IRVING, Texas -- When talk about the Dallas Cowboys' leaders is mentioned, you hear about Jason Witten, Tony Romo, Dez Bryant, Orlando Scandrick and even Rolando McClain. You don’t hear much about Doug Free.
The best part of the Cowboys this year is the offensive line with three potential Pro Bowlers. Free is not one of those guys, but he is the unquestioned leader of the unit.
“Doug brings the things to the table that we don’t have as a young group, which is experience, the game intelligence that you learn just through the years and really that kind of sense of leadership as well as far as kind of pointing us in the right direction,” said center Travis Frederick, who along with Tyron Smith and Zack Martin could/should be making a trip to Hawaii. “He does a tremendous job at it, and we’re really glad to have him.”
Free is in his eighth year with the Cowboys, a fourth-round draft pick in 2007. Only Witten, Romo and L.P. Ladouceur have longer tenures with the Cowboys than Free.
“I’m not super old, but I’m definitely one of the older guys,” said Free, who turns 31 next month. “Kinda feel like I fill that role to some extent.”
When Free joined the Cowboys, Flozell Adams and Marc Colombo were the offensive line leaders with Colombo taking on the more vocal role.
“I think the main thing to being a leader of the room is you don’t necessarily have to be the best player on the team,” Free said. “It comes with age to some extent and experiences. The guys trust you, knowing what’s going on schedule wise, things of that sort; also talking to the coaches when there are issues that come up. That’s part of being the leader of that group. We’ve got a bunch of grown men in the room. Everybody knows how to get the job done and get it done on the field and off the field. But sometimes you just have to keep things going.”
With an off day last Friday, the line was in working out. Just about every day they meet well before practice to discuss the opponent. During the season, they go to dinner once a week.
Coaches like to say the identity of a team is forged through the offensive line.
“He just has a good presence,” coach Jason Garrett said. “Doug’s just a good football player and has been for a number of years for us. He’s a veteran guy and very much a professional. The way that unit works together and the way they spend time together, on the field, off the field, in the weight room, in the meeting room, it’s just a really solid unit. I think his veteran presence has a lot to do with that. He’s really well respected on our football team and by those offensive linemen. He’s kinda showing them how to go about this and how to be a pro football player and they’ve responded well to that.”