Ware: 'This is where I want to be'
"Oh, this is where I want to be, America's Team, nowhere else," Ware said Monday, while stripping off the sweat-soaked jersey after the first practice of the team's minicamp.
While Ware is already under contract through the upcoming season, the Cowboys have been working on an extension for the NFL sacks leader (20 last season) to keep that jersey and the star on his helmet for a long time.
It will be a big payday for the linebacker who has already been in three Pro Bowls and has 53½ sacks in four seasons.
Still, those contract talks haven't been a distraction for Ware or kept him off the field.
While this week's three-day minicamp is mandatory and the last organized team workouts until training camp opens next month, he has already been a regular participant in offseason workouts.
"He's that kind of guy. He kind of lives in the moment and is happy to be doing what he's doing all the time," coach Wade Phillips said. "When he's on the field, he's playing football. That's a good thing, and in the classroom he does well."
Ware doesn't even want to talk about the contract.
"No comment about that," he said. "I let my agent and Jerry [Jones] handle that."
This will be the final season of the five-year deal Ware signed after being the 11th overall pick in the 2005 draft. His base salary for this season is just over $1 million.
Cowboys owner Jones has indicated several times recently that a deal will get done.
That leaves the questions of when and for how much.
"These things take time, and we obviously want DeMarcus to be a Cowboy for his career. That is our goal," Stephen Jones, the team's vice president and owner's son, said last month. "We've made offers. We made an offer a while back."
Considering what some of other top NFL defenders got paid this offseason, Ware will get a significant raise.
The Washington Redskins gave free-agent defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth a seven-year, $100 million contract that included an NFL-record $41 million guaranteed. The Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh Steelers gave outside linebacker James Harrison, the NFL defensive player of the year, a $51.75 million, six-year deal with $20 million guaranteed.
Ware possesses a unique blend of strength, agility and quickness that allows him to be a dominating force all over the field. His sack total has increased every season -- from eight as a rookie in 2005 to 11½, 14 and then 20.
"When you get 14 sacks, you're kind of numbered, they know who you are. And then to get 20," Phillips said. "They know where you are. It was pretty amazing last year, in that he had so many sacks the year before then upped that. Of course, he's got the bar that's higher than everybody else as far as trying to high jump every year. But he's the kind of guy that can do it."
Ware, who turns 27 next month, is only the fourth player in Cowboys history with three consecutive 10-sack seasons. The last Dallas player with more than Ware in a single season was Hall of Fame defensive tackle Randy White with 16 in 1978.
There was also his NFL record-matching streak of 10 consecutive games with a sack, the longest in the NFL in 15 years even though it is not recognized as the Cowboys record. Harvey Martin had sacks in 11 consecutive games from 1976-77 before the NFL considered sacks as an official stat.
But what still stands out from last season for Ware is that Cowboys went from Super Bowl expectations to missing the playoffs after losing their final game.
"It feels really good to be back and sort of try to get that bad taste out of your mouth from last season," Ware said. "We've got a lot of guys coming in here that are going to contribute to the team. You just want to see how it's all going to unfold."
Both on and off the field in Ware's case.
Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press
MORE NFL HEADLINES
- Foles, offense in form as Eagles top Steelers
- Steelers' Bell, Blount apologize for 'distraction'
- Eagles RB McCoy: Thumb 'definitely hurts'
- RG III tweets to naysayers: Keep doubting