- Josh Weinfuss, ESPN Staff Writer
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TEMPE, Ariz. – When linebacker Karlos Dansby signed with the Arizona Cardinals during the offseason, the talk centered around him being a mentor for the younger players throughout the locker room. He was here to teach them, to guide them, to answer their questions.
The talk didn’t center on him still having the legs or the skills to lead the team in tackles.
He is 31, after all.
Dansby may have lost a step or two, but even a year into his 30s, he’s established himself as a formidable inside linebacker. And with Daryl Washington returning from a four-game suspension, Dansby, who leads the Cardinals by their count with 49 tackles, 47 of which are unassisted, has found himself part of one of the league's toughest inside duos.
But how is Dansby, in his 10th season, playing like he’s 25? It all started after the 2011 lockout.
Dansby reported to training camp with the Miami Dolphins at 270 pounds, 20 pounds heavier than his required weight. He was fined $400 per pound, and after writing that $8,000 check, Dansby vowed to never be fined again for anything pertaining to his body.
“I wasn’t even out of shape,” Dansby said. “I played the first game, played well, but it just didn’t feel right. I carried it well but it just didn’t feel right to me. I didn’t feel normal. I shook it in a week.”
Yes, Dansby began eating better and apparently lost all 20 pounds in a week.
Ever since, he’s made taking care of his body his top priority. Even defensive coordinator Todd Bowles has noticed it.
“That part of it is like … I can’t even put that into a category,” Dansby said. “That is so vital, it’s unreal. I had a chance to watch a lot of film, see a lot of guys later in their career and see how they’re playing the game and I don’t want to look like that on film.”
Sitting at the foot of Dansby’s locker is a cooler bag from Whole Foods and a stack of supplements. This is the new Dansby, the man who brings all his own food to the team facility for breakfast, lunch and dinner. He pays to have a personal chef, but the cost is worth it.
Dansby has been playing at 235 pounds this season, he says, the lowest of his career.
“And you can tell,” Dansby said.
As a result, he’s playing some of the best football of his career. On top of the team-high 49 tackles, the Cardinals credit him with seven pass deflections, three quarterback hits, two sacks and an interception.
He’s no longer putting regular gasoline into his tank. These days it’s all high-octane.
“It’s just 93 for my Lamborghini,” Dansby said. “That’s my 93. I only put 93 in my body, and I’m going to run all day. I can’t put 89. I can’t put that 87. I put the 93 in and I’m going all day.”