COW­BOYS: Thanks to strong prac­tices, Free has Dal­las’ con­fi­dence

Austin American-Statesman - - SPORTS -

Con­tin­ued from C for in­jured right tackle Marc Colombo late and ap­pear­ing in ev­ery game last year.

With his long arms and quick feet, the 6-foot-6-inch, 320-pound Free has ex­hib­ited his strength and mo­bil­ity dur­ing the first week of camp.

On one pass­ing play, Free clogged de­fen­sive end Stephen Bowen at the line, then stepped back to shove away rush­ing linebacker Bradie James. Free later had to block Pro Bowl linebacker DeMar­cus Ware and end Igor Ol­shan­sky on the same play. There was then a run­ning play where he pulled to the op­po­site side.

“He’s re­ally quick against the run. Man, he’s strong,” Ware said. “I’ve seen Igor over there talk­ing to him like, ‘Man, you’re a strong guy.’ When that comes from Igor, it’s a big com­pli­ment.”

Only af­ter prac­tice is Free eva­sive, con­stantly turn­ing down in­ter­views and do­ing his best to ig­nore cam­eras.

Af­ter sign­ing au­to­graphs near one of the tun­nels to the Cow­boys’ locker room near mid­field at the Alam­od­ome, Free re­al­ized that sev­eral cam­eras were ahead of him. He dodged them all.

“I’m just play­ing foot­ball, that’s what I want to do right now,” Free said, with­out stop­ping or even look­ing at the in­quir­ing re­porter on his way off the field.

“He is a very low-key guy, very calm, very hum­ble,” cen­ter An­dre Gurode said. “He is a guy who loves to work, so we love that about Doug.”

The Cow­boys acquired tackle Alex Bar­ron from St. Louis in May for linebacker Bobby Car­pen­ter in a swap of un­der­achiev­ing for­mer first-round picks. Bar­ron has started 74 of his 76 ca­reer games, in­clud­ing all 16 at left tackle for the Rams last sea­son, but the Cow­boys have pegged Free as the starter.

Coach Wade Phillips is en­cour­aged by the con­fi­dence Free shows.

“He’s re­ally taken the bull by the horns. He seems con­fi­dent in ev­ery­thing he’s do­ing,” Phillips said.

“And you know he’s a great hus­tler. He’ll get down the field and make blocks down the field that other guys won’t. That’s what we liked about him in the first place.”

Ri­cardo B. Brazz­iell

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