IRVING, Texas – What was once a weekly expectation has now become a weekly question: Will DeMarcus Ware be able to play Sunday?
With a bye week to rest and rehab his ailing quadriceps, Ware answered that question definitively on Tuesday while serving Thanksgiving meals at The Salvation Army.
"Oh yeah, I'll play Sunday," he said.
Ware has been battling various health issues since the first few weeks of the season, although his availability was never in doubt until October. The quad strain forced him out of the Week 6 win against Washington, and it caused him to miss not just three games this season, but the first games of his career.
Despite returning last Sunday in New Orleans with three tackles and a sack, he appeared to re-aggravate the injury in the process. In fact, Ware said if not for the bye week, he would have been forced out of yet another game.
"I just tweaked it a little bit then, and it's a little bit of a setback," he said. "But I was able to rehab the whole bye week, and then I have this whole week to do the same."
That process began Monday with some light rehab work following the time off. The next step is practice, which Ware said he plans to participate in when the Cowboys take the field Wednesday. A full workload doesn't look likely, but he said he needs to assess his progress ahead of this weekend's trip to New York.
"I'll practice some on Wednesday, and it's a good thing," he said. "I didn't practice two weeks ago on Wednesday, so I'll practice some on Wednesday, do some of the drills and everything, and do what I need to do to make sure I'm ready for this weekend."
What's more, with the extra time to rest following the loss to the Saints, Ware said he's starting to feel confident he can finish the season in good health.
"Right now, if I get treatment this whole week and I go into the game with confidence, I'm not worried about the rest of the season," he said.
The Cowboys look likely to boast a much healthier lineup when they do finally kick off against the Giants – though still not a roster at 100 percent. With several key players still recovering, Ware said he needs to be able to stay on the field.
"Injuries always come with football. The thing is being productive when I'm out there – I feel like I am – but the thing is I feel like I want more time," he said. "Injuries have been holding me back from doing that, and I'm just trying to get my body back right because I know what I can do."
Fortunately for the Cowboys, less time on the field means this season has meant less of a grind for Ware. Last year, the All-Pro battled through injuries to his hamstring, neck, shoulder and elbow. With six games left in 2013, he said he feels much fresher – if he could get his leg to cooperate.
"Right now, the rest of my body feels like I'm just going into training camp, but my leg is like it just went through training camp," Ware said. "Now it's just getting it to the point where it's really functional because I know right now the way my body feels – it feels great. It feels strong, it feels fast. Now it's just about getting over that little hump, getting over the injury and pushing forward."
The Cowboys could certainly use that push, especially from a guy with 13.5 career sacks in 17 career games against New York. Ware also picked off Eli Manning on the first play of the teams' meeting in the season opener.
But Ware's sack tally of five is currently only third on the team, behind Jason Hatcher and George Selvie. He's tied for 17th in the NFC and 35th in the NFL. He hasn't had this few sacks through 11 weeks of a season since 2005, his rookie year.
He said the key to bouncing back is to play effectively for an entire game, starting with New York and going from there.
"At the end of the day, when you look at the past and how you've got five sacks in 10 games, you're like 'OK, yeah, you were out. You didn't have an opportunity,'" Ware said. "'But now, while you're out there, how effective can you be for this one game against the Giants?' And yes, I do need to be effective."