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In "Batman Shape," Bilingual Poppinga Acclimating Well

IRVING, Texas – The most interesting man in Dallas might have entered town Monday.

From knowing Spanish to being in "Batman shape" by creating his own conditioning program, it's already clear vivacious linebacker Brady Poppinga will be capable of injecting some energy into a 5-6 Cowboys team.

"That's just who I am," Poppinga said. "If you want to tap into that, go right ahead. It's for the taking. I'm not trying to hold that in. I am who I am, and I love who I am and I'm not afraid to show it. If people want to embrace it, they can. If they don't like it, that's OK, too. I just realize that half the people are going to like you guys, half the people aren't, so you might as well be who you are."

Poppinga wasn't bashful about being himself when he first stepped through the doors at Valley Ranch to speak for the first time as a member of the Cowboys. His mood was chipper, though he hadn't yet gotten a feel for the mood of a locker room full of players that had just dropped a game under .500 after a Thanksgiving defeat.

He'd only been with the team five hours, but he said he'd know the team's "pulse" soon enough. If nothing else, Poppinga should be able to boost the morale of the Cowboys, who were in need of another linebacker after Bruce Carter went to injured reserve.

"You don't know how many times I've just wanted to run through the door and blast something," Poppinga said. "But you've got to have patience. You've got to understand that when you're a regular civilian in this world, you can't break laws and break doors and you've got to hold your aggression inside of you and get it out when you're lifting weights or what have you. But yeah, it's good to be back."

The veteran linebacker played six seasons for the Packers, winning a Super Bowl ring in his last season in Green Bay in 2010. He missed most of that year with a torn meniscus, and now his role has reversed. He's become the healthy linebacker entering a team in need of a positive jolt.

Poppinga compared the Cowboys' situation to Green Bay's, when he said 15 players went on injured reserve, including at least six or seven players on defense before the Packers persevered to win a championship.

"You've got to have guys that when they do come in, they're the next guys up," Poppinga said. "They've got to commit to learning the defense or whatever their role is. My role happens to be on defense. Then they've got to be able to just integrate themselves with the team, become part of the team. That's what's most important. That's what separates a championship team from an average team is chemistry and guys wanting to go out and play for each other."

Poppinga spent last season with the Rams and has been training all year to get ready for his next opportunity. He met with the Chiefs earlier in the year, but he knew he was at the top of a few teams' wait lists, including the Cowboys, who succeeded earlier in the year in getting Ernie Sims ready to play in an NFL game in a week.

Unlike Sims, Poppinga will get an extended week to get ready for his first NFL game as a Cowboy, though he's not sure how much he'll play yet. He said he thinks he figured out a plan this year to get in what he calls "Batman shape," so he'd be well-conditioned enough to step in immediately when a team called. 

"I hope to have created a program to where it simulates as much game movements and game conditioning as possible," Poppinga said. "But as a lot of great, experienced players have come to realize, when you're out a little bit, there's that feeling that you've got to play the game to get in game shape. I'm trying to sort of buck that trend based off a workout I came up with."

The terminology shouldn't hold him back from suiting up. He said every defense has similar concepts with a few tweaks.

"What you call it is different," Poppinga said. "It's just like learning another language. I've done that before. I was in South America for a couple years. I learned Spanish. The word apple, a fruit for us, is manzana in Spanish. That's what you've got to come to realize here is what words mean what. At the end of the day, they mean the same thing, it's just figuring out what words mean what."

Once he memorizes the terms, Poppinga said he should be ready to go.

"I've been doing this since I was 5 years old," Poppinga said. "Imagine doing something since you were 5, getting back into it. It's like riding a bike."

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