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IRVING, Texas -- Six-time Pro Bowl guard Brian Waters believes he joined a team talented enough to contend for a championship when he ended his one-season sabbatical by signing with the Dallas Cowboys.
"I think this football team is as talented as there is in the NFL," Waters said Wednesday after his first practice with the Cowboys. "I believe in that."
The Cowboys hope Waters, 36, who cited "personal reasons" for sitting out last year after starting for the New England Patriots' Super Bowl XLVI team, can help them get over the 8-8 hump they hit the last two seasons.
The addition of Waters is expected to solidify an offensive line that was widely considered one of the Cowboys' biggest weaknesses last season, when Dallas allowed 36 sacks and had the NFL's 31st-ranked rushing offense. He worked at right guard with the second-team offense during his first practice, but Waters will likely join the starters by Week 2, when the Cowboys visit the Kansas City Chiefs, his team for the first 11 years of his career.
"My job is to try to come in and try to catch up as fast as I can," said Waters, who spent hours in a crash-course session with offensive coordinator Bill Callahan and offensive line coach Frank Pollack on Tuesday night and reported to Valley Ranch at 6 a.m. Wednesday. The Cowboys and Waters engaged in off-and-on discussions for about a month before he worked out for the team Tuesday and signed a one-year contract worth up to $3 million later that night.
"He still has to get himself in shape to play at this level, and that's just natural," Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said. "Regardless of what you are doing, it's hard to get yourself ready and then play. So he has worked very hard. He's a pro, no question about that. He knows what he is doing. He learns quickly and we anticipate him really hitting the ground running and being a part of our football team here pretty soon."
Added Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones: "He's a pro and he takes care of himself. Obviously, if you turn on that tape from New England two years ago, he's a hell of a player."
Other teams showed interest in Waters when he started considering a return to football, he said, but the Cowboys were always his favorite. That's due in part to geography for the Waxahachie, Texas, native and in part because of the potential of a team that features such playmakers as quarterback Tony Romo, tight end Jason Witten, receiver Dez Bryant and defensive end DeMarcus Ware.
"This is the hometown team," said Waters, who played his college ball at North Texas. "This is a super-talented football team. I believe this team has been close to breaking through and being a playoff team. Honestly, I think they have been close to being a championship football team. The talent, the coaching staff, the organization and growing up here were probably the biggest things that attracted me the most."
Waters signed with the Patriots on Sept. 4, 2011, and started New England's season opener eight days later. He started every game for the AFC champions and earned his sixth Pro Bowl invitation that season.
However, Waters doesn't want to compare the two situations, saying they are different because of the teams, the programs and the fact that he took a year off. He said he thinks he still has "the goods to get it done" but offered no promises of returning to Pro Bowl form.
"All I'm going to say is I'm going to work as hard as I've ever done and time will tell," Waters said. "Time will tell."