Sunday, May 31, 2009

DC.COM: Ware Stays Patient, Active During Contract Talks

Rob Phillips
May 29, 2009 5:57 PM

IRVING, Texas - The league-wide list grows every week.

Anquan Boldin.

Thomas Jones.

Joshua Cribbs.

Donald Driver.

While those players grumble and/or miss voluntary workouts due to contract disputes with their respective teams, DeMarcus Ware spent 10 minutes after Tuesday's sweltering practice teaching pass-rush moves to fourth-round pick Brandon Williams, one of two Cowboys rookies moving from defensive end to outside linebacker in head coach Wade Phillips' 3-4 scheme.

The other linebacker trainee, fellow fourth-round pick Victor Butler, will return for workouts once his alma mater, Oregon State, holds its graduation ceremony next month. In the meantime, Williams is capitalizing on some exclusive lessons from Ware, last season's NFL sack king (20.0), who made the same position switch from Troy University four years ago.

"I've been looking at him since college, so it's just been amazing to me that I can come here and learn from the best - a Pro Bowler leading the league in sacks," Williams said. "I was one away from leading the NCAA in sacks (13), so I have no choice but to learn from the best."

Two weeks ago, a Twitter "impostor" posing as Ware inaccurately declared that the Cowboys and Ware's agent Pat Dye were close to a mega-contract extension for the three-time Pro Bowl linebacker.

A deal isn't imminent yet. But while the two sides keep talking, Ware, who's entering the final year of his 2005 rookie contract, has shown no public signs of impatience. He's been a regular participant in the team's off-season strength and conditioning program and the voluntary OTA (organized team activity) practices at nearby Standridge Field.

He knows the Cowboys will eventually reward him with perhaps the richest contract in franchise history, its guaranteed money possibly exceeding that of Albert Haynesworth's $41 million in Washington.

"We're just having good visits," Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones said, "and hopefully it'll get resolved at some point."

Patience, coupled with diligence, helped Ware solve the complexities of the 3-4 scheme.

Patience will deliver large dollar signs soon enough.

"I'm a guy that's always been about hard work, and that's what's gotten me where I am right now," Ware said. "Why would you take some days off or sort of jeopardize the team? If you want to be a team player that's how you've got to do it. Sometimes you've got to sacrifice some things and that's what I'm doing now."

Maybe Ware learned part of that lesson from Greg Ellis, the veteran linebacker who (sometimes begrudgingly) forfeited playing time to Anthony Spencer on the strong side the past two seasons, who remained focused on his job despite annual concerns about its security, who imparted his wisdom to younger players like Ware over the years.

Ellis, 33, is expected to be traded or released in the near future after 11 seasons with the Cowboys. By drafting Butler and Williams, the team clearly is attempting to get younger at the position. And ironically enough, the $4.15 million-plus of salary cap relief created by Ellis' impending departure could be used to help seal Ware's deal.

"Greg knew this was coming," Ware said. "We used to talk about it every year. He said, 'DeMarcus, sooner or later I'm not going to be here.' He was expecting it and getting himself ready for it, and I can understand that. The good thing is he's still healthy and he's still able to play."

Without Ellis, Ware realizes the Cowboys' outside linebacker depth now starts with a pair of rookies. Rather than boycott an unsigned extension, he's trying to prepare Ellis' eventual replacements. That's what a "team player" does.

"When I first came in I was the same way (as Williams)," Ware said. "Brandon's a strong, fast guy. He has a lot of ability. I'm just trying to show him how to sharpen his toolbox. And that's what Greg showed me."

Ware says the transition didn't come easily. Like Williams, he only worried about sacking the quarterback and stopping the run in college. Dropping into pass coverage wasn't really part of the job description.

He says he'd watch seven hours of film a day, reviewing "the same 10 or 11 plays and breaking it down."

"It was a big learning process my first season," Ware said, "but you just try to get out there and be full speed and play full speed - that's what they always told me - and everything else would come into play. And that's what happened."

The repetition paid off. His 53.5 career sacks are the most by any NFL player since 2005. Last season he became the first Cowboys defender to reach 20 sacks in a season since sacks became an official statistic in 1982, and his total also tied Derrick Thomas for the second-most in a season by a linebacker in league history.

No surprise, then, that a monster deal is coming sooner or later.

"My agent and Jerry Jones are handling that and they're just letting me go out and play like they usually do," Ware said. "I just let them handle that. And I'll know when something happens."

That's because he won't be hard to find.