He knew after missing the first four games because of a suspension the chances of him playing too fast, too strong, too hard were high. But Washington made it a goal to simply play within his limits.
All he did was go out and get nine tackles, two sacks and an interception. Sounds like a typical day for Washington.
“I didn’t anticipate a game like this,” Washington said. “I just wanted to play the best football I could and help my teammates out, and [knowing] they were going to be supportive it made it a lot easier on me.”
Washington’s impact was felt from the Carolina Panthers’ first offensive snap, when he chased running back DeAngelo Williams out of bounds. And Washington only got better from there, finishing the first half with five tackles. His return made an already very good defense great Sunday. The Cardinals sacked Panthers quarterback Cam Newton seven times and intercepted him three times.
Washington's first sack came early in the third quarter, and he put a bow on his return when he made one-handed interception at the beginning of the fourth quarter. Washington was chided on the sideline for letting Newton, who’s taller and bigger, catch him on the run back.
“He was in great condition,” Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said. “I had to kid him. I thought [Cardinals strength and conditioning coordinator] John Lott had him in better shape for a quarterback to catch him on an interception.”
Washington must like playing against Newton. His last game with a sack and an interception was in the 2011 season opener against the Panthers, and two of his five career interceptions have come off Newton’s hand.
But Washington’s game wasn’t a surprise to any of his teammates.
“It was amazing to see him go out there and do his thing,” defensive tackle Darnell Dockett said. “The guy works hard. All the plays that you all see him make, the plays during the game, we’re blessed to see him do those plays in practice. We watch him all the time.”
After watching the way he played and the energy the Panthers had to expend focusing on Washington, his fellow defenders were sure glad he was finally back.
“Man, that guy is special,” defensive end Calais Campbell said. “That guy, he makes everybody else around him better because he’s so good that people have to concentrate on him and focus 'round him and it makes all of our jobs easier.”