CINCINNATI -- Vincent Rey realized Karlos Dansby was a different cat when they went out to dinner at Ruth's Chris Steak House. Instead of ordering one of the famous steaks, Dansby handed the waiter some plastic containers of food and asked him to heat them up.
Yes, Dansby brings his dinner to Ruth's Chris.
Dansby, a veteran linebacker, has been an example to Rey since signing with the Bengals. And Rey has tried to emulate the diet -- to a degree.
"I see the importance of it," Rey said. "And I take a couple of things. But I don't do exactly what he does. He's full on. He's taking meals with him everywhere he goes -- even to Ruth's Chris. I'm not going that far."
Dansby started on the diet path in 2011.
"It was necessary," he said. "I thought I was eating right. Evidently I wasn't. I wasn't eating right for my body. It was after the lockout. I saw Brandon Marshall come in the locker room at 219. I'm like, ‘What the hell you been doing over the lockout?' He said, ‘I've been on this diet, working out.'
"I came into camp at 270. I'm eating spinach. I'm eating eggs. I just happened to be allergic to both of them."
Dansby then had his blood tested.
"Once I got the test done, it revealed a lot to me," he said. "It told me what I needed to stay away from and what I needed to put in my body. By the time that season was over, I was down to 237."
He's still playing at 237 with 6 to 8 percent body fat.
"That's a lot of muscle mass," he said. "It don't look like it, but it's there."
Dansby is the most tenured Bengal, with 13 years' experience, as well as the oldest: He turns 35 Nov. 3. He does a lot of things to keep sharp in a young man's game. He spends time in a hyperbaric chamber, and he's a workout warrior. But the diet is the key.
"It's a lifestyle change," he said. "I had to be willing to make that lifestyle change in order to be successful and continue to play this game."
Dansby credits the diet for his longevity.
"Without doubt, it definitely did its part," he said. "It's a combination of things. Staying prayed up. God put all these people in my path to help take care of my body. I've been staying true to it and not wavering."
The diet is nothing radical as far as the foods involved. Dansby might have wheat toast with egg whites and peanut butter for breakfast and grilled salmon and brown rice for lunch. A chef prepares Dansby's meals. The foods vary depending on what the monthly blood tests reveal.
"It changes because the body is an amazing machine," he said. "You've got to stay on top of it and make sure everything's working that you put in it. It will plateau. Once it plateaus, I know I've got to change it up and get my blood tested again."
Dansby is a fanatic about the diet but not a year-round fanatic.
"I get off it in the offseason and chill with the family," he said. "I'll eat with the kids and go to birthday parties and all that."
Dansby has played for Arizona, Miami, Arizona again and Cleveland since being drafted in the second round in 2004. He's had some incredible years. He had 135 tackles, 6.5 sacks, 21 passes defensed and four interceptions (two of which he returned for touchdown) in 2013. He was named second-team All-Pro that year. He has six career interception returns for TDs, tied for the most in history.
Dansby was one of two major free-agent signings by the Bengals in the offseason. He leads the team in tackles with 48. Pro Football Focus rates him at 47.7, down from 80.8 last year and 88.2 the year before. The Bengals are happy with the signing.
Dansby was a guy the Bengals targeted -- not just for his on-the-field contributions but for his leadership ability.
"Karlos has been great for us," linebacker coach Jim Haslett said. "He's smart. And he knows how to win."
"He's an example of doing the little things," Rey said. "He does everything he can to control how well he is physically going into the game. As the season wanes, it's kind of like a race to Sunday, a race to see who's going to be back physically.
"Plus, he prepares himself mentally. He's a great football mind. Probably the best football mind I've been around as far as a player. He just knows the game well, and it helps him play fast."
Dansby is one interception away from joining a rare list of linebackers. Only four players -- Seth Joyner, Ray Lewis, Wilber Marshall and Brian Urlacher -- have 40 sacks and 20 interceptions. Dansby has 41 sacks and 19 interceptions.
No. 20 will be huge for him.
"That's a big deal," he said. "Only four guys in 52 years of football. Great stat, great milestone. I want to be the fifth one. Try to pursue, be the best ever."
Dansby is well-prepared for life beyond football. He owns Montez Renault, a men's grooming-products company, with his Auburn teammate Chris Butler.
"We started about seven years ago with a barber shop," he said. "Men could come in and get their nails done, hot-lather shaves. Get a cold beer and relax. Like a man cave. It was a perfect storm.
"We were selling everyone else's products. We said, 'We need to come out with our own.' I put my middle name with his middle name."
The products are sold online and in Nordstom and Lord & Taylor.
"We're working on more deals as we speak," Dansby said. "We'll continue to grow."
Dansby plans to continue the business after football.
"That's long-term generational stuff," he said. "My son is a junior. He can pick it. I wanted to leave a legacy for my kids."
But, despite his years, Dansby plans to keep playing.
"My body is in great shape -- no injuries," he said. "God has been protecting me. As long as he wants me to play this game, I'm going to keep doing it. And I'm going to have fun doing it.";
And he's going to eat right.