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Church Ready To Take Back Starting Spot After Injury


IRVING, Texas – For a position that handles the last line of defense, the safety spot on this Cowboys roster has assuredly been on the first line of questioning.

There was the offseason release of Gerald Sensabaugh and the free agency acquisition of Will Allen; the proposed plan of making Kenny Vaccaro a first round pick and the eventual selection of J.J. Wilcox. One of the top questions on every mind is what to do about uncertainty at the two safety spots – positions that don't normally warrant this much attention.

Barry Church, for his part, would like to at least answer one of those questions with his play this offseason.

"I definitely feel like the job is mine to lose, and I don't plan on losing it," Church said Tuesday following the Cowboys' first day of OTA's.

That's where we last left Church in 2012, before an Achilles injury ended his campaign after three games. The four-year veteran took a starting job during training camp and was set to hold it for some time – at least until he became one of the first in a litany of defensive casualties caused by injury.

"Words couldn't even describe it.  It took three years just to get the starting job, and then it took three weeks and it was gone like that," Church said. "It was a very hard time for me, but I had a lot of family members and teammates who had my back. So the recovery process was faster than I thought it would be." 

The recovery had to be helped by a vote of confidence from the Cowboys, who signed him to a four-year contract extension weeks after the injury. They also cut incumbent veteran Sensabaugh to save space on the salary cap, which set Church up as a favorite to return to the starting roster.

There are no sure things in the NFL, however, as proven by the free agency addition of Tampa 2 veteran Will Allen – not to mention the return of Matt Johnson, who spent 2012 with an injury of his own. [embedded_ad]

"There's a lot of competition back there. They brought in Will Allen, who is a 10-year vet and has played in this defense before," Church said. "You've got guys like Matt Johnson and Danny McCray back there playing their butts off, and there's going to be a lot of competition. But that's what the defense needs, to bring the best out of all of us." 

With nine months between him and his injury, Church said he's ready to get into that competition. The Pittsburgh, Pa., native said he has felt fine for much of the past month or so, and with offseason practices underway, the Cowboys training staff finally cleared him.

"I would probably say last week I was full cleared. I've been doing all the testing and all the drills that everyone else has been doing," he said. "I've felt like I can go for probably the last month, so when this OTA's came around I was just ready to go."

Church said his goals for himself for the coming season are to stay healthy, play a full season and help make plays for the defense. If he can accomplish those, he just might be the answer to one of the Cowboys' safety questions.

"I'm full to go – ready for OTA's, training camp and a full season this year. I'm ready to get out there and get after it," he said.

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