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OXNARD, Calif. -- If you want to know why DeMarcus Ware is one of the best pass-rushers to ever play this game, disregard his physical assets.
That's right, forget about his ridiculous first-step quickness. Ignore the 6-foot-4 frame and the long arms that keep offensive tackles at bay.
Don't pay attention to Ware's ability to dip his shoulders seemingly an inch off the ground, turn the corner and attack the quarterback.
Or his propensity to play through injury -- a hamstring, an elbow, a fractured wrist and a torn labrum last season -- and still record double-digit sacks for each of the past seven seasons.
Instead, focus on Ware's mind.
"I could list 10 off the top of my head," Dallas Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said of Ware's most dominant trait. "The person, who he is. That's where the whole conversation starts with me.
"He's an unbelievable athlete. He's quick. He's fast. He's explosive. He's strong. He's long. His first-step get-off is good as there is in the NFL. He has a nose for the ball. He can bend. I could keep going and going and going, but what makes Ware great is the same thing that makes Jason Witten great: It's the kind of people they are."
See, just about every NFL player is a physical freak.
|DeMarcus Ware has been good but not great in the playoffs, and more is expected from one of the best players of this generation.|
They're bigger, stronger and faster than the rest of us, but what separates Ware from the game's other physical freaks is his approach to the game. He wants to be one of the all-time greats, and he's willing to put in the work, whether we're talking about studying video or working out.
"What have you done so that when you're done, you're still remembered? The only thing you can leave is breaking records, championships, Super Bowls and being the best at what you do," Ware said. "There are not a lot of things. You can probably count them on one hand.
"I thought about it as a rookie. What can I do each and every day so once I'm done I'm remembered, not just as a pass-rusher but as a champion."
Ware has been to seven consecutive Pro Bowls. He has made tens of millions. He has been the NFL's premier pass-rusher for years and will challenge Bruce Smith's career record of 200 sacks.
And five years after Ware's career ends, he'll likely be enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
All that remains is his legacy.
Is he going to be a great player judged by the statistics he accumulated because he has no rings?
Right now, all he has is one playoff win in four postseason appearances.
Like Tony Romo, Ware hasn't played his best football in the biggest of big games.
The Cowboys have a 1-6 record in win-or-go-home games since 2006. In those seven games, Ware has 26 tackles, 5.5 sacks, five tackles for loss and 10 quarterback hits.
That's good but not great, which is what we expect from one of the best players of this generation.
His few critics maintain he doesn't make enough plays at winning time.
In his career, though, Ware has 30 fourth-quarter sacks -- his second-most productive quarter. He has 32.5 sacks in the second quarter.
"I haven't won enough games in the fourth quarter," Ware said. "As a defense, we haven't won enough games in the fourth quarter. There have been a lot of times, the game has been on our back and we haven't been able to close games out. It's time to change that.
"For all the critics, how many games have I closed? I'll leave it at that."
This franchise and others of its ilk -- the New York Yankees, Los Angeles Lakers, Detroit Red Wings and Manchester United -- are judged solely by championships.
Ware, Witten and Romo, the core of this team, will own a chunk of the franchise record book when their careers end, because of their statistical excellence.
Each is among the best ever to wear a Cowboys uniform. But to ever truly be linked to the great players who have worn a blue star on the side of their helmets, each needs postseason success.
It's not fair. Or right.
"There's a legacy that's been left, and we haven't lived up to that legacy," Ware said. "That star on the side of the helmet means something to me.
"It's not just a star. Each little point represents the five years they have won. I want them to make a six-point star. That's what I want.
"That's what I'm playing for. All the guys who have come before me have built something, and I don't want to tarnish that image. All I want to do is win."
It's all that remains for Ware to achieve.