With all the talk this offseason about NFL players who really don't know how to handle downtime, it's good to catch up with a couple of guys who really get it -- on and off the field. Dallas Cowboys defensive end DeMarcus Ware and Denver Broncos receiver Wes Welker are two such individuals, and Shutdown Corner talked with them recently as they sought to promote the Depend Player Challenge -- an interesting promotion for a very good cause. Ware and Welker were looking to curry votes from fans, and Depend awarded the player with the most votes with a $50,000 donation in his name to The V Foundation for Cancer Research, and the runner up a $25,000 donation as a participation prize. Both donations will be used to fund prostate cancer research. Welker won the battle, but you can still visit TheGreatAmericanTryOn.com to learn more and see how Wes and DeMarcus are helping to raise awareness.
Shutdown Corner: For both of you guys -- this is a very interesting campaign you're in, and you were both in it last year, as well. It's kind of funny in a way, and that's the point, but it's obviously for a very serious and important cause. Why has this been so important to each of you?
Welker: I think it's important as far as being able to give back. There's so much negativity going in the NFL; to do something positive ... DeMarcus and I did the Depend Player Challenge last year, and we're doing the challenge this year to get votes between each other, and we're really just creating awareness for the V Foundation. The donations to it ... we're really just trying to do something positive with it.
Ware: I think, for myself, when you think about the people and this epidemic, with one in six guys ... so many people with so much going on in their lives, and they're not taking it lightly. Having me, Clay Matthews, and Wes with the Great American Try-on, we're trying to shed some light on it and raise awareness to the world. That was a big thing for me. I have a couple of friends and relatives who have prostate cancer, so it hits home a little bit. I know what they're going through, so we just want them to know that you can be comfortable with it, and anything we can do ... like Wes said, anything we can do in the community to help out is what we're trying to do.
SC: In the NFL, people get needled all the time. Have you had teammates or opponents razz you about this, or have you been surprised by the positive and meaningful response?
Ware: Yeah -- for me, I haven't gotten one guy who's come up to me and said, 'Man, why are you wearing Depend?' I even have them in my locker when I'm doing interviews, and people don't even dare touch it. I don't know if it's the way I am, or the reputation of the product, but people understand what we're doing, and it's just for a good cause.
Welker: The same thing for me. Guys do respect the cause and what we're doing. Very rarely would you hear anyone give you a hard time about it. There is a certain amount of respect for what we're doing, and what the brand's about.
SC: You guys are in new and different situations going into this season -- Wes, you're obviously in a very different situation going from the Patriots to the Broncos and everything involved in that. What has been the biggest change for you so far?
Welker: The main thing for me is just the terminology. It's just not the same anymore. We run a lot of the same plays, but we'll call it something different. So, just getting on the same page with Peyton, and the coaches, and my new teammates. Getting moved in, and different things like that. There's been a lot of change going on, and I'm just trying to get comfortable with everything. It's kinda like being a rookie all over again, and I've enjoyed the challenge of all that. I'm really looking forward to it.
SC: You've caught passes from the two guys who may go down at the two best quarterbacks in NFL history. When it comes to quarterbacks who are that great, what are the common denominators?
Welker: Well, they prepare like no other. They work as hard as anybody, and they're great leaders. They keep everybody accountable for everything they do, on and off the field, and they really just kind of keep everything in line. You've got to have that in a locker room, and they do a great job of that.
SC: DeMarcus, you're moving from a defense that was primarily a 3-4 to a bunch of new 4-3 looks under new defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin. The lines are kind of blurred in today's NFL because of all the sub packages, but how do you think the differences might change your game?
Ware: I think people are overplaying it. I mean, you're going to have adjustments going from a 3-4 to a 4-3, but there aren't as many moving parts with your linebackers, so it's a little easier playing a 4-3. I'm still playing outside contain and rushing the passer, and now, I'm just putting my hand in the dirt. I mean, there's really no big difference -- there may be for some of the interior guys and the linebackers, but going from outside linebacker to defensive end, you're doing the same thing.
SC: You've got some really special players on that Dallas defense that may not get the recognition they deserve. What can you tell us about DE Anthony Spencer, DT Jason Hatcher, and ILB Sean Lee?
Ware: When you talk about a guy like Sean Lee ... before he got hurt, I think he had something like three interceptions, and he was among the top two in tackles in the NFL. He's one of those MIKE linebackers that leads the defense. Jason Hatcher? He was #2 behind J.J. Watt [among interior linemen] in quarterback pressures last year. And Anthony Spencer -- he had a Pro Bowl year last year, so you can underrate a guy all you want to, but when you look at what they stand for, that's when you get down to how you judge a guy.
SC: Talking with Wes about quarterbacks, DeMarcus -- everyone knows who your quarterback is. With that new contract, and the increased expectations that come with it, where do you see Tony Romo at this point in his career? How have you seen him grow in the last couple of years?
Ware: When you talk about being consistent, I think Romo has been consistent year after year. But when you talk about how many playoff wins he's had, there haven't been that many. That's what's going to really take him to the next level. He's got a nice deal, he's solidified with the team, so now it's like, 'Okay, let's go get those playoff wins, and these Super Bowls.' That's how the Cowboys should be, and how they've always been. It's time for a turnaround.
SC: This one is for both of you. And Wes, without asking specifically about your former teammate, there's been a lot of really bad things about the NFL in the news this offseason. You see what seems to be a larger number of players unable to deal with this life and what it can become. You both have managed to stay in the spotlight for years with exemplary lives on and off the field. For young players who might want this advice, what would you tell them about how to keep it all together?
Ware: I think about the positive things that me and Wes are doing in the community, and you've got to keep doing that. It gets pushed back in the shadows, because people want to see the bad things when they're put out there. You learn from what those guys did and you don't do them, but also, keep doing what you're doing. Eventually, what you do that is good will come into the light.
Welker: You're under a microscope. With cell phones and cameras and everything else, it's hard to really go anywhere and do anything -- just go to dinner sometimes. You have to be really careful, and surround yourself with good people, and put yourself in the right situations. You really need to plan your nights out on the town, or whatever, so that you're not putting yourself in any kind of bad situations.