The reporter’s question caused usually forthcoming Arizona defensive lineman Darnell Dockett to pause, gathering his thoughts before responding.
What was his opinion of team owner Bill Bidwill, and did he believe the owner of the Cardinals, known for his thrifty ways, would deal with the eventual fallout of trying to keep the franchise competitive now that they have a team in the Super Bowl?
"I don’t know," Dockett said. "Everybody’s got their opinion of them. Me personally, I hope that reputation changes. And that reputation has to change from within.
"There’s a lot of guys on this team that need to be paid, a lot of guys who are underpaid. You’ve got a lot of free agents. If they’re trying to get to another Super Bowl and really start a dynasty and keep the tradition going, you’ve got to keep the guys here, and you’ve got to make the guys happy because it’s a lot of us. You just hope that it changes within.
"I don’t really go off the opinion of what everybody else says about them. I don’t buy into that. I have my own opinions. And I don’t think they’re bad people at all. I just think that times have changed. … You’ve got to pay players to keep them on the team and make them show up for offseason workouts and do all the little things around so you can build that type of program."
This offseason will be a good barometer of how committed Bidwill is to keeping the Cardinals competitive. Arizona has cap space, with a projected $40 million under the salary cap heading into the 2009 season. And they have the money, generating steady revenue from moving into their new facility, University of Phoenix Stadium in August of 2006.
But whether or not the Bidwills have the desire to do what it takes to keep its talented, young nucleus together remains to be seen.
The Cardinals have 37 players signed for 2009, and several free agents hitting the market at season’s end, including aging quarterback Kurt Warner, talented linebacker Karlos Dansby, and defensive ends Bertrand Berry and Antonio Smith. Wide receiver Anquan Boldin is unhappy with his contract and wants a new deal. Edgerrin James is embarrassed by the way he was benched this season, and might ask to be traded at season’s end. Receiver Steve Breaston probably deserves more money. Strong safety Adrian Wilson is in line for an extension.
Even Dockett, who said he was treated fairly when he negotiated his new contract with Arizona, still has three years left on a five-year deal worth $22 million and believes he deserves more money.
"I’ve definitely outplayed that contract," Dockett said.
So how the Bidwills handle the offseason will go a long way in determining if they can repeat the success they had this season.
Arizona assistant head coach Russ Grimm understands his team will have a bulls eye on its chest come September after beating every NFC West division opponent twice last season.
"We know rolling into next year that’s in the back of everybody’s mind," Grimm said. "We’re going to get everybody’s best shot. That’s what happens when you get to this level. The following year, you’re going to play a tougher schedule, and you know you’re going to get everybody’s best shot. You’re not going to sneak up on anybody anymore."
Whether or not the Cardinals will have the talent to continue its dominance of the NFC West next season remains question mark.
"I hope they do it, I really do," Dockett said about the Bidwells keeping the team in tact. "But it won’t surprise me if they didn’t."
Listen to Grimm talk about keeping up the team’s level of success in this audio link.