IRVING, Texas – Playing through pain alongside fellow defenders he hardly knows is now nothing new to Gerald Sensabaugh with two games left in the regular season.
Sensabaugh has only missed one game this year and has seen a fair share of safeties line up next to him, including Barry Church, Danny McCray, Eric Frampton and various cornerbacks who've shifted back during games.
"We've been doing a good job of just working with each other, making sure everybody's on the same page, and that's why you're able to see these guys making plays that maybe were at home or on other teams that just got cut," Sensabaugh said. "Rob (Ryan) and the organization's doing a good job of putting guys in situations where they can play and make plays."
At one point last week, Sensabaugh recalled seeing just two players on defense – cornerbacks Morris Claiborne and Brandon Carr – who he had played alongside extensively during training camp. But he credits the front office for bringing in players who are capable of stepping in immediately, and he still remains confident in any player he lines up next to.
Sensabaugh said every safety plays a different style, and he tries to base his game on being as versatile as possible and getting in a position that will make the other safety more comfortable.
"We just try to make it as easy as possible for the guys that are coming in new so they can play fast," Sensabaugh said. "If that takes me doing more of the … complicated roles, I'll take pride in doing that. Just as long as we're winning, and guys are out there making plays, I just want to do whatever I can to help the team win."
Some safeties prefer to play deep middle to see more of the field, while others choose to play up in the box. Sensabaugh said he played more in the box while in Jacksonville, then he moved more to free safety. He doesn't care where he lines up.
Regardless of where he plays, it seems a near lock he'll be on the field somewhere every week. As new players file in on defense, Sensabaugh remains one of the few constants to take the field.
Head coach Jason Garrett described Sensabaugh as a calming, steadying influence in the defensive backfield. He said it's obvious other players respond well to Sensabaugh's communication, and the safety has been proactive in helping the new defensive backs prepare each week and get set up during the game.
"Sensabaugh's so impressive because he's just there every week," Garrett said. "He's had a lot of different injuries over the past couple of years since he's been here. He just gives you that look on Wednesday, 'I'll be ready.' He responds well to injuries, he's a tough guy, he cares about his team and he loves to play football."
Sensabaugh played through an obvious hip injury in Cincinnati after delivering a hit in the end zone and has dealt with various aches and pains throughout the year. He was also limited in practice earlier this season with a concussion.
"Around this time, I think everybody's nicked up," Sensabaugh said. "My philosophy is if it's not structural damage, I should be able to get out there and play. I try to pride myself on not taking many medications. … I just feel a lot of the pain side is mental for me."
Sensabaugh credits his refusal to sit to his passion for the game, but he also knows how valuable a veteran presence is for the Cowboys as they fight for a playoff spot.
"If I feel I can still be effective and not be a negative part of our team, I feel I can get out there and play," Sensabaugh said. "I just feel that the team needs me. We need signal callers. A lot of our leaders are down."