IRVING, Texas -- The Cowboys went from a team trying to get younger to adding a 36-year old guard who is projected to make his first start in more than a year on Sunday at San Diego.
Waters has the résumé -- six Pro Bowls -- and the skill set to produce, but his layoff and age should be concerns. This will be Waters' first start since he started at guard for the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLVI to finish the 2011 season. The Kansas City Chiefs released Waters prior to the start of the 2011 season and he signed with the Patriots. All he did was start 16 games and earn his sixth Pro Bowl selection.
"My experience with players who have retired and come back has been good," Cowboys offensive line/offensive coordinator Bill Callahan said. "Steve Wisniewski did it in Oakland, and when he came back he was in great shape. Those guys know how to take care of their bodies. They’re Pro Bowlers for a reason. They know what their limitations are. They know what their body needs. They know how to train. They know how to prepare. They wouldn’t get to the level they’re at as a player if they don’t have an awareness and an understanding of all those other factors."
Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones said last week Waters has been amazing in the weight room and that was another positive sign for the franchise in need of improved line play. Injuries and ineffective play has hurt the Cowboys line in the last few years, but team owner Jerry Jones said the interior of the line has been the best he's seen in three years. Quarterback Tony Romo has also agreed.
Waters said he's still working on his game, but is confident enough in his abilities now that he can start and help the Cowboys.
"Take it one day at a time," Waters said. "I'm out here (and) I'm competing my butt off. I'm healthy (and) I have a lot of experience. Obviously I'm not young and as athletic as I used to be but I feel like I have enough weapons and they wouldn’t put me out there if they didn’t think I still had enough ability to be successful out there."
The Cowboys love Waters' experience and the fact he's helping younger players such as Frederick and Leary understand the game more. What's also helped in this process is Bernadeau. He was signed last season as a starter to the offensive line, but the Cowboys have been disappointed in his health. He's needed surgery in the two offseason's he's been with Dallas and his play can be described as uneven.
Bernadeau played much better toward the end of the 2012 season, though, than another free agent pickup, Nate Livings, and the team still values him. Bernadeau is getting snaps at center in practices so he can have position flexibility.
The arrival of Waters has changed how the Cowboys do business with the offensive line. While he's not considered a savior to the line, he is an upgrade to what they've had in the past few years despite his age. Waters said don't give him any excuses for any poor play because of his age.
"No concessions, nothing I can't do that I've done before," Waters said. "I might not be able to run as fast as I used to but I can still get to Point A to Point B fast enough. I don’t have to alter my name at all."