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Big-play linebacker has added motivation in contract year

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) -Karlos Dansby has an age-old motivation going for him this season: money.

Arizona's big-play linebacker is in the final year of his contract, and he plans to show his worth to the Cardinals and the rest of the NFL.

"The caliber of teams that we're playing this year, I'm getting the opportunity to show the world what I'm made of, just put my resume out there," Dansby said before the Cardinals practiced Tuesday.

Entering his fourth season with Arizona, Dansby has been moved from outside to inside linebacker by new coach Ken Whisenhunt.

Watching tapes from previous seasons, the new coach said, he noted that Dansby's best plays often came when he was moved to inside linebacker in the team's third-down nickel defense.

"What really showed up in watching the tapes was his ability to move in space and hit the gaps as far as being a pressure guy," Whisenhunt said. "It looked to me like he was a very natural fit at that position."

Dansby's situation is a far cry from what it was a year ago.

He missed last year's training camp while recovering from toe and leg injuries, a slow comeback that irritated then-coach Dennis Green.

"I can't say I was at the top of my game, and he was disappointed," Dansby said. "That's what it came down to."

Dansby returned to play in 14 games, 10 as a starter, but said he never was completely healthy.

This year, he said, he is.

"I can honestly say I feel like my sophomore season in college right now. I'm feeling that good," he said. "A lot of lifting, my body is feeling just so much stronger and healthier. I feel real good."

Since he was drafted in the second round with the 33rd pick overall Dansby has shown a knack for the big defensive play.

In his first start, against Atlanta, he sacked Michael Vick to force a third-and-14 situation and recovered a fumble by Vick in the Arizona end zone. In the 2005 season opener at the New York Giants, Dansby had two interceptions, returning one 18 yards for a touchdown. He also had a sack and three solo tackles.

Even when he wasn't at his best a year ago, he had eight sacks.

"He's got all the talent in the world," said defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast, who was retained from Green's staff. "He's made a lot of big plays for us since I've been here and I think if he can stay healthy, we've got him in a role now where he'll have more freedom to utilize his instincts."

Dansby's move comes as Arizona switches its base defense from a 4-3 set to a 3-4.

The move gives Dansby more freedom to roam, either against the run or the pass. At 6-feet-4 and a beefed-up 255 pounds, he is a formidable presence.

"We felt like having him in the stack position would keep him covered up and allow him to run and make plays, to see things better off the football," Pendergast said. "He has really good instincts and a good feel of where the ball is."

Dansby believes his skills have gone mostly unnoticed around the league.

"I think I'm still underneath the radar, and I like it like that," he said. "It's cool. Hopefully I can get a little press once the season starts rollin' and I'm making plays and things like that."

As important as Dansby is to Arizona's defense, the Cardinals chose not to extend his contract in the offseason, perhaps because of his injury history.

"I'm patient, man, and that's a virtue," he said. "I'm comfortable right now. I'm not in need of a big contract, but if they're willing to step up to the plate and extend me, that would be a blessing."

If not, he said, a big payday is down the road somewhere from someone.

"I'm not pressed at all," he said. "I've got great disability insurance on myself, so you know I'm not worried. Right now the only thing I'm going to do is go out here and be at the top of my game."

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