Backup safety Danny McCray said his goal this year was to make the Pro Bowl on special teams.
Now, he’s not going to be playing so much special teams. He has to play more safety in the absence of Barry Church, who is out for the season with a torn Achilles.
“I’ve been playing special teams since I’ve been here, and I won’t say maximized my opportunities there, but I think I’ve done a pretty good job there,” he said. “My goal coming into the season was to get better there, try to make the Pro Bowl there. But based on what’s happened now, I’m getting a chance to play safety, which is my true defensive position. The opportunity is great. I’ve just got to go out there and maximize it.”
McCray, a third-year player out of LSU, made the Cowboys as an undrafted player in 2010.
He has a reputation as a good run defender. Now he has to prove he can cover.
“As a football player, you want to improve on something every time,” he said. “I don’t really know any perfect player, some players who don’t have anything to work on. Even the greatest have something to work on. As I’m out there during the week, those weaknesses you just spoke of, that’s what I’ll be working on. So I can get better and take it to the field and try to be a better player.”
Veteran starter Gerald Sensabaugh said he’s confident McCray will make the most of his chance, as did Church, also an undrafted free agent who made the team three years ago.
“They’re both good players. The thing about them, they work hard, they take pride in their work, they always want to stay, they always want to know what to do,” he said. “They hustle. They’re always going to be around the football. Like I told Danny today, ‘Man, this is going to be a great opportunity.’ It’s really bad what happened to Barry Church – he’s a great player, we lost a warrior. But at the same time, this is a great opportunity for Danny to go and show the league that he can be a starter as well as a great special teams player. I’m sure he’s going to embrace this role and go out here and play hard. We’ll see what he gives us. I’m looking forward to seeing his progress and looking forward to seeing him become a great safety in this league.”
McCray said Church has been supportive.
“I’ve talked to him every day since,” McCray said. “He texted me early this morning and told me go out there and make sure I do good at the spot. I told him, ‘Hey, man, I’ll be over after and we’ll talk about it and see if you can tell me a couple of things about playing the safety position.’ It was sad, but having him there to support me, knowing that he’s happy for me to be here, even under the circumstances, is great.”
Is special teams work over for McCray, then?
Maybe not entirely.
“From what I know, I’ll be playing a couple of different positions,” he said. “Maybe not the full-speed sprint, 80, 90 yards each play. But I don’t think that I’ll be off of the special teams. That is my role. That was my role before I came and before this happened. I don’t think that will fully change.”
-- Carlos Mendez