IRVING, Texas – Jason Hatcher's long-term future has been quite a hot topic, given the way his 2013 season has started.
The veteran defensive tackle is a free agent at the end of the year, and he seems to be using that knowledge as motivation. Three games into his first season as a three-technique tackle under Rod Marinelli, Hatcher has 10 total takedowns and three sacks for the Cowboys.
"I just go out there and play football. I'm not going to say what's going to happen because you don't know what's going to happen game to game," he said. "I'm going to play the best football I can, and go out there and play like I've got nothing to lose."
Hatcher doesn't have anything to lose, in the strict sense of the word. He'll be a free agent in March, regardless of how this season goes, but it's not lost on anyone that he's potentially playing for a new contract – whether in Dallas or somewhere else. [embedded_ad]
"At the end of the day, I don't have nothing to lose, really. I don't have nothing to lose. It's my last year on my deal. Who knows what's going to happen," Hatcher said. "I've got nothing to lose, so I'm going to make the best of this opportunity. We've got great guys on this team, and we can go all the way if we continue to do the right things."
It remains to be seen how the Cowboys handle Hatcher's contract situation. There are plenty of issues to be addressed, which makes the prospect of re-signing him uncertain. Owner/general manager Jerry Jones said he hoped the Cowboys have Hatcher in the future – a tidbit Hatcher was happy to hear.
"That's awesome, man. That means a lot to me, man, when it comes to the big dog. I didn't know that," he said. "That makes me feel good about it. But it's whatever happens."
Any number of things could happen, as the volatility of the NFL shows every day. The loss of defensive end Anthony Spencer to season-ending surgery resulted in several roster moves all on its own. Hatcher, who has spent his entire career in Dallas, said he is prepared to face any situation, but he isn't interested in looking too far into the future.
"I'm planning on the worst-case scenario – that's what I'm planning on right now. I've talked to my family about it," he said. "Maybe after eight years, we've got to go move somewhere else, so that's my plan right now. But at the end of the day, I'm just going to go out there and play my butt off for the rest of the season. Whatever happens, happens."
Grabbing three sacks from the defensive tackle spot in three weeks certainly qualifies as playing your butt off, to borrow the phrase, but Hatcher said he wasn't always sure he'd get that opportunity in Dallas. It took him five years to work his way into the starting lineup on a routine basis, and his three sacks so far this season are more than he managed in any campaign from 2006 to 2010.
"I wanted to leave, a lot. I wanted to get away so I can play," Hatcher said. "But wherever the Lord sees fit for you to be, that's where you'll be. So I'm here, and I'm going to take advantage of it."
Rob Ryan might have only spent one season as the Cowboys' defensive coordinator, but Hatcher said he credits Ryan – now at the same job in New Orleans – with reinvigorating his career.
"He definitely came in here and gave me the opportunity to start and play, so he kind of got my career started off for me – rebirthed again. So I definitely give a lot of credit to Rob," Hatcher said.