TEMPE, Ariz. — Daryl Washington rarely watched the Cardinals play live during his four-game suspension. He couldn’t. It was just too painful, not being able to play alongside his teammates.
But after stewing on a pair of bad decisions throughout the offseason and the first quarter of this season, Washington is ready to put them in the past, and he hopes everyone else is, too.
“When you make a decision, any decision you make, there are always consequences with them,” said Washington who was suspended for violating the league’s substance abuse policy and, in a separate incident, arrested in relation to a fight with the mother of his child.
“It’s about how you bounce back from adversity. Does it make you stronger or do you stay in that foxhole and let everyone feel sorry for you? I’ve learned from it, I’m ready to move forward, I’ve kept my faith and I’m ready to play football.”
The latter incident is still working its way through the court system, with the next court date later this month, but Washington will return to the starting lineup when the Cardinals host the Panthers on Sunday at University of Phoenix Stadium.
He took part in all the meetings while he was suspended. He took part in practices. He even played in the preseason, so coach Bruce Arians doesn’t foresee a significant issue with Washington’s preparedness.
“He’s been working out like a fiend here with (strength and conditioning coordinator) John (Lott) every day, and in the meetings,” Arians said. “Mentally, he should be up to speed.”
Washington joked that Lott’s workouts may have been more difficult than Arians’.
“I felt like I was doing combine, part two,” he said. “Hopefully it pays off.”
Washington clearly brings a lot to the table, including speed, athleticism and the ability to cover the tight end, a position that has killed the Cardinals early this season.
But it’s easy to forget that Washington also led the team in sacks last season with nine.
“He’s a devastating blitzer, so he’s going to bring a bunch more to the table,” Arians said. “We can do some more things that we haven’t been doing to protect some guys, as far as what he can do in coverage. The people he can cover might allow you to do some different things in different packages.”
One of the more anticipated aspects of Washington’s return has been the chance to pair him with linebacker Karlos Dansby, whom Arians said likely will start inside this week.
“During OTAs and mini-camps, we had a chance to get in and work together a bit, so we built some of that chemistry,” Dansby said. “He’s super quick, super fast. Reminds me of a younger me.”
Arians has been vague about how he and defensive coordinator Todd Bowles intend to use the pair together, but to a man, the Cardinals believe that Washington will elevate an already effective unit to another level.
“Having a guy like Daryl in the middle really allows you to do so much more. He’s a force to be reckoned with,” defensive end Calais Campbell said. “He’s the best player on the field, in my opinion, and that’s saying a lot, because we have some pretty talented players on the field.”
Washington made the Pro Bowl last season and hopes to repeat the feat despite missing four games.
“It would have to be a good 12 games,” he said, “but I think I will come back very strong.”