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2 Years Removed From Daily Camp Wins, Ware Sees Smith More Polished, Physical

In terms of intensity, there probably isn't more of a difference in the NFL than a training camp practice and Pro Bowl practice.

It's night and day, which is about the same way you could describe the evolution of Tyron Smith's progress since the last time he faced DeMarcus Ware on a daily basis.

For a few days, both Smith and Ware were on the same team again, both playing for Team Irvin at the Pro Bowl last week, which was coached by the Cowboys' staff.

Ware and Smith had more than a few conversations on and off the field throughout the week, and both of them talked about their last training camp together in 2013.

To say it was a one-sided affair would be an understatement. Ware routinely dominated Smith, actually causing some concern among the Cowboys, who were still waiting to see the emergence of the left tackle they drafted No. 9 overall in 2011.

As promising as Ware looked rushing off the edge, they wanted to see more of a battle from Smith, who made sure to correct a reporter's question this week when asked about Ware winning some of the time.

"No, it was a lot of the time," Smith said. "I'll admit that. He kicked my butt. But he kicked my butt into the shape that I needed to be. That helped take me to the next level. Facing him slowed things down a lot and helped calm me down with what I was seeing."

But it was those days in camp, and even some time after the practices when Smith said he started to improve.

"For us, we just always work on things," Smith said of Ware. "Whenever he did beat me, I would ask him to explain what went wrong and it came to a point that I could help him out on things he was looking for from my perspective. For us, we wanted to continue to get better and stayed after practice all of the time."

By watching those workouts, few could've predicted that it would be Smith who would make his first Pro Bowl and Ware would struggle with injuries to the point where the Cowboys eventually released him at the end of the season, saving millions on the salary cap.

Ware, of course, landed in Denver, where he not only returned to form, but the Pro Bowl as well for the eighth time in his career.

Getting to see his former teammates and coaches was a good time for Ware, who admitted Smith is completely different from the player he beat regularly two camps ago.

"He's not the same guy," Ware said of Smith. "Actually, he is the same dude, but just smarter. Just more experienced. He does everything more consistently. He does everything the right way and does it all consistently.  Some guys will overcompensate things in their stance. But he makes the pass sets look like run. He makes the run sets look like pass. You don't know what they're doing."

In the middle of posting 10 sacks this year with the Broncos, the eighth double-digit sack season of his 10-year career, Ware caught a few games of the Cowboys and kept an eye on Smith.

"I saw a couple of times this year where he would punch (block) a couple of guys at the snap and I was like, 'Man, I'm glad that's not me,'" Ware recalled. "He punched Jared Allen once against the Bears and another time I remember. I'm so glad I don't have to go through that every day."

But it wasn't too long ago when he did that every day and he won most of the matchups. Ware said Smith simply got tired of getting beat and did something about it.

"Sometimes when you sit back and think about, 'If I get beat enough times, I'm going to figure out what not to do,' I think that's what he did," Ware said. "Then from that, throughout the whole season, I was telling him, 'If you're going to get him out of the game you go at him right from the start. And I promise, he'll give up.' And then I was on the sideline and I would say, 'He did it.' And Tyron would come to the sideline and say, 'D-Ware you were for real. You said it.' And I was say, 'Go do it again.' I told him if he went out and did those things all the time, you don't have to work as hard."

Smith said he didn't realize it then, but is so thankful for the times he faced Ware daily.

"Guys like that are rare in this league," Smith said of Ware. "You have to take advantage when you're going up against a guy like that to pick his brain as much as you can."

Now, both Smith and Ware are where high first-round draft picks should be – at the Pro Bowl. Ware, the Cowboys' all-time sack leader is arguably the best pass-rusher in franchise history while Smith has a ways to go, but seems to be on his way to becoming one of the best offensive tackles the Cowboys have ever had.

But if he gets there, he'll owe a lot of his accolades to those daily beatings out in Oxnard two years ago.

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