- Tim MacMahon, ESPN Staff Writer
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IRVING, Texas – It doesn’t bother DeMarcus Ware one bit that he won’t play a down in his return to AT&T Stadium.
It’s fine by Ware that he’ll be across the field from Tyron Smith, who he considers the best offensive tackle in the NFL, instead of across the line of scrimmage from the Dallas Cowboys' $110 million man.
“I don’t even want to see Tyron,” Ware said, laughing. “He’s big time now. He’s big boy now.”
Ware, the franchise’s all-time sacks leader who signed with the Denver Broncos after the Cowboys released him in a cap-savings move this offseason, can take pride in being able to heap such praise on Smith.
After all, Ware played a significant role in Smith’s rapid development from a raw, immensely talented 20-year-old rookie to a Pro Bowl left tackle. Ware routinely stayed after practice with Smith to go over the finer points of pass protection, giving the 6-foot-5, 320-pound physical specimen invaluable perspective from one of the premier edge rushers in NFL history. And the practice battles against Ware pushed Smith to improve -- or be embarrassed.
“DeMarcus Ware beat my butt every day but got me better,” Smith said at the Cowboys’ kickoff luncheon Thursday.
In Ware’s eyes, Smith is the best, bar none. Ware saw that potential in Smith the first time he caught a glimpse of the massive, muscular kid with freakish athleticism for his size. The transition to elite took place last season, when Ware challenged him to physically punish the player across from him each week.
“He looked at me and I said, ‘If you’re that guy that can shut each one of those guys down and make them quit the first quarter, I promise you they’ll stop coming,’” Ware said. “From that point on, he’s been like that since the first quarter, trying to kill people. I see the guys quit.”
That makes Ware feel proud -- and fortunate that he doesn’t have to face Smith in the preseason finale.