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Bernadeau, Kowalski Take First Team Reps For Injured Centers
IRVING, Texas – Mackenzy Bernadeau’s greatest trait as an offensive lineman might be his versatility, as the Cowboys found out Wednesday.
Centers Ryan Cook and Phil Costa have battled injuries throughout the season, but rarely at the same time. However, both missed Wednesday’s practice with their respective injuries, forcing Bernadeau and Kevin Kowalski to take reps at center.
“Just knowing the system, knowing the guys you’re playing with, and being familiar with the guard and center positions in the past, it’s easy to transition,” Bernadeau said.
Kowalski hasn’t played all season after surgery to his ankle, while Bernadeau has only played at guard. The Cowboys knew Bernadeau could eventually be an option at center after playing the position on a limited basis in Carolina, but they wanted to start him at guard after returning from an offseason injury.
Bernadeau said he’s rotated in at center before practice and after practice this season to stay fresh at the position. He played a more focal role at center Monday, while Derrick Dockery took more reps with the starters at guard. Bernadeau said he’s going into this week preparing for any possibility Sunday.
“When someone goes down, someone has got to step up and play,” Bernadeau said. “My mentality since I’ve been in the league is the more you can do, the better. So I’ve always been trying to learn all three interior positions. I had that mindset coming in from the get go.”
Bernadeau said he’s “very comfortable” playing center, despite never starting a regular season game at the position. He said the last time he played center in any game was last year in the preseason, when Carolina center Ryan Kalil went out. He never took many center reps in his playing career before joining the Panthers in 2008.
“When I first came in the league to Carolina, about the second week of camp, they said, ‘Can you play center?’ I said, ‘I’ll do whatever it takes.’ From then on, I’ve been a backup center.”
Kowalski was an option to compete for the center spot before hurting his ankle. He came off the Physically Unable to Perform list and said he now feels healthy enough to play if the coaches’ deem him ready.
At this point, it’s just about working off the rust and getting used to technique with offensive line coach Bill Callahan, but he said he could play if needed.
“I split at center a little bit with Mack, so that was good getting some reps and being with the (first team) and running our offense a little bit again,” Kowalski said.