Jason Hatcher: My best football is in front of me

OXNARD, Calif. – The Cowboys hope defensive end Jason Hatcher’s sore groin is just a minor hiccup for a player who seems to be coming into his own.

Hatcher was one of the better bargains on the roster last season, establishing himself as a starter for the first time in his career after signing a three-year, $6 million contract.

“I’ve got a lot of football in front of me, my best football in front of me,” the 30-year-old Hatcher said.

That certainly appears to be the case based on the first week of training camp. With Jay Ratliff sitting out due to a foot injury that sidelined the Pro Bowl nose tackle all offseason, Hatcher has been by far the Cowboys’ most disruptive defensive lineman.

Hatcher isn’t satisfied with the 4.5 sacks, three tackles for losses and 11 quarterback pressures he had last season. He wants to be a disruptive force every snap.

“I think he’s more confident,” coach Jason Garrett said. “He’s had some success and he’s really grabbing the bull by the horns. He wants to be that guy up front that those guys look to.”

Hatcher made headlines this offseason by stating that the Cowboys lacked a fiery, Ray Lewis-style leader. Hatcher has backed off a bit on those comments, but Garrett said the defensive end stepped up as a vocal leader during the offseason, pushing his teammates on the field and during strength and conditioning workouts.

“The mentality that Hatcher has had over the last year has been really, really positive,” Garrett said. “He’s had a positive impact on a lot of guys on our football team. It’s reflecting in his play.”