OXNARD, Calif. (AP) – DeMarcus Ware dreams about rushing the passer. The sack specialist for the Dallas Cowboys constantly works on technique — with coaches, fellow defensive ends, even some of his offensive linemen. He’s trying moves in hallways at the team’s training camp hotel, and other places.
“I probably pass rush when I’m coming out of the bathroom stall,” Ware said. “I can’t get enough of it.”
He won’t have to worry about getting his fix in the new Dallas defense. The Cowboys are scrapping the 3-4 they’ve used since the year they drafted Ware and turned him into a pass-rushing outside linebacker.
The ninth-year pro is a hand-on-the-ground end now in the more traditional 4-3, and his marching orders are simple: Get the quarterback.
That’s not to say Ware won’t occasionally drop back in coverage the way he did more frequently under former defensive coordinator Rob Ryan the past two years. In fact, he was doing it during camp practice Tuesday.
But there’s no question new defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin and new line coach Rod Marinelli want Ware to focus on what he does best. Ware’s had seven straight double-digit sack seasons and has 111 sacks for his career, just three shy of Harvey Martin’s team record from three decades ago.
“His passion for pass rushing is really something,” Marinelli said. “Guy lives it every day. You just want guys to live this stuff. To live it and be able to wake up in the morning and you’re getting up and, `Man, I get to go rush today.”‘
Ware was waking up sore every day by the end of last season. He started every game for the seventh time in his eight pro seasons, but he wasn’t himself because of a shoulder injury as the Cowboys dropped their final two games and missed the playoffs for the third straight year.
The four-time All-Pro still led Dallas with 11.5 sacks, but it was a drop of eight from the previous season. He had a career-high 20 in 2008.
“I feel like it wasn’t enough because I didn’t have an opportunity to get to the end,” Ware said. “I wasn’t effective enough. This year I feel like a solid, solid player, ready to go out there and play and ready to get it.”
Ware had offseason shoulder surgery, and he gets a year older during training camp because his birthday is in late July. He pointed out on his own last week that he was turning 31, which maybe was his way of saying he has quite a few years left.
“Just turn the practice tape on and let that carry over into the game and proving a point to yourself day in and day out that you still can do it,” Ware said. “The age might be going up, but the experience and the maturity, I’m still young.”
Ware is more than halfway to Bruce Smith’s sacks record of 200 in less than half the 19 seasons that Smith played. His season average is three sacks better than Smith. He knows what the number is, and he shares a piece of paper with a goal on it every day “just to give me something to shoot for.”
But it’s not necessarily Smith’s number.
“I never usually think about a record, because a record has a ceiling to it,” Ware said. “Why not shoot to something a little higher than that and then you might end up where you need to be?”
Ware has long been one of the most marketable Cowboys. During the offseason he joined Cowboys owner Jerry Jones at a news conference announcing a new partnership with an insurance company.
He essentially adopted a Dallas-area high school team for the playoffs last year, spending a day with Lancaster players before the team made a run to a state championship game. The closer he gets to Smith’s record, the more his personable demeanor will get play nationally.
His only rival for goodwill in the community is Jason Witten. Coach Jason Garrett would argue there’s a reason Ware and Witten are the next two players in the Hall of Fame conversation after last weekend’s induction of offensive lineman Larry Allen.
“He’s quick, he’s fast, he’s explosive, he’s strong, he’s long,” Garrett said of Ware. “I can keep going and going and going but what makes DeMarcus Ware great is the same thing that makes Witten great. The kind of people they are. That’s where the conversation starts for me.”
For Ware, the conversation about pass rushing starts just about anywhere.
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