A weight off their backs, and bellies, for Cowboys
SAN ANTONIO — Pro Bowl linebacker DeMarcus Ware says he’s nearly 10 pounds lighter, which is making him feel stronger and faster during the Dallas Cowboys’ training camp. Anthony Spencer feels the same after shedding a few pounds during the offseason.
“A lot of guys are a lot lighter this year, because it’s all predicated now, our defense, we have those big guys in the middle and
we’re running a lot more than the bigger guys,” said Ware, now in the 255-pound range. “We need to bring a little bit more speed to the table, a little bit more sort of versatility. We sort of shrunk down a little bit.”
Cornerback Mike Jenkins also is a few pounds lighter, but the thinning trend isn’t confined to the guys playing the 3-4 defense, or only to the players for the NFC East champion Cowboys who have still have rising expectations.
Bruising running back Marion Barber thinned down so much that at 218 pounds he actually weighs about two pounds less than speedy tailback Felix Jones. Even quarterback Tony Romo came to camp about five pounds lighter than expected, at around 223 pounds.
Coach Wade Phillips, who lost about 40 pounds since last season, believes even those minor shifts in body weight will help the players maximize their talents.
“I always tell them I want them to run as fast as they can. That’s really what you want to be able to do,” Phillips said. Weight loss “usually helps your quickness, but again you have to be a certain size. You can’t be a 250-pound defensive lineman. But I like them quick and fast.”
The 63-year-old coach, who is also the defensive coordinator and added the title of grandfather the week before camp, proved to be quite an example with his weight loss. He is clearly moving much more nimbly on the field.
“It’s good to see Wade moving around and not breathing hard out here,” linebacker Bradie James said.
During some defensive drills Friday, Phillips was actively moving with the players while teaching.
He even played the role of an end, dropping back and taking the initial steps with a receiver in a pass-coverage drill for defensive backs.
After the horn blew, ending a drill earlier this week, when the offense and defense were on the opposite ends of the field, Sam Hurd caught a pass and was running toward midfield.
Phillips was coming from the other end and broke down in a defensive stance in front of Hurd, who responded with a playful move to get around the coach.
Ware, the team’s sacks leader with more than 10 in each of the last four seasons, said the heaviest he was in college as a defensive end at Troy was 242 his senior year. He had to gain weight to play linebacker in the NFL, and had bulked up to the 262-265 range last season.
“I feel a lot quicker,” Ware said. “That extra added poundage tears you down at the end of the season, but now I feel really fresh.”
Still, the thing that Phillips finds hard to believe is that “Felix Jones is heavier than Marion Barber.”
Barber wanted to lose a few pounds for quickness, and the coach believes that will benefit the hard-charging runner. At the same time, Jones said it was his choice to add some muscle.
“I’m kind of filling into my body,” the 23-year-old Jones said. “Working hard this offseason, I put on a little bit of muscle. Not anything else, straight muscle.”
Asked if he feels fat, Jones quickly responded, “Not at all, not at all.”
Former Cowboys offensive lineman Nate Newton, who once weighed as much as 411 pounds, went a little more extreme to slim down. He had a surgical procedure for a gastric sleeve that dramatically decreased the size of his stomach.
Newton, now working for ESPN Radio in Dallas, is almost unrecognizable on the sideline at training camp. Since the procedure in April, Newton has lost 133 pounds — from 396 to 263 — and his waist size has decreased from 56 to 40 inches.
“Nobody recognizes me. Nobody knows me if I don’t open my mouth,” Newton said with a smile.
Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant is assisted off the field by trainers after injuring his right ankle during practice Friday.
Dallas Cowboys linebacker DeMarcus Ware (94) says he’s about 10 pounds lighter, and feeling a lot stronger and faster.