<
>

Doug Free, 28, is offensive line's senior member

Doug Free has turned from rookie to the Cowboys offensive line's senior member in just a few years.

Free will start at right tackle when the Cowboys open the season at the New York Giants on Sept. 5, marking the third consecutive year he will start somewhere on Dallas' offensive line.

This is Free's sixth NFL season, and he's already the old man of the group. He's 28, but his tenure with the Cowboys is longer than any current member of an offensive line that includes young players such as center Phil Costa, guard/center Kevin Kowalski and tackle Tyron Smith.

The Cowboys also added Nate Livings and Mackenzy Bernadeau to the offensive line in free agency, and they have a combined eight years of NFL experience.

"Getting up there in age, I guess," Free joked. "Livings has a lot of years on him, he's also a veteran type."

Free learned the NFL game watching tackles Flozell Adams and Marc Colombo and center Andre Gurode and guard Kyle Koiser. All of these players are gone now, with Colombo having a retirement ceremony at Valley Ranch two weeks ago.

"You learn a lot from those guys," Free said. "You know, give them a chance to come in here especially with all the veteran guys, I had a chance to play with and stuff. Just learning their techniques and how they handle situations how they work, a lot of great workers I played after."

The offensive line has seen massive change this offseason from the retirement of line coach Hudson Houck, the release of Kosier and the addition of two new guards.

Bill Callahan replaced Houck, and Livings and Bernadeau are projected starters at guard. Free is making a change himself. After playing last season at left tackle, he's moving back to right tackle, a spot that gave him his big break in 2010.

"(There's) always a bit of transition anytime you go to a different side," Free said. "It's manly thinking everything different, doing everything opposite and getting settled over there and getting used to how things are called and instead of being on one side your on the other. It's flipping things in your head, having this time to get ready for it is definitely going to be positive."