“I’m like that every game, but definitely this game because it has been so long,” Crawford said. “But I know after that first couple of plays, it’ll be gone, and I’ll just play ball.”
A torn Achilles tendon during the first week of training camp denied Crawford the opportunity to play ball last season. The preseason opener against the Chargers will be the first game that Crawford has played since the regular-season finale of his rookie year.
A Dallas defense that finished dead last in the league last season needs the 6-foot-4, 285-pound Crawford to be an impact player, possibly at two positions.
Crawford will likely start against the Chargers at left defensive end with George Selvie nursing a sore groin. That’s the position where he is the most comfortable at this point, but he’s also taking reps as a 3-technique defensive tackle.
The Cowboys see Crawford as a potential prototype left defensive end on normal downs and an interior pass rusher on passing downs. The 24-year-old Boise State product is one of the pet projects of defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli and defensive line coaches Leon Lett and Ben Bloom, typically staying after practice for extra work on technique.
Crawford said he hasn’t had any issues during camp with his Achilles tendon, but he doesn’t feel like all of his explosiveness has returned quite yet.
“I feel like I’ve got most of it all,” Crawford said. “I’ve still got to get a little bit of movement, a little bit of change of direction with it, but that’ll come with play and just getting comfortable.”
After 19 long months, Crawford is finally getting the chance to play again.