- Tim MacMahon, ESPN Staff Writer
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IRVING, Texas -- There was plenty of doubt about whether six-time Pro Bowl guard Brian Waters could play to the standard he set for himself throughout his career after sitting out a season.
Just not in the mind of the 36-year-old guard.
“I wouldn’t have played if I didn’t think I could, honestly,” said Waters, who signed with the Dallas Cowboys the week of the season opener and was in the starting lineup at right guard by the fourth game. “I had to be honest with myself. If I didn’t think I could play at that level, I wouldn’t have come back and played football.
“If I would have been dishonest with myself, I would have been dishonest with this team. I felt coming into this situation that it wouldn’t take me long to get at least back to the level that I played in New England for sure.”
If Waters isn’t at that level now, the North Texas product is awfully close. He’s played a critical role in solidifying an offensive line that Jason Garrett calls by far the Cowboys’ best of his three-year tenure as head coach.
Owner and general manager Jerry Jones waited until practically the last minute to agree to a one-year, incentive-laden deal worth up to $3 million with Waters, but that looks like one of the best bargains on the roster now.
“At every turn, he’s proven to us that he’s ready to play,” Garrett said. “It started with his workout and as we eased him into the lineup. He’s just played very well. He’s a good football player, he’s experienced, he’s a veteran guy who has a very positive presence and positive impact on the guys playing around him, and he just knows how to do it. He’s done it a lot.
“He plays with the right kind of demeanor. He has a little bit of nastiness to him which we all like and we feel like is contagious.”
Waters looks like the same guy who started every game for a Super Bowl team in 2011, when he was picked for the Pro Bowl in his lone season with the New England Patriots. He said there are some quirks still to work out in his game, but he’s starting to feel like his old self.
“I’m playing at a decent level,” Waters said, “and I hope to play better as the season goes on.”