OXNARD, Calif. – Watch defensive end DeMarcus Ware practice, and you'd never guess he turns 31 on Wednesday.
Ware is one of the oldest, most experienced members of this Cowboys roster, but it doesn't show in the way he ruthlessly rips past offensive tackles or drags down ball carriers. In the world of football, 30 is often thought of as the age when most players begin to slow down, especially at a position as physical as defensive line.
Even as Ware crosses over to 31, he has no plans on stopping – despite what outsiders may say.
"Everybody says 'He's 31. He can't do what he needs to do.' But just turn the practice tape on, and let that carry over into the games. It's proving a point to yourself, day in and day out, that you still can do it," he said. "The age might be going up, but the experience and the maturity is still young. It's not slowing down – the train is coming."
As if he needed any extra motivation, the Cowboys' most recent season is inspiring enough. Ware played a full slate of 16 games, but a multitude of injuries limited him to just one and a half sack over the last six weeks of the campaign. His season total of 11.5 sacks was his lowest since 2009.
"I'm always grateful for what I'm given, but I feel like it wasn't enough, because I didn't have an opportunity to get to the end. For me, I wasn't effective enough," Ware said. "This year I feel like a solid player, ready to go out there and play – ready to get it."
That much is clear to anyone who has watched ware in practice to this point. Ware has been nearly unstoppable as the Cowboys' left side defensive end, despite the offseason questions about his transition to a new position in the 4-3 defense.
"It's all the same," he said. "You're still rushing the passer – a lot more. And I like that."
Nobody is more aware of Ware's prowess than offensive tackle Tyron Smith, who has drawn the unenviable task of keeping the sack artist away from the quarterback. Ware said the matchup is bound to make both players better going forward.
"We go against each other a little bit before practice, a little bit after practice and during practice," he said. "It's hard going against a guy knowing what you're going to do and trying to be effective, and it makes the games easier." [embedded_ad]
Barring something unforeseen, Ware is going to pass Harvey Martin's Cowboys sack record of 114 this season – he needs just four sacks to boost his total of 111 into the top spot. Ware said it would mean a lot to own the record, but at 31 years old, he's eyeing a more important number.
"When you think about what the Cowboys stand for, the tradition of winning, the players that came through and the guys that have made the Hall of Fame – to have an opportunity to even be put down with part of that team – it means a lot, that you're working hard," Ware said. "But there's one thing that's missing, because there's five little points on that star. Why not make it six, and stick it on the side of that helmet? It might look a little bit better."