How Truly Blessed

not totally sure Ware would play, and neither was Ware by the way, until Saturday in New Orleans, and why they listed him as "questionable" for the game, meaning 50-50. The doctors had to reconfirm their original diagnosis, making sure they hadn't missed anything. Check his range of motion. Check his neck strength.

They did so around 2 p.m. Saturday, Ware saying he received what amounted to a "neck sobriety test."

Ware and Cowboys head coach Wade Phillips already had talked about him playing on Friday.

"We talked on Friday, saying if the doctors said he was fine that we'd start off with him playing on third downs," Phillips said. "Yeah, he wanted to play."

There was one last test to go, though, once reaching the locker room and dressing for the game. And this had nothing to do with going out prior to warmups for a workout before trainer Jim Maurer. It was Ware's test, far from scientific or medically sound.

"I ran my head into Deon (Anderson) - you know, he loves that kind of stuff - to see if I could take the impact," Ware said grinning.

He caught Anderson by surprise.

"I didn't know he was testing himself out," Anderson said, "like, 'What's going on?'"

For Ware then, it was time, and boy did he get it on, just six days after his wife Taniqua came out of their field-level suite at Cowboys Stadium making a beeline toward where the emergency unit would take her husband from the tunnel to the hospital for further tests.

Yes, he started off coming in on nickel downs, and appeared to be getting a good push at the line of scrimmage. He recorded his first sack in the nick of time, a big double, in fact, bringing down Brees on second-and-13 at the New Orleans 27 with 45 seconds left in the first half and forcing a fumble teammate Anthony Spencer recovered at the 24.

From there, following an untimely facemask penalty on Flozell Adams, the Cowboys kicked a 44-yard field goal with four seconds left in the half -the very last one of Nick Folk's career in Dallas after the Cowboys signed Shaun Suisham.

Phillips stuck to his plan, using Victor Butler as the every-down outside linebacker and subbing in Ware on passing downs. That is, until things started getting tight. Ware was then on the field more and more. He ended up playing 42 plays when six days earlier it appeared he might have played his last play.

None was bigger than the 42nd, again recording one of those defensive doubles, sacking Brees and causing the fumble Jay Ratliff recovered to zap the final breath out of the Saints' undefeated season.

Was Ware worried about his neck, hesitant to stick his head into the fray?

You and I would have been, right?

"You can't go out and play that way," Ware said.

He evidently didn't. And while he was getting closer and closer to Brees on the Saints' final, desperation drive to tie the game, on that ninth play of the possession he got there, stripping Brees and saving the day for the Cowboys.

Who would have thought?

"It's a blessing, you leave on a stretcher, you're scared and to play football six days after that . . . ," said Ware, the improbability giving pause to even his thoughts.

And seal the victory over the previously undefeated Saints in New Orleans with a Bourbon Street celebration ready to break out in the Superdome?

Truly a blessing.

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