FRISCO, Texas – Nothing wrong with a little healthy competition between friends and teammates.
That's how DeMarcus Lawrence views his personal goals for the 2022 season.
"Become the sack leader again. I let a rookie show me up last year," the veteran Cowboys defensive end said with a smile during last week's OTAs. "Shout-out to my boy Micah (Parsons)."
There's some symmetry between Lawrence's 2021 season and Parsons' rise to NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year: Lawrence broke a bone in his foot during practice last September, the same week defensive coordinator Dan Quinn pivoted and moved Parsons from linebacker to a full-time edge-rushing role against the Chargers.
Parsons, the Cowboys' first-round draft pick a year ago, responded with four pressures and sack in the Cowboys' 20-17 victory at LA. He alternated between linebacker and defensive end throughout the season and broke the Cowboys' rookie sack record with 13, sixth most in the league.
Lawrence missed 10 games after foot surgery but still managed to post 16 pressures and three sacks in seven games to help Dallas clinch the NFC East title. He and Parsons formed a productive combination in limited snaps together, something they'll look to build on this year.
This has been the most normal offseason for Lawrence in years. The COVID-19 pandemic affected every player's preparation the last two offseasons, but the two-time Pro Bowler has also undergone back and shoulder surgeries in previous years, limiting his availability in practice.
"I think the last five offseasons I've been recovering (from injury)," he said. "This is my first one that actually I'm having, and it's been going good.
"I feel like I'm in better shape. I feel like this offseason has been one of the most serious ones for me, just all about really just being healthy and taking care of the body and doing rigorous trainings and stuff and different workouts."
Lawrence signed a new three-year, $40 million deal featuring $30 million in guarantees just before the start of free agency, ending speculation that the Cowboys might part ways with him over salary cap concerns. The deal gave Dallas some cap flexibility and also ensured that one of the team's best all-around players would be back.
Lawrence, who turned 30 in April, will once again lead a defensive line group with some new faces, including second-round draft pick Sam Williams.
"Sam's a great guy. His personality is awesome," he said. "There's still some things that you don't understand about the NFL as a rookie coming in. Just trying to touch him up on those details, help him to understand his different details with his feet and hand placement and so on. Sam has a lot to learn but he's getting better each and every day."
As for Lawrence's own expectations entering his eighth season?
"Restate my dominance," he said. "Let everybody know that I'm coming, how I feel, and the type of respect I'm going to demand when I step on that field."