Byron Bell has started 72 games in his NFL career. He’s ready to start his 73rd if the Dallas Cowboys need to go another week without All-Pro left tackle Tyron Smith.
Bell got first-team reps during Wednesday’s practice as Smith continues to be sidelined with a groin injury. Chaz Green, who started and struggled in Smith’s place last week at Atlanta, also continues to get work at left tackle.
“It’s a lot of pressure (replacing Smith), a future Hall of Famer and one of the best at his position,” Bell said. “We know we need Big T, but when he’s not up, it’s the next man up.”
That would be Bell at this point after Green had one of the worst performances by an offensive linemen in recent memory.
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Green gave up four sacks to Atlanta defensive end Adrian Clayborn. Clayborn finished the day with six, including one against Bell late in the game.
The Cowboys are hopeful that Smith is able to go this week, but Bell will be ready when called upon.
Bell understands what he must do should he go against a stout Philadelphia Eagles front.
“Where I get in trouble is when I play complacent and timid,” Bell said. “I’ve just got to go out there and cut it loose. If I’m going to lose, I’m going to lose my way. I just have to trust it and let it go.”
As far as Green, the Cowboys locker room still believes in him. Green filled in well for Smith in two games early on last season, and began the season as the starting left guard.
“Chaz is a good football player, let’s not mistake that now,” Bell said. “If he wasn’t, he wouldn’t be in this locker room. That’s one thing you can’t lose in this league is confidence and I feel like he gained it and is getting his confidence back. Chaz is a good football player.”
Added center Travis Frederick, “It happens to everybody – you have a bad game. It helps when you have a group of guys like (the Cowboys) around you that are so tight-knit. We spend so much time together that you know everyone is feeling for you and wants you to do better and wants you to play better. You could tell that he went out and attacked practice today, just like we always do, but really had a focus on the things he wanted to improve on. I think we’re going to continue to grow as a group.”
Replacing Smith isn’t easy. Smith is regarded as one of the best left tackles in the game and has been named first-team All-Pro twice (2014, 2016) and second-team All-Pro twice (2013, 2015).
There’s a reason the Cowboys handed him a $109 million extension before the 2014 season.
“He’s a really productive player in the running game and a really productive player as a pass protector,” coach Jason Garrett said. “Week in and week out he seemingly blocks the best rushers that teams have. And then there’s so much else he brings in terms of his leadership. He doesn’t talk a lot, but the example that he sets and how he works, meetings, weight room, practice field, I think is really important for our football team.
“He sets the tone along with our other veteran leaders on that offensive line. He just goes about it the right way. He’s a physically tough guy. He’s a mentally tough guy. Great example to his teammates.”