|New Cardinal Haggans looking to make impact|
|Written by Admin|
|Monday, 28 July 2008 11:52|
He's the one with the mohawk. For now, it's a natural shade of black, but stay tuned.
``I'm trying to grow the Cardinal mohawk-type thing,'' Haggans said after practice Monday. ``I was going to dye it red, make it look like some flames, but I've decided I'm just going to chill out for camp. I figure I've got to crawl before I walk. Maybe later on down the road, in a few weeks, I might dye it red.''
Coach Ken Whisenhunt, who knew Haggans when both were with the Pittsburgh Steelers, said he wasn't surprised to see Haggans' haircut. But he hopes Haggans will never say dye.
``I'm just glad it's not orange or red or some other color,'' Whisenhunt said.
The Cardinals didn't sign Haggans, a nine-year NFL veteran, because of his flair for hair. They're hoping he'll help beef up a defense that allowed 24.9 points per game last year, 26th in the NFL.
The 31-year-old Haggans is expected to provide depth at linebacker. With 31 1/2 career sacks, he'll be deployed mostly as a pass rusher.
Joining the Cardinals is the latest turn in a long journey for Haggans, who went from a walk-on at Colorado State to a fifth-round draft pick to a starter on a Super Bowl champion.
Staying in Pittsburgh wasn't an option for Haggans after he lost his starting job to LaMarr Woodley last season. But he used his Pittsburgh ties to find a new home in the desert.
Haggans' mix of energy and experience made him attractive to Whisenhunt, who has recruited other players and coaches from Pittsburgh during his two years at the helm. But Whisenhunt said allegiance to the Black and Gold had little to do with the decision to sign Haggans to a one-year contract.
``Clark's a good football player,'' Whisenhunt said. ``I don't think it really matters that we have a history together, other than the fact that, I know in preparing (to play) the Steelers last year, we thought he was one of their better players. He was one of the guys that we were worried about. So I feel very fortunate that we have a player of his caliber on our team.''
Haggans also brings playoff experience, no small matter for a franchise that has won two postseason games in 88 years of NFL membership. Haggans has appeared in 11 playoff games with seven starts, including the Steelers' Super Bowl victory over Seattle in February 2006.
``I think one of the other things that he brings to this team is the work ethic, the leadership from a guy that's actually won a Super Bowl, that's been in playoff games, this is how you work,'' Whisenhunt said.
Haggans said Cleveland and Denver showed interest in him as a free agent. He said it would have been difficult to sign with the Browns, the Steelers' ancient enemy.
``First of all, I go from Pittsburgh to Cleveland, I'll probably play that first Steeler home game, I'll probably have about a hundred death threats,'' he said.
The Cardinals turned out to be Haggans' best option, partly because of his connection to Whisenhunt and partly because of his comfort with the Cardinals' 3-4 defense after playing in the same scheme in Pittsburgh.
After a few days among the tall pines, Haggans said he feels like ``a rookie out here, just learning the ropes.'' But he also pledged to provide leadership for some of the younger defensive players.
``I've seen some stuff, been in some games, obviously a lot of playoff games, a Super Bowl and all that other craziness,'' he said. ``For young guys, if they've got any questions, obviously, I bring some experience being in the league and going into my ninth year.''
Haggans always dreamed of playing in the NFL. But he had a more modest goal when he walked on at Colorado State in 1995.
``Hopefully, I can get on the kickoff team so my mom can get a picture of me, so I can tell my kids later on down the road that I actually played Division I college football,'' he said.
Haggans did better than that. He earned a scholarship his sophomore year and left Fort Collins as the Rams' all-time sacks leader, with 33.
The Steelers took a shot at him in the fifth round of the 2000 draft. Haggans dressed for only three games that season, but in 2001 he made an impression on special teams. In 2002, the Steelers turned him into a pass-rushing specialist, and Haggans parlayed that opportunity into a lengthy and productive NFL career.
Haggans has enjoyed the ride.
``I pinch myself every day,'' he said. ``Just to be out here in the NFL is kind of crazy.''