IRVING, Texas – DeMarcus Ware thought he'd always be a Dallas Cowboy. Now that he's gone, the Cowboys' all-time sacks leader hopes he hasn't seen his last days with the team.
Ware said in a conference call Tuesday that he's spoken with owner/general manager Jerry Jones about the Ring of Honor and eventually retiring with the team that drafted him in the first round in 2005.
"You know, before, and just talking to Jerry, we talked about that," Ware said. "He's just like, 'You know what, I want you to be able to come back here and retire as a Dallas Cowboy.' That's a big goal of mine."
Ware won't be playing in the fourth preseason game. But this Thursday marks the first time the former Dallas star will be an opponent to the Cowboys after parting ways this offseason in a move that surprised Ware, despite a flurry of injuries limiting his production his last couple seasons in Dallas.
"I thought I was always going to be a Dallas Cowboy," Ware said. "That was really, really big for me. I played well for nine years, so I never thought that they would get rid of me."
Ware, who went to seven Pro Bowls and compiled 117 sacks in nine seasons with the Cowboys, had gone through multiple contract restructures, leading to a hefty $16 million cap hit in 2014. After getting 11.5 sacks in 2012, he followed with just six in 2013. A horde of injuries, particularly to his elbow, shoulder, quad and back, and an expensive cap figure led to Ware's release.
He said even after the release that the Cowboys were always the top consideration for him, since that's his home. But things didn't work out after the two sides failed to reach an agreement, and it didn't take long for him to land in Denver. Ware said he split with the Cowboys amicably, and that's when it was time to test the market.
"At the end of the day, everything is business," Ware said. "There were some back and forth transactions, but it just didn't work out the right way with the way things and numbers worked out. You know, glad that I got another opportunity to still play ball. You just keep going. I played for a great organization with the Dallas Cowboys, and that'll always be home for me."
Ware admitted it felt odd at first donning a different uniform, but he had to get used to it after a while. It's strange to see even for Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett, who said he admired how physically and mentally tough Ware was to continue to put his body on the line consistently, despite the injuries he dealt with.
Garrett described Ware as one of the best guys and players he'd ever been around.
"I have seen him in that jersey, and that's certainly strange in some ways," Garrett said. "He's a heck of a player, was a great player for this organization for a long time and the kind of guy you want on your football team. He's going to help that football team, there's no question about that, but our focus is on our team and the guys given an opportunity to take his place. We're excited about the progress of a lot of these guys. Hopefully these guys will step up and do some of the things that DeMarcus was capable of doing for a long, long time around here." [embedded_ad]
Ware said he feels 100 percent healthy now in Denver. He's dropped 10 pounds from 265 to 255 and feels more agile. He cares more about proving something to himself than anyone else.
He admitted his arm has held him back in recent years. Ware said that's now fully healed, and he doesn't need a brace or sleeve to maintain his stability. He also said he hasn't had problems with his injured quad.
While he's healthy, Ware's certain he won't be playing Thursday in a game typically built for backups. At one point in the call, Jason Witten found out who was on the line and the two former teammates laughed and went back and forth. Witten told Ware he's lucky they won't be playing Thursday, while Ware came back, saying, "You don't want to see me, man."
The two quipped back and forth lightheartedly for a bit during the call, as most friends would do. If one thing's clear, it's that Ware will enjoy the experience returning to Dallas and seeing his former teammates.
"I'm going to be looking forward to seeing some of my old teammates and just being in that stadium and feeling like it's home," Ware said. "My kids are going to come the game and have a good time. Just glad to still be playing."