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Veteran Foote moves from injury fill-in to team leader on 6-1 Cardinals

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TEMPE – A 34-year-old inside linebacker, Larry Foote said he thought he signed on with the Arizona Cardinals for a temporary role to shore up a depleted defense.

Instead, Foote is a big part of the reason for Cardinals’ 6-1 start, playing a role that Bruce Arians said has been the team’s “glue.”

“He calls the defense, he sets the defense, he’s the cheerleader,” Arians said. “He’s everything I knew he would be.”

Foote, who has 29 tackles on the season so far, signed with the Cardinals last May after being released by the Steelers when he missed most of Pittsburgh’s 2013 season due to a torn bicep.

He was brought on to take the place of Daryl Washington, who at the time faced suspension for a second violation of the NFL’s substance abuse policy. That suspension turned out to be for at least a year.

“He was supposed to be suspended for 4-6 games, so I said, ‘OK, I can come play then kick back and coach,’” Foote said. “He ended up gone for the year, and I’m in there every snap.”

While Foote can’t relax and help coach from the sidelines yet, Cardinals free safety Rashad Johnson said he’s already trying to take on that role.

“We’ll get the calls sometimes from the sidelines, and he’ll be like, ‘Hey man, just run this,’” Johnson said. “We’ll be like, ‘Dude, who’s calling the play, you or the coach?’”

Johnson said they all still follow the veteran’s lead.

“We feed off him a lot, and we just trust him,” he said. “Even though he changes some calls every now and then, we still trust him.”

And teammates doesn’t just trust Foote. Johnson said they respect his dedication to the game.

“His energy level is through the roof, and he brings a lot to this team to be one of the older guys,” he said. “He has the young energetic spirit, and he just loves the game.”

Arians said Foote’s energy can be seen everywhere.

“He brings a lot of passion to the practice field too and in the locker room,” Arians said. “He’s everything we’ve needed.”

While Foote jokes that he should have been done after four to six games, he said he knows why he’s maintained his role beyond being a replacement for Washington.

“The reason why I’m in there is because it’s important to be able to line guys up and you’re going to trust an older guy to do that, especially in the fourth quarter with a team going no-huddle,” Foote said. “You want a veteran guy in there who can keep his poise and execute the defense.”

Foote said that while he is playing in a young man’s league, he was given advice in his early days to stay successful going into his 13th season in the NFL.

“Older guys who I came underneath always talked to me about just staying in shape,” he said. “And we were running today, and I was beating them young boys.”

And while he said he is proud of the team’s fast start, he’s trying to teach the younger players to look beyond the record.

“I’m always telling guys, ‘Just think about January.’ No matter who you playing, it ain’t just for that week, it’s for later on,” he said. “Every time you step on the field you have to think about January.”

The veteran player doesn’t know how much longer he will play, but he’s enjoying his time on the field now.

“I’m week to week, but I’m having fun,” he said. “When you’re winning, this is what football is about: winning, having a run, those memories. It’s worth more than money or anything.”