IRVING, Texas – Forget three or four weeks. DeMarcus Ware might still be playing this weekend against the Philadelphia Eagles.
The Dallas Cowboys’ all-time sack leader doesn’t know his status yet, but he’ll travel with the team on the flight to Philadelphia, and he thinks he’ll be a game-day decision. He said he doesn’t need to practice this week to remain a possibility to play.
“I’m not going to be out three or four weeks,” Ware said. “I don’t know where that came from, but somebody said it. My recovery’s pretty fast, and I’m feeling pretty good today.”
Ware has never missed a game in his career, despite suffering hamstring, shoulder and elbow injuries last year and dealing with stinger problems this season. The latest thigh injury had many thinking he’d be out multiple weeks, but he said he’s already started running and will continue to work off to the side at practice before the ultimate decision is made.
He admitted the leg is still sore, but he’s continuing to get treatment and believes he’ll be in proper shape if he’s able to go this weekend. Ware said he can’t worry too much about his remarkable games played streak, which sits at 134.
“I think when you look at it, the bigger picture is always important,” Ware said. “You don’t want to ever be defined as just a number. You want to be somebody that when you get out there, you’re wreaking havoc and playing. If I can do that this week, I’m going to get out there and play.”
In addition to running, Ware said he can also plant and cut. It wouldn’t really be a surprise to see him return to action and play, despite the initial prognosis.
Ware’s iron man streak of consecutive games played continued even after getting carted off the field with a neck injury in 2009 that left him temporarily motionless. He played six days later against the Saints after missing practice throughout that week.
“I know that I can get through injuries, but you never can (predict) what one injury’s worse than another,” Ware said. “Each week, just like I took it with that injury, you’ve got to take it that whole week and make a game-day decision.”
He said he needs to weigh the importance of being on the field this week against the potential for future harm. He said he needs to be able to run, pass-rush and change direction with ease, particularly considering the speed at which the Eagles play.
If Ware can’t go, Kyle Wilber will get the call at defensive end. Wilber went in after Ware’s injury last week, recorded a strip sack on Robert Griffin III and secured the fumble.
“Last week, when I went down, Wilber went in there and made a big play on a really great tackle,” Ware said. “I know that he can get out there and play, me just showing him a lot of things, his confidence level has boosted through the roof. You’ve got to let him keep playing that way, and I know he can get the job done.”
Wilber continues to talk to Ware as the second-year player prepares himself for a starting opportunity. Head coach Jason Garrett preaches the “next man up” philosophy, while Wilber hears from defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin that everyone in the defensive room should consider himself a starter. For Wilber, it’s now time to play like one.
“It’s pressure and it’s a challenge, but it’s good pressure and a good challenge,” Wilber said. “You want to be a dependable guy, so the team looks at you like, ‘This person right here, we can count on him.’”
Wilber went from 240 pounds last year to 248 pounds this year, as he made the move from linebacker to defensive end. He said it’s difficult for him to put on weight, but eventually he’d like to be around the 255-pound mark. Strength and conditioning coach Mike Woicik is pushing him to help reach that total.
It’s been tough for Wilber to serve as a backup since getting drafted in the fourth round in 2012. He’s accustomed to starting, and last year was particularly tough for him after getting injured because he felt like he didn’t help the team.
“You have to kind of motivate yourself,” Wilber said. “It’s kind of hard being a backup, especially behind a Pro Bowler and future Hall of Famer. You’re not seeing yourself getting a lot of playing time. You definitely have to prepare yourself mentally.”
He may now get his chance to stand out on a “no-name” defensive line. Well, almost a no-name defensive line. Wilber said Jason Hatcher has become more of a household name after his five-sack start to the season.
“As long as we’ve got ‘Hatch,’ I feel like we’re good,” Wilber said. “He’s one of the best three-techniques out there.”
Wilber, however, feels like a no-namer until he demonstrates what he can do consistently. Even after his performance last week against the Redskins, he knows teams aren’t going to strategize for him, but they will have to plan for his presence.
He feels more ready than ever for a starting role if Ware can’t go, and a lot of that has to do with the star pass-rusher getting him ready.
“Definitely,” he said. “D-Ware, he’s still on me, still coaching me up. He’s making sure I can do everything.”