Ware remembers last trip to New Orleans

IRVING, Texas -- The last time the Dallas Cowboys visited the New Orleans Saints was 2009 and there was this speculation about DeMarcus Ware.

In a loss to San Diego, Ware was carried off the field at what was then-Cowboys Stadium on a stretcher. He gave a thumbs up sign as he was wheeled off the field because of a neck injury.

Ware wasn't expected to play the following week against the Saints. Ware did play that night in the Superdome, getting two sacks and three quarterback pressures in a backup role in the Cowboys' victory against the then-undefeated Saints.

"I didn’t think I was going to play for a long time," Ware said of the neck injury he suffered. "Sometimes when you go in certain places and you get certain vibes or you feel a certain way that you can do it, and getting confidence from your teammates that you can get out and play, that’s the way I felt and I didn’t want to let them down."

In an odd twist, the Cowboys return to the dome on Sunday night. This time nobody is undefeated, but Ware is returning, again, from injury. He played 134 consecutive games before a thigh injury knocked him out the past four games.

Ware is expected to start at defensive end on Sunday night.

"I think how monumental that game was," Ware said in reflecting back to the 2009 game. "It was a big game for us and it was one of those turnaround-season games for us. It was one of those types of games where it’s a blessing to be out here again from what I went through."

The Cowboys were mired in a two-game losing streak and it seemed the entire world was crashing around them. But the Cowboys beat the Saints that night and finished the season with a three-game win streak, including shutting out the final two regular-season opponents.

The Cowboys won the first postseason game of Ware's career when they beat the Philadelphia Eagles in a wild-card game, the first postseason game at the new stadium in Arlington. It also marked the first playoff victory for the Cowboys since the 1996 season. But the Cowboys were trashed by the Minnesota Vikings in the divisional round.

The hopes were up after 2009, but the Cowboys have missed the postseason the past three seasons.

Which brings us to Sunday night and Ware again.

"I think any NFC game is always a big game," Ware said. "Sort of like a double-edged sword, and this team can bite you, so you got to get that win."