The Cowboys got younger in the offensive line with Andre Gurode's release. They also got less experienced. They are not worried.
"Andre, obviously, had the knee injury toward the end of the off-season," Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said. "You can make an argument that the lockout and us not being around Andre and the rest of our players is a little bit of a factor in this thing. We didn't get a chance to see him until we went to San Antonio. He did have surgery in June. It took him a couple of weeks in training camp to start playing football again.
"The younger guys stepped in there, and they did a nice job taking advantage of their opportunity. Andre came back and you factored in coming off the injury, and the business part of it and how well the younger guys were doing. We felt it was the right decision."
It was partly a business decision. Gurode, 32, was scheduled to make $5.5 million in base salary. He now will count $1.7 million against the 2011 cap in dead money, and another $1.7 million against the 2012 cap, so the Cowboys saved money this season with his release. Costa will make $450,000 and count $454,000 against the cap.
But it was more than that, too. Costa won the job while Gurode was out for 17 days rehabbing a knee injury. Though Costa sprained the posterior cruciate ligament in his right knee last week, the Cowboys expect him to be ready for the Sept. 11 season opener.
"We have liked Phil right from the start," Garrett said. "He came in as a free agent rookie and just made a real positive impression from Day 1. He took charge of it, showed he had some position flex at center and guard. He was a little undersized guy. That was the reason he wasn't drafted, but if you looked at him as a football player, you liked what you saw. He transitioned really easily quickly and smoothly to play the offensive line position for us last year. He was a backup in that role and got a few snaps. But he stepped in. It didn't seem to big for him. He handled himself well.
"Now his health status, we feel confident he will be back. The rehab early on has gone well. We hope he will be better and better toward the end of this week and be able to practice next week."
Gurode made five Pro Bowls and started 122 games in nine seasons with the Cowboys. Costa was an undrafted free agent in 2010. He played in four games with one start last season.
"We are evaluating the player, not the name on the back," tight end Jason Witten said. "Andre was a good player for a long time. We all know it's a business. We have to keep going with it."
The Cowboys have completely turned over their starting offensive line from last season, with only left tackle Doug Free playing the same position he played a year ago. Dallas released right tackle Marc Colombo and right guard Leonard Davis in salary-cap moves before training camp.
The Cowboys will start two rookies in their line -- seventh-round pick Bill Nagy at left guard and first-round pick Tyron Smith at right tackle -- as well as Costa. Veteran Kyle Kosier has moved from left guard to right guard.
"It could be troubling at times with guys who haven't had a lot of experience," Free said. "But I mean, it could be a good thing, too, get some new blood and stuff like that. Let's see what happens. We're just going to have to go with what we've got and make the best of it."
-- Charean Williams