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Daryl Washington back from suspension for Cardinals

Arizona Cardinals coach Bruce Arians' offseason message-sending has given way to the reality that linebacker Daryl Washington is needed now more than ever.

With linebackers Sam Acho, Lorenzo Alexander and Alex Okafor out for the season, Arians confirmed Monday that Washington immediately will regain his starting job now that his four-game suspension has expired. "That one's easy," Arians said, via the team's official website.

Washington will play next to Karlos Dansby as an inside linebacker, with Jasper Brinkley moving to a specialist role as a run defender off the bench.

One of the fastest linebackers in the NFL, Washington fell one sack shy last year of becoming the first inside linebacker since the New Orleans Saints' Charlie Clemons (2001) to reach double-digits in a single season.

"I told Bruce (Arians) last night, I may meet Daryl this morning at the door with a big hug," general manager Steve Keim added, via Arizonasports.com. "That speed on defense, his ability to apply pressure and cover those backs and tight ends was sorely missed. He's a dynamic player ... a top-five linebacker in the NFL, in my opinion. I think you're going to see this weekend, he's going to play with a ball of rage."

The Cardinals' defense sorely missed Washington's cover skills against athletic tight ends Jared Cook and Jimmy Graham. His speed not only will allow the defense to feature more man-to-man looks, but it also will enable Cardinals defensive coordinator Todd Bowles to dial up linebacker blitzes.

"Having a guy like Daryl in the middle, he really allows you to do so much more," defensive end Calais Campbell explained. "He's the best player on the field, in my opinion, hands down."

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