Alex Okafor feeling like a new man, and ready to get back at it with Cardinals

GLENDALE, Ariz. – Cardinals outside linebacker Alex Okafor has been out of commission for the last couple of weeks, after he injured his calf against the Lions at Ford Field. Markus Golden’s come in in Okafor’s stead and he’s held his own, but it seems like it’s time for Okafor to re-claim his job.

Late last week, Okafor was out on the practice field opposite where the team practiced, and he was stretching, which was a good sight to see.

Okafor’s progressed from stretching to actually suiting up in full. He was out during the open portion of practice on Tuesday, suited, booted and ready for action.

“I feel great man. I think there could’ve been a chance I could’ve played last week (vs. Browns), but we’re just playing it safe since we have the bye week,” Okafor said. “I feel great out there. It’s like it never even happened. That’s how good I felt.”

Okafor’s had some time to survey things on the sideline not only in the practices, but also in Pittsburgh (vs. Steelers), at home (vs. Ravens) and in Cleveland (vs. Browns), and what he’s seen out of the defense is pretty much what he saw on a daily basis when he was in the starting rotation: A bar, and a standard that never lowers as far as that entire group is concerned.

“That’s one thing we preach out here, the bar is always set high, no matter who’s in the game, especially in the outside (line)backer room. The production did not drop off or fall off at all,” Okafor said. “Markus (Golden) did a (heck of a) job filling in for me. We got Dwight (Freeney), and he’s obviously played well for us too. We just added some depth in that room, and we’re ready to go to make a push.”

The man who usually lines up alongside Okafor, and who’s locker is just a few feet from his – linebacker Kevin Minter – can’t wait to have his partner in crime back in the mix with him. What Minter misses the most about Okafor is the veteran leadership that he brings to the table.

“Me and him (Okafor) kind of came in together. He knows the defense very well,” Minter said. “Not because we’ve been lacking in that area (leadership), because they’ve (Golden & Freeney) been doing a great job, but as far as the rotation, and keeping guys fresh, and having a guy that’s been in the defense for as long as he has in there, it makes all the difference. It makes my job a bit easier as far as the checks and stuff, when a guy’s another voice out there, which is Oak (Okafor).”

Defensive coordinator James Bettcher goes along with Minter when it comes to how strong the rotation will be once Okafor’s back in full. Bettcher says it’s never a bad thing when you can slide a guy like Okafor, with his talents and abilities, inside your game plan.

“It just gives you another guy and a weapon off the edge,” Bettcher said. “Another guy that’s going to get in that rotation, and that rotation gets a lot better on the outside. Guys are going to be fighting and clawing for snaps every week. I’m excited to get him back.”

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