Hold off on that rocking chair for John Abraham. The 35-year-old outside linebacker obviously isn’t finished with his brilliant career yet.
Abraham had three sacks, one for a safety, in the Arizona Cardinals’ 30-10 victory over St. Louis on Sunday. He has 11 sacks for the season – most for a Cardinal in nine years – and moved ahead of Lawrence Taylor and Leslie O’Neal to ninth on the NFL career list with 133.
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Abraham was let go by the Atlanta Falcons after last season and came to Arizona supposedly as a part-time player, a pass rush specialist.
But when both starting outside linebackers – Sam Acho and Lorenzo Alexander – went down with season-ending injuries in Week 3 against New Orleans, Abraham found himself a full-time player again.
And he has excelled.
”I like the leadership John brings, the way he’s playing the game right now at 35 years old,” coach Bruce Arians said on Monday. ”Stopping the run, stuffing the guards on trap plays and things like that you don’t normally see out of guys that are pass rush specialists.”
And he is dedicated. He was working out in the weight room Monday at 6 a.m.
Abraham, who signed a two-year contract with Arizona, has cherished the opportunity to play full-time.
”When I first got here my goal was just to get on the field, because I thought about retiring after last year,” he said after Sunday’s game. ”Thirteen years in the league (you) kind of felt like you might have outworn your welcome.”
He said he seriously considered hanging it up after the Falcons decided to go younger.
”I knew I could still play the game. It’s just having to move to another place and having to start life back over,” Abraham said. ”At 35, that’s young in life, but in football, that’s graveyard.”
But he did have 10 sacks last season, so he took the offer to come to Arizona.
”For me personally, it’s an accomplishment mentally” Abraham said, ”just saying I still can play and I still can put up numbers.”
Abraham said he does think a bit about statistics at this stage in his career and he had made passing Taylor on the sacks list one of his season goals.
”I always try to get 10 every year,” he said, ”and I knew 10 would put me right there. It’s a great accomplishment for me, but also I have to thank the Cardinals for giving me the chance to play again.”
Now he has his eye on the No. 5 spot on the sacks list, currently occupied by Michael Strahan, who as Abraham reminded everyone had 141 1/2 sacks.
”He was like one of my biggest idols,” Abraham said. ”When I came to New York he was one of my close friends. I was with the Jets and he was with the Giants, so I had to watch him a lot. He was the toast of the town, which he still is now. He’s definitely someone I want to catch.”
Sunday marked the 10th time in Abraham’s career that he has had three sacks in a game. Only Taylor (12) and Reggie White (12) had more.
With those kinds of names tossed around, the subject of the Hall of Fame came up. Abraham downplayed the possibility.
”I don’t know,” he said. ”I don’t have any defensive MVPs. I don’t have any Super Bowls or anything like that on my resume.”
But he said if he can get close to the top in the sacks list and can reach 50 forced fumbles (he has 47), it’s a possibility.
”It might not be first ballot,” Abraham said, ”but hopefully later on in my career. I know people that are 60-70 years old when they get in there. I might be one of those guys, but it still counts at the end of the day.”