FRISCO, Texas – The Cowboys' offensive line will look different without Travis Frederick at center.
Fortunately, one of the line's young cornerstones – guard Connor Williams – is making progress from December surgery to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his knee.
"I'm 13 weeks out from surgery right now and it's going well. It's going ahead of schedule," Williams said on SiriusXM NFL Radio. "I'm starting field work and everything and I plan to be able to play the first game of the season. That's what we're shooting for."
Williams tore his ACL in the Cowboys' Thanksgiving Day loss to Buffalo and missed the rest of the season. When healthy, he has been the starting left guard since arriving as a second-round draft pick in 2018.
Frederick announced his retirement this week after seven NFL seasons, including one missed season in 2018 due to Guillain-Barre Syndrome. He returned healthy last year, started all 16 games and earned his fifth Pro Bowl selection, but said in a statement that he's ready for "the next chapter of life."
Frederick has been a mentor to Williams. They've known each other since 2013 when Connor's brother, Dalton, briefly spent time on the roster during Frederick's rookie offseason.
Williams credits Frederick for aiding his transition to guard after playing mostly tackle at the University of Texas. Before the knee injury, Williams showed improvement his second year, having added weight and strength in the offseason. Playing next to Frederick for the first time helped, too.
"Trav took it beyond the game," Williams said. "He knew more than he needed to, and definitely at center, you have to be a smart guy. But I think Trav definitely surpassed that. Just the brightest guy. He knew all the plays. He knew all the defenses – what to see.
"He just could so easily call it out and so quickly, he always called out what was coming for us. And to be able to have that extra edge on the players just helps so much."
The Cowboys have options for replacing Frederick. Last week they re-signed Joe Looney, the starting center two years ago when Frederick was sidelined with GBS. Adam Redmond has also been re-signed. And last year's third-round pick Connor McGovern played center and guard at Penn State.
Williams has versatility, too – and the Cowboys will be glad to get him back next season.