IRVING, Texas – Nate Livings didn't expect his first NFL stop in Cincinnati to also be his last.
He signed with the Cowboys in the offseason and will be making his first trip back to face his former Bengals teammates in a new jersey this weekend.
"I've got a ton of buddies over there," Livings said. "In the offseason we even workout together, but when we're in between the white lines, we understand it's business. It's a game. We've got to get it on."
Livings sat out Thursday's practice with knee soreness but returned to the practice field Friday. He wasn't going to miss this weekend's game against the Bengals, a team he thought he'd stay with after the 2011 season, but he contends he harbors no resentment and this game won't be personal.
"I expected to return," Livings said. "I had a good relationship with the coaches over there, but I moved on, and I'm happy as heck to be where I am now."
Livings spent six seasons with the Bengals and played 52 games with Cincinnati before coming to the Cowboys this season.
He joined the Bengals as a college free agent in 2006, but he didn't play in a game until 2008. He started every game the previous two seasons in Cincinnati before joining the Cowboys this year.
Livings still knows many members of a Bengals defense that leads the league in sacks. He's familiar with the line and remains friends with defensive tackle Geno Atkins and defensive end Michael Johnson, who lead the Bengals with a combined 17.5 sacks. Livings said he could tell Atkins would become a star after seeing the former 2010 fourth-round pick on the field for the first time.
But he didn't know at the time he wouldn't get to see him in person much longer.
"I wanted to stay there," Livings said. "I've got friends all over the team and me and the coaches were real good friends, but it just didn't happen. I accepted it for what it was and moved on."
Livings played every snap this year on a line that's lost centers Phil Costa and Ryan Cook and left tackle Tyron Smith to injuries at different points of the season. He's suited up in every game the last three seasons, going back to his days in Cincinnati.
Bengals coach Marvin Lewis said he's proud of what Livings has accomplished after starting his career on the practice squad.
"Nate's a guy who's been one of the tough guys around here and really developed as a young player," Lewis said. "He's done a great job. You've got to be happy for him."
Backup guard Derrick Dockery took snaps at left guard in place of Livings on Thursday, but Livings' return to the practice field Friday indicated the first game he missed as a Cowboy wouldn't come against his former team.
"It's not personal," Livings said. "I'm not going there trying to kill guys after the play. It ain't none of that. I've just got to go out and do what I've got to do, and they're going to do the same thing."