It was just like old times for Cowboys linebacker Dan Connnor.
Connor signed with the Cowboys in the off-season after four seasons in Carolina. He spent all of last season defending Cam Newton in practice.
"Most of those guys I know very well," Connor said. "It felt kind of like practice where it’s Panther on Panther. I know Coach [Ron] Rivera likes to do that and compete, so it was similar to that experience. That had to help and clue me in a little bit on what to expect."
The Cowboys signed Connor to a two-year, $6.5 million deal in the off-season that included $2.7 million to sign. They brought him in to compete with Bruce Carter, but Carter won the job in training camp.
Connor played only 43 defensive plays in the first five games."My role has been so different year to year," said Connor, who played 108 special teams plays the first five games. "Even with Carolina, my first year and my second year, I was a special teams guy, a core special teams guy and the next two years, I was the starter. In the NFL, your role changes every single year, and you just want to be prepared to go in there, and you want to do your part on special teams and just always be ready to go. It’s a long season."
Sean Lee's injury gave Connor his first extended playing time in Dallas. Lee was injured on a third-quarter running play when he sprained the big toe on his right foot.
"I thought Dan Connor did a great job stepping up today," Lee said. "He stepped into a position he doesn’t play a lot and almost had an interception and made some tackles. He did a really good job."
Connor played Lee’s WILL linebacker, giving him plenty of chances to make plays against his former team. He did just that with two tackles and a near interception.
“That WILL is kind of a different animal than the MIKE,’ ” Connor said. “Sean makes a ton of plays. Going in there, it’s hard to match that. I was just trying to do my best to try to live up to it.”
Connor had two hands on a Newton pas in the fourth quarter but couldn't hold on.
"They ran that same play where they faked that run to try to draw you in, and throw it one on one," Connor said. "I read it quick, had two hands on it and almost made the catch. A little frustrating. You want that one back."
-- Charean Williams