Rookie won't let penalty affect his aggression

Wednesday, October 13th 2004, 8:21 pm
By: News On 6

TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) _ Aggression is a potent part of Arizona rookie defensive tackle Darnell Dockett's game, and he won't let last weekend's crucial roughing-the-passer penalty change his style.

``I was always taught a lesson by Warren Sapp,'' Dockett said after Wednesday's practice. ``If you ever lose that hunger and every lose that aggression, it's time for you to let the game go.''

On third-and-10 in overtime at San Francisco, the Cardinals pressured quarterback Tim Rattay, who threw incomplete.

But Dockett was called for roughing-the-passer, giving San Francisco a first down, and the 49ers went on to kick the game-winning field goal in a 31-28 come-from-behind victory.

``I was just giving my 110 percent, man, and you know what happened,'' he said. ``I don't have nothin' against the rules. The rules are what they are. Our defensive coordinator tells us to play aggressive. Don't slow down on nobody. You play football, and that's what happened.''

Defensive end Bertrand Berry said Dockett should do the same thing if he's in the same situation.

``That's what we do. We're defensive players. We have to be aggressive,'' Berry said. ``We can't allow a call like that every now and then to change the way we're playing. We have to go out and be aggressive and take the fight to the offense.''

Although this referee thought it was roughing the passer, ``maybe the next ref won't,'' Berry said.

Berry, in his seventh NFL season, likes what he sees in Dockett, who has started all five games of his young pro career after being drafted in the third round out of Florida State.

``He's going to be a phenomenal player,'' Berry said. ``He's going to be one of those guys that they're going to have to game plan each and every week. He's already shown that he has the athletic ability. He's got the aggressiveness. And once he gets the experience with it, he's going to be a force to be reckoned with.''

Dockett slipped in the draft because of concerns about his character. He was arrested in college on a theft charge involving $1,000 worth of clothing purchased for $107 at a mall. He had a troubled background, too. Both of his parents died by the time he was a teenager, and he grew up on the streets.

But he has been nothing but positive since joining the Cardinals, and he's filled a big need. The coaches toyed with moving him to end before the trade that brought in Peppi Zellner allowed them to move Dockett back to his more natural tackle position.

``It's good for us and good for him that he wound up at a place that needed him, so he could play right away,'' coach Dennis Green said. ``He's making nice progress.''

Dockett said the big difference from college is the quality of every player he goes against, and he knows the veterans are trying to take advantage of his inexperience.

``No disrespect to college players, but these guys who have been in the league, they know what they're doing,'' Dockett said. ``They know technique. They scheme you down. They know what you're going to do. Coming in as a youngster, you've got get schooled.''

Berry and defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast told the 6-foot, 4-inch, 301-pound Dockett that there is a way to make up for his lack of NFL knowledge.

``No matter what the older guys know about the young guys, they can't stop your effort,'' Dockett said. ``As long as you give 100 percent effort, everything else will take care of itself.'''

So far, Dockett has 19 tackles, 10 unassisted. He leads the team with five tackles for loss, including a sack. Dockett said Pendergast has pulled him aside and told him he wants the rookie to be ``the man'' on defense.

``I'm having fun, man. It's like I'm off a leash,'' Dockett said. ``It's 'Here you go. You know the technique. Now _ boom! Go play.'''