LONDON — On Oct. 12 in Seattle, Cowboys right tackle Doug Free left the game late in the fourth quarter with a broken right foot. Backup tackle Jeremy Parnell spelled Free on the game-winning drive, helping spring running back DeMarco Murray for a 15-yard rushing touchdown.
Two weeks later on Monday Night Football at home against Washington, left guard Ronald Leary’s groin pull forced him out of the game and reserve guard Mackenzy Bernadeau in late in the fourth quarter. Dallas would lose 20-17 in overtime, and then drop the next week in AT&T Stadium hosting Arizona.
Center Travis Frederick is glad to have Leary and Free back on the practice field for the past two days at Allianz Park.
"You know, it’s always good to have the starters back in," Frederick said.
Rookie right guard Zack Martin also was most pleased to see Free and Leary return.
"It’s great to see them back, said Martin. "You know, it’s great to get these guys back and get these guys rolling."
Whether still youngsters or part of a unit that among all in the game functions as one, both Martin and Frederick won’t let their teammates, Parnell and Bernadeau, be thrown under the bus.
"Obviously, we had tons of confidence in anyone that’s out there," Martin said.
Said Frederick: "I think that both Jeremy [Parnell] and [Mackenzy Bernadeau] did a tremendous job when they were in. And if they do play this week, they’re also going to do a good job. It’s great to have seven starters on your offensive line — guys that can really play anywhere."
With Free and Leary, the Cowboys amassed a 5-1 record, surrendering only 10 sacks and plowing the way for Murray to tie Jim Brown’s consecutive 100-yard game streak to start the season. Without the starters in the lineup, Dallas went 1-2 down the stretch, gave up 8 sacks, and allowed Tony Romo to get miss a game with two fractured transverse process in his back.
Even if Bernadeau and Parnell are considered starting quality, the numbers bear out that Dallas plays better with Leary and Free back in the lineup.