TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) Throughout his rookie year, Kevin Minter toiled on Arizona's special teams and watched the standout performances of Karlos Dansby at inside linebacker.
Now Dansby is gone, lured by a big contract to Cleveland, and Minter moves into his spot, a critical one in defensive coordinator Todd Bowles' system.
"It was fun. At the same time, I'm a `Mike' linebacker," Minter said. "This is the position he brought me here to play and I'm excited to be able to do that again."
Minter and the rest of the Cardinals went through the first workout of this session of volunteer organized team activities (OTAs) on Tuesday.
Arizona drafted Minter in the second round last year, the 45th player taken overall. He appeared in 13 games as a rookie, almost exclusively on special teams, getting four tackles.
Dansby, the man he replaces, resurrected his career with a team-high 122 tackles, 6 1/2 sacks and 19 pass breakups.. Playing alongside Daryl Washington, it was one of the best inside tandems in the NFL.
But the Browns offered Dansby far more money than the Cardinals were willing to pay, and rather than go after a free agent, the team decided the job would be Minter's.
So far, coach Bruce Arians said, Minter has impressed.
"He's a different person," Arians said. "Checking back with his folks at LSU, his freshman year he was kind of like he was last year - lost. His sophomore year he was thrown into a leadership role and really relished it. He has done a really nice job of accepting the role he's got and trying to expand on it."
It's a position where the player calls the defensive signals.
"You're the leader of the defense, big shoes to fill," Arians said. "Karlos was very dynamic in what he did last year. Todd schemed very well for him, like he will for Kevin and whoever else is in there."
Minter said learning the defensive calls was not that difficult.
"Once you get used to doing it, after you do it throughout high school and college and stuff, it kind of just comes to you," he said. "You've got to learn their language, their terminology and how they call different things and stuff like that, but other than that it's almost the same here (as it was at LSU)."
Dansby also had 6 1/2 sacks and 19 pass breakups. Those are number Minter's unlikely to reach,
Minter said he studied Dansby's approach to the game and is ready.
"It's exciting when you're able to actually do what you were brought in here to do," Minter said. "I paid my dues last year, I feel like, just standing by Karlos and watching him, watching a true professional work, and I feel like it's my time now."
Adding to the uncertainty at middle linebacker is the probability that Washington will face some sort of suspension following his guilty plea for assaulting his ex-girlfriend. Washington, considered among the best in the league at his position, was suspended the first four games of last season for violating the NFL's substance abuse policy.
Arizona signed veteran free agent Larry Foote, and Lorenzo Alexander - an outside linebacker who was injured most of last season - also can play inside.
"I'd like to add another player," Arians said, "if there is one possible. I like some of our young guys, and a couple of the rookies are doing OK. We'll just see how it goes."