IRVING, Texas – Ernie Sims’ study habits may lead to him earning a starting job at linebacker for the Dallas Cowboys.
Sims made an impression while competing for the starting strong side linebacker job in training camp before a groin injury derailed that opportunity. After Bruce Carter’s struggles last week and Justin Durant also suffering a groin injury, it’s likely Sims starts at linebacker this week at one of the outside linebacker spots.
“One thing I do know is that I’m going to be prepared like I don’t know what,” Sims said. “Through all my years of playing back in Detroit and my early years in the NFL, I didn’t prepare. I just relied on my God given ability, but now I’m putting two and two together and it’s really starting to show up.”
Sims was a first-round pick of Rod Marinelli’s in Detroit in 2006. It never panned out the way he would have liked through the first few years of his NFL career. Maybe that’s because he didn’t prepare himself the way he has recently.
The former top-10 pick was somewhat of an afterthought entering training camp, but he put together one of the better defensive performances throughout his time in Oxnard, Calif., earning a spot on the 53-man roster. He may have even earned a starting spot if not for the groin injury, which recurred again at the start of the regular season.
Now healthy, Sims said he’s ready to play. He’s taking the majority of reps at linebacker in the nickel package, and the way Sims sees it, he’s a starter. Sims said right now they have him starting at weak side linebacker, but it’s possible he could take the strong side spot if Durant can’t go.
“I’m staying in for base and for nickel,” Sims said. “On the board, they’ve got me starting, so like I said, you never know what happens, but I know one thing – I’m preparing as if I’m starting and playing the whole game. When my number is called, I’m prepared and ready to go and make plays.”
Sims and Carter have rotated some this week in the nickel package, and it appeared Sims was taking all the reps at nickel early in Friday’s practice. But head coach Jason Garrett didn’t suggest Carter will be completely off the field this week.
“We haven’t really talked about the exact situation with how those guys are going to play, because of the availability of all the guys,” Garrett said. “We’ve been practicing a certain way. Bruce is going to play a lot in the ballgame. Ernie’s going to play a lot in the ballgame. They’re both important parts of our defense.”
Regardless of where he starts, Sims is slotted to play a lot more than the 27 defensive reps he got last week against the Chargers, compiling six tackles in limited time. It’s an opportunity he relishes, considering he was at home driving his tractor to begin the 2012 season.
But he doesn’t feel like he’s made up for lost time yet after sitting out with his groin injury.
“Not one inch,” Sims said. “I’ve still got a lot to prove. I’m just eager to compete. Peyton Manning is great player. I was there in Indianapolis with him for one year. I didn’t get a chance to play with him, but he was on the team or whatnot, and I just got to see small fraction of what type of guy he is and what type of player he is. I’m just excited. It’s a big challenge for me and for this team and as a competitor this type of game you live for.”
He’s fired up about this chance, because he knows the alternative if it doesn’t work out. He’s experienced what it’s like not to have a job or a team to play for when an NFL season begins.
“You dang right, that’s in the back of my mind,” Sims said. “I’ve got a lot to prove, and when I was younger I did it for different reasons. Now it’s all about my family, my wife and my son. That’s all I think about, proving myself and providing for my family. That’s all I think about when I’m on the field.”