Monday, September 2, 2013
Cowboys' Doug Free deals with changes
By Calvin Watkins
IRVING, Texas -- Doug Free is a man of few words to those who don't know him.
Catch the Cowboys starting right tackle walking through the locker room on a given day and ask him a question and he'll say, "I know nothing."
Dallas coach Jason Garrett said offensive lineman Doug Free has the intelligence and athleticism to make a successful move from tackle to guard.
Free does know something. He's moving from tackle to right guard, and while it's been a temporary thing it could become a permanent deal Sunday night when the Cowboys host the New York Giants in the regular-season opener. Free never played guard before a preseason game against the Cincinnati Bengals, but injuries to guards Ronald Leary and Nate Livings, and being rebuffed by free agent Brandon Moore and failing to secure a deal with Brian Waters, pushed the Cowboys into this decision.
"I was slightly surprised," Free said Monday of being asked to play guard. "But I'm willing to do whatever it takes to make this team better. I think I've proven that before and I will prove it again."
This offseason, Free's status with the team was in doubt until he took a pay cut, going from a $7 million base salary to $3.5 million, which was guaranteed. Free maintained his "I know nothing" response when asked about the financial moves, but you understand him when he says, "I think I've proven that before and I will prove it again," statement about being a team guy.
In the preseason when the injuries were taking over the offensive line, Free moved to guard in the game against the Cincinnati Bengals and while the reviews were good, he needed to work on his techniques. But if the Cowboys played him during the regular season at guard, there is a comfort level.
"It's slightly hard but I mean overall, it's just one spot," he said. "But you should know them all to some extent. There's little differences here and there but I mean overall, a lot of times you work with a guard or a tackle. You know some of the routines."
Leary did some light work during Monday's practice, giving the team hope of a return for the Giants game.
If things don't go well for Leary this week, Free will be ready for the conversation with coach Jason Garrett about moving to guard.
"The conversation is very direct," Garrett said. "We're trying to put the best five together up front and Doug is a guy who is very smart, a versatile athlete, even though he hasn't played in there. We kinda felt intuitively he could do different things. He's played on the left side as a tackle and he's played on the right side as a tackle. He's just a good athlete and a smart football player. It does take a little bit of time to move inside from outside and I think he felt that. In the game against Cincinnati, you saw him getting better as the game went on and he became more and more comfortable. Just got to have that in our back pocket if that's something we want to do. It's something good for our football team."