I got out there this offseason.

“Then it was like, ‘Man, I feel way better.’ And then it’s like, ‘Maybe I wasn’t all the way back.'”

Gardeck’s role is open for change this season after he went into free agency and re-signed with Arizona on a three-year, $12 million contract.

Pro Bowler Chandler Jones left in free agency, and Markus Golden and Devon Kennard are the only known commodities at outside linebacker.

Waiver pickup Jessie Lemonier, second-year man Victor Dimukeje, plus rookies Myjai Sanders, Cameron Thomas and Jesse Luketa are among the bodies who could fill out the depth chart.

Gardeck figures to be ahead of all of those players if he can look like something close to his high-efficiency self from two years ago, before his ACL injury.

“Obviously it’s realistic (to rediscover the same form as 2020). It’s been done before,” Gardeck said. “I think getting back to that and improving upon that is the goal this offseason. What I attribute (the success) to is just being able to pay my dues and pay the system in terms of practices and getting my steps right and getting reps after reps after reps and everything moving into that year.

“I felt like this past year it was hard to get in all that work because I’m rehabbing and everything, so I spent the whole year paying my dues and I’m hoping this year it’ll pay off again.”

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