OXNARD, Calif. – It hasn't escaped anyone's attention that two of the Cowboys' best departed players have been limited by injury in the early going of training camp.
Neither injury looks to be serious, but Jason Hatcher started camp on the Physically Unable to Perform list for Washington last week after undergoing arthroscopic surgery in June. In Denver, DeMarcus Ware left the Broncos' Sunday practice with what was described as a "lower leg injury."
Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones had nothing but praise for his former Pro Bowlers on Tuesday morning – but he did acknowledge the Cowboys' need to become a younger team during the offseason.
"Total respect for those guys and only wish them the very best, but that's why we have to make tough decisions – we've been through that. I keep saying it's a young man's game," Jones said. "There's guys who defy that, and if I were going to bet on guys, you'd love to bet on a guy like Jason Hatcher, DeMarcus Ware – they're amazing men, they're great football players, obviously DeMarcus is probably going in the Hall of Fame. You wish them nothing but the best, but that's why we have to make those tough decisions and why we decided to get young as a football team."
There's no denying the Cowboys did that. In place of Ware, who turns 32 this week, the Cowboys brought in rookie DeMarcus Lawrence. In [embedded_ad]
place of Hatcher, who turned 32 two weeks ago, they signed 27-year-old Henry Melton and 26-year old Terrell McClain in free agency.
The result is a roster with a lot less wear-and-tear on it as the Cowboys get into the grind of camp.
"It's nice not to have to sit in the meeting room and start talking about who we're going to have to rest and who needs a day off. We don't have many of those guys," Jones said.
There has even been an effort on the offensive side of the ball – considering the oft-quoted stat that the team has spent three of its last four draft picks on offensive linemen. In fact only three offensive starters – Tony Romo, Jason Witten and Doug Free – are 30 or older. The other eight are 26 or younger.
"Even on the offensive side of the ball, you take out Jason and Tony, we're a young football team," Jones said.
It was a tough decision, as anyone who thinks back to free agency can attest, but Jones said it was a process the Cowboys needed to begin.
"What we just went through, losing a DeMarcus Ware and a Jason Hatcher and a Jay Ratliff, some of those guys that were cornerstones year in and year out for you, you've got to start the journe," he said. "Obviously we did that with DeMarcus Lawrence, and certainly a focus of ours is to improve the defense."