IRVING, Texas – Jason Hatcher doesn't know specifically what his role will be or which player will start next to anticipated three-technique Jay Ratliff this season.
Hatcher could be a candidate for that fourth spot on the line, along with DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer, but it's not particularly important to him where he ends up, as long as it's somewhere he can contribute.
"Stopping the run, rushing the passer, I'm a role guy," Hatcher said. "Everybody on this defense is a role guy. There's no star player. I don't care if it's Ware or nobody, we're all role guys, and we're going to do our role getting to the football."
Hatcher turns 31 years old this summer, but he said since he didn't play as much earlier in his career, he should play longer than most linemen. Hatcher's experienced his most productive years in the league his last two seasons, bringing down the quarterback 4.5 times in 2011 and four times in 2012. His 51 combined tackles last season, according to coaches' film, were the most in his career.
"You guys say I'm getting long in the tooth," he said. "That goes to show you I've still got something in the tank. I tell guys all the time, 'The coaches know.' My first five years I didn't play a whole lot, so I don't have a lot of miles on my body. Football is graded off miles."
He took it as a compliment from the front office that the team was confident enough in the current personnel not to draft any defensive linemen. Sean Lissemore, another candidate to get snaps on the interior of the defense, echoed those sentiments.
But it still leaves questions as to which player will join Ratliff, Ware and Spencer as the fourth starter on the line when the season begins. Among the candidates are Hatcher and Lissemore, both of whom said they're comfortable playing at any spot on the line that defensive line coach Rod Marinelli wants them.
Marinelli's looking at the movement and attitude of his players more than anything as he determines the positions. He specified that Hatcher and Ratliff are both adept at rushing the passer from the inside, so now it's just a matter of using those talents the right way.
"They all have good movement," Marinelli said. "I just take it slow right now. I just want to see the movement and all the things that they have, then I just build from there. One thing they all have to be able to do is rush from all positions. So that's where I start."
According to Hatcher, the new defense puts more of an emphasis on getting as many guys as possible to the football. He said the defense will be fast and relentless, covering ground across the field. Whether he's a starter or coming off the bench, Hatcher thinks the defense will be more than adequate.
"We're preparing this offseason to be the strength of this team," he said.
Hatcher's contract is set to be up at the end of the 2013 season. He knows it's a business, but he hopes to be back in Dallas with a role on the team in the future.
"Sure, I want to be back," Hatcher said. "But you can't make guys want you. You've got to go out there and perform. Sometimes it's a numbers thing, sometimes it's a money thing. So hopefully I'll be back. I love the state I'm in. I love the organization. I love my teammates. I'm going to go out here and play my butt off."