Abraham, Dansby rejuvenated in Arizona

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- So much for the NFL being a young man’s game.

The Arizona Cardinals are winning and back in the playoff conversation for the first time in three seasons thanks to a top 10 defense. But two cornerstones of Todd Bowles’ unit are causing people to do a double take.

John Abraham, 35, and Karlos Dansby, 32, aren’t supposed to be having Pro Bowl caliber seasons. They’re supped to be washed up, retired, relegated to a backup role.

But a little motivation can go a long way.

Both were castoffs from their previous teams, dumped into free agency without a life raft. The Atlanta Falcons parted with Abraham, opting not to re-sign the active sack king. The Dolphins released Dansby in March after signing a younger linebacker.

Abraham thought about retiring after 13 seasons. Picking up and starting fresh just didn’t sound appealing. His body was there. His mind was ripe. He made a few free agent trips and eventually landed in Arizona.

“You know how it is when you’re comfortable in a certain spot, especially at my age,” Abraham said. “At 35, that’s young in life, but in football that’s graveyard. That was a big thing, but being capable to play -- I never had a problem saying could I play anymore to this year.

“Just having this confidence and getting this confidence back, making me feel like I can play a couple more years, it just feels good having that right now.”

Like Abraham, who went from considering retirement to feeling like he has a few more years left, Dansby wants a new contract. After returning his second interception for a touchdown this season on Snuday, Dansby said he could play “three, four, five more years.”

And the thing is, they both mean it.

“It was disrespect,” Dansby said of his departure from Miami. “It was a lot of disrespect in that situation and it motivated me without a doubt, and you can see the outcome from that. A lot of teams were calling my agent trying to get me in, trying to get me there, but when I got this call, I knew it was perfect. The timing was right.

“People thought I was done, washed up. Not on my watch.”

It’s not like either are using a cane to get on the field. Abraham moved into the top 10 in the all-time sack list on Sunday, recording this ninth, 10th and 11th sacks of the season -- the eighth time in his career that he’s had 10 or more in a season.

Dansby leads the NFL in solo tackles with 100, according to ESPN Stats and Information.

They’ve proved what they’re capable of, but it’s time for Abraham and Dansby to reap the rewards.

For Abraham, that could mean a bust in the Hall of Fame. For Dansby, that’s a trip to the Pro Bowl.

“Why not?” Dansby asked. “Ten strong years they’ve been eluding me and right now, it’s just my time. I’m humble, I’m blessed and I’m going to keep God first and I’m going to keep grinding.”

Like the Pro Bowl, getting voted into the Hall of Fame is out of Abraham’s control. But sitting at ninth on the all-time sack list and with two more forced fumbles he could be the first player with 100 sacks and 50 forced fumbles, Abraham is making quite a case.

“I don’t know. I don’t have any defensive MVPs. I don’t have any Super Bowls or anything like that on my resume,” Abraham said. “The only thing I have is tenure and what I’ve done. I’m close to the top.

“It might not be first ballot but hopefully later on in my career. I know people that are 60, 70 years old that get in there. I might be one of those guys but it still counts at the end of the day.”

Not bad for two players who were left to fend for themselves.

The Cardinals saw what was left in them and Abraham and Dansby rewarded them nicely.

“Words can’t explain it,” said Dansby, who played for the Cardinals the first six years of his career. “They franchised me twice. They knew I could play the game at high level. For me to get the opportunity to come back, it’s been a blessing in disguise. Miami let me go at the right time. I appreciate it, definitely appreciate it.”