June 6, 2012

Cowboys' Ware approaches 100 sacks, but looks to improve

Critics, turnover quest energize the six-year veteran.

IRVING -- DeMarcus Ware's next sack will put him over 100 for his career. That will move him within 14 of the team record and only 32 from the league's all-time top 10.

Yet, the Dallas Cowboys' All-Pro linebacker is on the defensive after hearing criticism that he doesn't do enough.

"Everybody always talks about me not being there in pressure situations or I'm an overrated player, but every year I'm up there with a lot of the players doing exactly what I do -- and that's sacking the quarterback and being consistent," said Ware, who has 99.5 career sacks. "It's all about shutting those people up who are talking... and just doing whatever I can to help the team."

Of Ware's 19.5 sacks last season, 10.5 came in second halves, including seven in the fourth quarter. He had 12.5 sacks in losses. He had 14.5 when the Cowboys were behind.

But each of the past two seasons he has had a career-low two forced fumbles. He had six forced fumbles in 2008 when he led the league with 20 sacks.

"You always want to get out there and make the plays that you can make, but in key situations it's not all about the sacks," Ware said. "It's about interceptions. The main thing is getting a turnover. ... This year, we're really harping on getting turnovers, getting the ball back for our offense, and we go through this number chart of if you get one turnover a game, if you get two turnovers a game, if you get three turnovers a game and how that affects the outcome of the game. So we're all about the turnovers."

Ware turns 30 next month, but he is aging well. He said he is smarter than he was seven years ago when the Cowboys made him the No. 11 overall pick. He is eating better and working harder.

His six Pro Bowls and four All-Pro selections haven't made him complacent, only hungrier.

"DeMarcus Ware is an outstanding football player," Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said. "He does what he does as well as anybody in the National Football League. He's a very, very talented guy. But more so than that, he goes about it the right way. He's a great competitor. He's a great worker. He's a great teammate. He's a guy that opposing offenses, every time they snap the ball, they have to understand where 94 is.

"Those are rare guys. I think some teams have those kinds of players. I think he's at the head of the class."

Ware had a scare in a game Dec. 13, 1999, against the San Diego Chargers, when he was carted off to the hospital with a neck injury. He has had flare-ups since. But doctors cleared Ware with a series of tests last week.

Douglas, an equipment company, fitted Ware with new pads that Ware said he believes will help. But he expects to have occasional problems with his neck.

"It always goes away in the off-season," Ware said. "It comes back some of the time during the season. I think it's just going to be that way. You've just got to find some way to work through it and just do the precautionary stuff."

Ware, who has never missed a game, said he thinks about his long-term health.

"With football, your body takes a bruising, and you've just got to get out there and play any way you can," he said. "And when your body tells you that you can't play anymore, that's when you've got to stop. You just can't keep doing it."

Ware still is among the best and ready to prove it yet again.

Charean Williams, 817-390-7760

Twitter: @NFLCharean

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