DT Dockett signs 4-year, $48 million extension

Darnell Dockett finally has the contract he feels he

deserves.

The Arizona Cardinals announced on Wednesday that they have

signed the two-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle to a four-year

extension worth up to $48 million with $30 million guaranteed.

Dockett had two years left on his previous contract, so the new

deal runs through the 2015 season. A third-round draft pick out of

Florida State in 2004, Dockett has developed into one of the best

at his position entering his seventh NFL season as the

high-spirited leader of the Arizona defense.

”We are very fortunate to have a player of Darnell’s ability,”

general manager Rod Graves said, ”and I think even more so his

passion for the game.”

Dockett has 26 career sacks, 20 in the last three seasons. His

seven sacks last year were the most for an NFL defensive tackle.

His three sacks against the Pittsburgh Steelers two seasons ago

tied Reggie White’s Super Bowl record.

Dockett has started all but one game since coming to the NFL and

enters the season with 81 consecutive starts.

The extension follows a change in Dockett’s approach to the

contract issue. As long as two years ago, he has made it clear he

believed he deserved a bigger contract. Last year, he sat out

minicamp with a so-called sore hamstring. But he was there on time

for the 2009 training camp and has not missed any workouts since,

leaving the contract issues to agent Drew Rosenhaus.

Not that Dockett’s free spirit still doesn’t get the best of him

at times. This summer, he made an ill-advised streaming Internet

video taking a shower to win a bit, but promptly made a public

apology.

”The thing that has really made it so apparent that we wanted

to get this deal done was his growth as a player and as a person,”

coach Ken Whisenhunt said. ”Where he sits right now in front of

you guys, after having a couple of Pro Bowls, after how he works

with our team, it’s a little bit different than he was almost four

years ago when we started this thing.”

Eleven days before Arizona’s season opener, he sat at a news

conference on Wednesday to announce his new contract, Graves on one

side, Whisenhunt on the other.

”I know a lot of people probably thought I wasn’t going to come

to training camp,” Dockett said. ”I made a commitment to players

that I was going to be there, like Joey Porter. I told him I would

be there and I didn’t want to let him down. Once I put my helmet on

and shoulder pads, I can honestly tell you I really didn’t think

about contract. I just focused on football and believed they could

get it done.”

For the quick, punishing 6-foot-4, 290-pound tackle, the new

deal is a rich testament to his ability to overcome some horrific

obstacles.

As a 13-year-old in Decatur, Ga., he came home one day to find

his mother killed by a gun shot to the head. He moved in with his

father, who just a few months later died of pancreatic cancer. His

uncle Kevin Dockett took the boy in and provided him the foundation

to eventually succeed.

”The biggest thing for me and my life and my situation is for

young people to understand that anything’s possible,” Dockett

said. ”I’m living proof. I don’t do things for a pat on the back

or things like that. I just want people to understand that things

are possible. All you’ve got to do is make the right decisions and

keep playing and stay focused.”

Over the last three seasons, his 20 sacks are more than fellow

defensive tackles Albert Haynesworth (17.5), Kevin Williams (17.5)

and Tommie Harris (15.5). Dockett said he feels the new contract

pays him what he deserves compared with others at his position.

”I did a lot of research, a lot of thought about it and it’s

good for me,” he said. ”I’m very happy.”

The news conference was packed with television crews and

reporters, a big turnout that could be attributed to the fact that

many assumed it had something to do with quarterback Matt Leinart,

who reportedly is a candidate to be traded or released.

Whisenhunt was amused.

”I have to admit I was kind of tickled,” he said.