Charles Tapper spent his rookie season on the sidelines. He watched home games in shorts on the AT&T sidelines, out with a back injury.
Tapper could only describe his rookie year as a “depressing process.” He was diagnosed with a pars defect in the lower back that kept him out all season.
“You miss all this time with the team. You miss being out there at practice. You miss the first game coming out of the tunnel. You miss all those things that you see on TV,” Tapper said. “Seeing everyone suited and I’m just in shorts? Man, I just wish I could go out there and do what everybody else is doing but you couldn’t.”
Tapper will no longer be on the sidelines. He’s healthy and ready to make his NFL debut against the New York Giants on Sunday night.
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Tapper, a fourth-round pick out of Oklahoma, is expected to become a rotational piece among the Cowboys’ defensive line. He’s hoping to showcase why the Cowboys used their first fourth-round pick in 2016 on him instead of Dak Prescott, their second choice in the fourth round.
“It’s a surreal moment right now,” Tapper said. “This is what you’ve been wishing for from the first day you step on that college campus. This is what I’ve been wishing for and it’s finally coming true.
“I can’t wait to get out there and hopefully get my first sack. Go out there and rush against [Giants offensive tackle Ereck] Flowers. Whenever my number is called, I’ve got to take full advantage of my opportunity.”
Tapper said he is 100 percent physically and is feeling as good as ever. He dropped weight and is now in the 255-260 pound range and strengthened the core to try and avoid future injury setbacks.
Tapper is among the players the Cowboys are banking on to improve their lackluster pass rush.
Most eyes will be on DeMarcus Lawrence, who is trying to bounce back from a forgettable one-sack season a year ago, and rookie Taco Charlton, who is trying to live up to a first-round billing.
But Tapper is a guy who had 13.5 career sacks in college, including seven his senior year.
“At the end of the day, you’ve got to produce on the field,” Tapper said. “Being from Baltimore, they always tell you to shoot for the stars, so I’m shooting for the stars.”