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Published: Friday, 1/30/2009

Cards' Robinson would love to go out like Elway

BY JACK MAGRUDER
SPECIAL TO THE BLADE
Bryan Robinson brought experience to the Cardinals and anchors a defense that has Arizona in Sunday's Super Bowl. Bryan Robinson brought experience to the Cardinals and anchors a defense that has Arizona in Sunday's Super Bowl.
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TAMPA - Bryan Robinson has thought seriously about retiring after each of the last three seasons, and this time, he swears, he just might do it.

Especially if his 12th NFL season ends with his Arizona Cardinals as the Super Bowl champions.

"I might go out like Elway," Robinson said.


Denver quarterback John Elway rode into retirement after leading the Broncos to successive Super Bowl victories, so maybe Robinson has at least one more year in him. He is wise enough to understand that it should not be a rash decision.

"You never know. But I feel pretty good. One of the things I do know, you pretty much take a month off to see where you are with it," he said.

Then there is this: What would Bumpy Johnson do?

In his first season with Arizona, Robinson was given that nickname early in training camp, when a rookie responded to one of Robinson's suggestions by saying "Who are you, Bumpy Johnson?" a character in the movies Hoodlum and American Gangster who was a much respected street boss.

It stuck, mainly because Robinson demonstrated a strong work ethic early while also showing that he was glad to give the younger players a helping hand.

"He's been tremendous," Cardinals defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast said. "He's provided a lot of veteran leadership for us and given us a lot of quality minutes at the nose position."

Now with his fifth NFL team, Robinson has found his first playoff success with the Cardinals, whose three postseason victories are more than they had in their previous 87 seasons. He had previous playoff appearances for Chicago (2001) and Cincinnati (2005), but both ended in first-round losses.

Robinson has started at nose tackle all season for a defense that has 12 takeaways, including eight interceptions, and seven sacks in playoff victories.

The Cardinals likely would not be playing in the Super Bowl today if not for their recent ability to stop the run, which starts with Robinson, 6-foot-4 and 304 pounds, and the first line of defense.

In its postseason run Arizona has stopped, in order, the NFL's No. 2 rusher in Atlanta's Michael

Turner, the league's No. 3 rushing attack in Carolina, and one of the league's top combination run/pass-receiving threats in Philadelphia's Michael Westbrook. Those teams had 232 yards rushing, total, against the Cardinals.

A gregarious man, Robinson has also fit well in the locker room, bringing a solidifying presence.

"He's like an anchor," defensive end Antonio Smith said.

"You have somebody in the locker room who knows what it takes, and who's been there before and been around good players. He's like one of those guys who hardly ever says anything, but when he does say something, you take it to heart."

Robinson saw first hand the Cardinals' possibilities in 2007, when Arizona came into Cincinnati last season and beat the Bengals 35-27 behind Kurt Warner's two touchdown passes and safety Antrel Rolle's two interception returns for touchdowns.

"I knew we would make the playoffs [this year] by how the guys played last year," Robinson said.

"I played against them. I saw them on TV play against Pittsburgh and how physical they played. I told myself this could be a pretty good team.

"But then to be in the Super Bowl? You can't come up with anything like that. You just hoped to keep the progression going. Anything is possible. That's so true. It's almost like a team against the world mentality.

"It's been working for us, so we'll try to use it one more week."

Twelve years after entering the league as a rookie free agent out of Fresno State, Robinson knows almost as well as the victory-starved Cardinals' fans - last (and only) title, 1947 - how magical this ride has been.

After the Cardinals beat Philadelphia in the NFC title game, "The fans were crazy. I saw a lot of people crying.

"As a guy who has been around, I can understand, because I've been in organizations that haven't really won a lot. I got a little tear in my eye. My wife wiped it away. I can truly understand that feeling.

"One of the things that you never know, it's not like you can go to a team and say this is the team that is going to do it. New England went 11-5 this year and didn't even go to the playoffs.

"You play. You give it your all and hope that things work out. For these last few years of my career, it's good to say that one of those years I made it. I would love to say that I won it."



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