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 TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) -Big, graceful, quick and hard-hitting, Karlos Dansby is a menacing presence roaming the middle of the Arizona Cardinals' defense.
His shift this season from outside to inside linebacker has made him even more effective, as long as injuries don't force him off the field.
``Long time coming,'' he said of the position move. ``I was happy to get inside, to be honest, just to get a chance to see everything, to fly around and have fun. They're giving me the opportunity to do it right now and I'm taking advantage of it.''
After missing two games with a sore knee, Dansby returned last Sunday to intercept two passes and force a fumble in the Cardinals' 31-21 victory over the Detroit Lions. The performance earned him his first NFC player of the week award.
In seven games this season, he has 55 tackles, 2.5 sacks, two interceptions and two forced fumbles.
``Obviously the scheme he's playing in now is very productive for us,'' coach Ken Whisenhunt said. ``I think Karlos is confident in what we're asking him to do.''
A second-round draft pick out of Auburn in 2004, Dansby had a penchant for big plays through his first three seasons with Arizona. In the 2005 season opener against the New York Giants, he picked off two passes, returning one of them for a touchdown. That season, he became the first Cardinals' linebacker to return two interceptions for touchdowns in a single season.
When Dennis Green was fired and replaced by Whisenhunt following last season, defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast was retained by the new coach. But the defensive scheme was altered, with Dansby's switch in position one of the key moves.
The 6-foot-4 and 250-pound Dansby is big enough to stuff the run inside and quick enough to either blitz the quarterback or drop back in pass protection.
``We said earlier in the year that the thing that we liked about Karlos in the role that we were asking him to play is that he's a big guy,'' Whisenhunt said. ``That makes the throwing windows a lot smaller, especially down the field.''
Dansby, in his fourth NFL season, credits new linebackers coach Billy Davis for much of his improvement.
``It's been a night and day thing,'' Dansby said. ``I learned so much playing under him this year, just small things. Lining up correctly, having me play so much faster and being so much more physical at the point of contact.''
He believes injuries have prevented him from showing just how good he can be. Toe and leg injuries caused Dansby to miss all of the 2006 training camp and the season opener. Because of various injuries, he started only 10 games but finished second on the team in tackles (94) and recorded eight sacks, most by a Cardinals linebacker since Ken Harvey had 9 1/2 in 1993.
The injury issue may have played a role in the Cardinals' reluctance to extend Dansby's contract, as the team has done for its other top young players.
But Dansby said he's optimistic.
``I think the feeling is mutual on both sides,'' he said. ``I think they want me here. I want to be here. I hope we can get this done as soon as possible.''
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