IRVING, Texas – Most of the buzz around the Cowboys’ practice facility this week has been about the addition of 36-year-old offensive linemen who missed all of training camp.
What you haven’t heard a lot about is the 22-year-old rookie offensive lineman who hasn’t missed a snap of training camp.
That’s a good sign for Travis Frederick, who will start at center when the Cowboys open the season Sunday night against the Giants.
“I’m excited,” said Frederick. “We’ve already played at home, obviously it was a preseason game. It’s probably going to be a little bit bigger against the Giants, I’m sure. I’ve played in big crowds before, so I’m not really worried about it. For me it’s more about the game, it’s not about who’s watching.”
Lots of people were watching on draft day when the Cowboys took Frederick with the 31st overall pick. More than one draft expert thought the Cowboys could have easily gotten the former Wisconsin standout in the second or even third round.
But since the day he arrived at his first rookie camp, Frederick has been installed as the starting center. With all the questions, concerns and commotion about the offensive line, he hasn’t been one of them.
“When you think about offensive linemen transitioning to the NFL, it’s a hard transition,” Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said. “We knew he was really smart. You know that talking to him, you know that watching him play, you know that talking to people. But for him to be able come in and handle all the stuff he’s handled, it’s been impressive.”
Frederick has taken some snaps at guard. The Cowboys drafted him with the thought that he could play there if that allowed them to put their best five linemen on the field.
But in recent weeks while right tackle Doug Free took his first snaps at right guard and Mackenzy Bernadeau was flipped to left guard, the notion of switching Frederick hasn’t come up. That’s a testament to the value he’s given the Cowboys at center so far.
“He’s a smart, tough guy,” Garrett said. “He’s big, he’s physical. He understands the game. He has position flex. He comes from a great program. They’re all those things we liked about him.”
Not switching back and forth has also allowed Frederick to concentrate on playing center, the position usually charged with making calls at the line of scrimmage.
“I did get a chance to play guard, which I’m thankful for in case something happens and I need to play guard,” Frederick said. “It also helps you at center to be able to know what the guard’s doing and how much help the guard needs, things like that.”
Part of Frederick’s time this week has been spent acclimating Brian Waters, the 36-year-old signed this week, to the Cowboys’ offense. That’s a switch for Frederick, who has been soaking up knowledge from the veteran linemen since his arrival.
With the season opener drawing near, the bulk of Frederick’s learning will now come from actual game experience.
“It’s a huge thing, just as much as I’ve leaned on the vets to teach the install and teach me all the little, tiny things about what I should be doing on this play or this play,” Frederick said. “Now the focus just changes from learning the Dallas offense to really game-planning against the Giants.” When Frederick takes the field Sunday night, the transition will be signified by his jersey number. Instead of the 70 he wore in preseason, Frederick will be wearing 72, his old number from college and high school.
As for the bushy, Duck Dynasty-length beard he wore on draft day? Well, that may not be coming back.
“I’ll probably keep it trimmed up,” Frederick said. “It’s pretty hot down here.”