Every so often, especially around late January and early February, Karlos Dansby replays his nightmare inside his head.
Soaked in sweat, Dansby visualizes himself collapsed onto the turf at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa Bay. The clock struck zero. His eight tackles and interception in the game weren't enough.
The Pittsburgh Steelers had just defeated the Arizona Cardinals, 27-23, to win Super Bowl XLIII.
The painful memory that flashes in Dansby's head is quarterback Ben Roethlisberger holding a World Champs newspaper high above his head with a sea of confetti raining down.
"It was devastating, man," Dansby said during an extensive interview with ClevelandBrowns.com last offseason. "I can't get the loss out of my mind."
The loss was earth-shattering for the Cardinals because of how far the organization had come. Dansby was drafted by Arizona in 2004 and a pair of 5-11 and a 6-10 season followed.
Once the butt of jokes on SportsCenter, the Cardinals had finally catapulted themselves into the upper echelon of the NFL. Quarterback Kurt Warner had resurrected his career in the desert, and alongside Darnell Dockett and Antrel Rolle, Dansby had the defense humming.
And then it all slipped away.
"Four years before that, we were going through the worst. The Cardinals, we were the worst," Dansby said, with the tone in his voice raising. "Then we were 90 seconds from fulfilling a childhood dream."
Some in the media, and even his former teammate Dockett, criticized the 33-year-old Dansby for leaving the Cardinals to come to the Cleveland Browns.
When he hit the free agency market last March, Dansby had lucrative offers from other teams. But he saw something in the Browns: his old, budding Arizona Cardinal team that made the Super Bowl. Dansby told ClevelandBrowns.com he wouldn't have considered this organization if he thought there wasn't a chance to advance all the way to the Super Bowl.
And back in December, Dansby brought his thoughts public. He reiterated while the Browns exceeded nearly every outside expectation, they fell short of their own goals – making the postseason.
"We had a golden opportunity," Dansby said. "We had a great chance to do something that hasn't been done around here in a long time, and that's getting to the playoffs and getting a shot at going for the Super Bowl. I think we had the team to get it done."
But with Mike Pettine calling the shots, a play-making defense and a new vision on offense from coordinator John DeFilippo, why can't Cleveland become an unlikely contender like the Cardinals?
"I definitely feel good about the team's direction," Dansby said. "We have a young team. We've been in a lot of battles. We're all battled-tested now."
When you read about Dansby and his lobster mashed potatoes, his rigorous exercise regimen, and his intense leadership style – know that he pours every ounce of his energy into returning to the Super Bowl.