That didn’t stop him from joining the Super Bowl festivities in New Orleans and making his rounds Thursday to discuss his health, Rob Ryan’s departure, the new defensive scheme and what’s held the Cowboys back in recent years.
Ware said he expects to be ready for the start next season, though it’ll likely take the whole offseason for him to rehab and he may also need surgery on his right elbow. He played the final half of last season with shoulder and elbow injuries, but he knows the uncomfortable feeling he’s experiencing now in his sling will only be temporary.
“It’s a lot better,” Ware said of his shoulder on ESPN’s Mike and Mike in the Morning. “I got my first all-night sleep last night in New Orleans. Go figure. But everything’s good. It’s progressing.”
Ware still led the team with 11.5 sacks this season, despite recording just 1.5 sacks over the final six games as he played through the pain. Of all years for Ware to miss a full offseason, this one might be the most encumbering.
He needs to adjust to new defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin’s 4-3 scheme, after the Cowboys quickly discarded Ryan following another .500 finish, a move that Ware admits he wasn’t fond of at first.
“He was one of the best coaches I’ve ever played for, really teaching me how to play and think like a linebacker,” Ware said.” I had to go in there, know all of the drops the inside ’backers have. I had to know all the formations. Knowing the skill of the game, he really taught me that a lot.”
But as he thought about the change and saw who the Cowboys brought in, he realized the benefits that could result from learning Kiffin’s defense and working with new defensive line coach Rod Marinelli. Ware realizes there’s not much he can do about staff decisions, and he should be able to be more aggressive up front as a defensive end.
As Ware indicated in another interview Tuesday, the defensive switch could be in his favor overall. Ware dropped back in coverage on multiple occasions last season, instead of doing what he does best.
“I’ll have to drop less and pass rush a lot more, which I like to do anyway,” Ware said. “I think it’s going to help out a lot.”
He said the most significant change in the defensive switch is the mentality he must take. In the 3-4 at outside linebacker, Ware had to understand the formations more to see how he’d be attacked. In the 4-3, it’s less thinking, more attacking, more pass rushing and more of an immediate focus on beating the offensive tackle.
It may take time for him to think more like an end than a linebacker, but Ware’s on board with whatever moves are necessary to get Dallas playing deep into January. He said the main area the Cowboys still need to master is consistency after a second straight 8-8 season.
“In this league, you’ve got to be consistent week in and week out, and we haven’t been that,” Ware said. “So I think that you’ve got to go into the (Organized Team Activities) and training camp knowing exactly how you want to carry that over into the season. That starts when you’re playing those preseason games. You’ve got to play well the whole year, not just on and off.”
While Ware called the team inconsistent, he stopped short of labeling the group underachievers. He initially said the team’s record isn’t as good as the talent in the room, but Ware quickly recanted that response.
“If you play 5-5, it doesn’t matter what the name is on the back of your jersey,” Ware said, “You’re a 5-5 team. But there’re teams that have mediocre guys or guys that don’t have ‘the big name’ but they’re playing consistent. They’re playing like a team. That’s what it’s about.”
Apart from a lack of consistency, Ware believes there is one other glaring area that needs to be fixed for the Cowboys to break out of this state of mediocrity.
“You can’t make mistakes in big games,” Ware said. “You can’t have big turnovers. This league is all about turnovers. If you get three or four or two turnovers a game, that gives the other team more opportunities to score points. It’s always about the turnover battle.”
The Cowboys failed miserably in that area this season, finishing with a minus-13 turnover differential. Only four teams ended the year with a worse turnover margin.
Ware realizes since he joined the Cowboys in 2005 that the team hasn’t lived up to the lofty expectations set by Super Bowl teams of the past, and nobody on the squad has time to wait around and adjust to all of the staff changes made heading into the 2013 season.
“We haven’t been backing that up these years, especially when I’ve been playing,” Ware said. “We haven’t been that consistent team that we need to be. Everybody always tells us that the opportunity, the gate is closing, the door is closing. The door is always closing each year.”