SAN DIEGO In an ideal situation, the Cowboys' preseason opener in San Diego Thursday night would be backup quarterback Brandon Weeden's only start of the year.

But with a 34-year-old starting quarterback coming off his second back surgery, the Dallas situation is anything but ideal. So Weeden's work against the Chargers will be vital.

'He just needs to take snaps,' said Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett. 'And you see him grow when he gets an opportunity to take snaps, make mistakes, make plays, learn from it all.'

Weeden turns 31 in October, but he's still a really young quarterback in NFL terms. He spent five seasons in pro baseball before becoming the Browns' first-round pick two years ago.

'I'm still seeing things for the first time, and that kind of gets lost in translation because of my age,' Weeden said. 'This league, it's a big transition coming from college football I think, especially the system I played in. It's just a lot different.'

Cowboys tight end Jason Witten sees a quarterback doing all he can to catch on. 'I mean, you have to work with him on it,, but I thought he's done a great job of speeding up that learning curve ... obviously he's got a lot of talent.'

Talent never has been the problem for Weeden. The former Oklahoma State star has a strong arm, but he couldn't put it all together in a difficult situation in Cleveland.

So as he begins this new chapter in the Cowboys' preseason opener in San Diego, Weeden says he's focusing on the basics.

'Just go out and function and communicate,' he said. 'I think sometimes when you get jacked up it's hard. Sometimes you get a little spastic.. you need to over-communicate, but you don't communicate well enough, and that's going to be my main focus on Thursday night.'

So while preseason game No. 1 one may not be terribly exciting for you, it's a different story when you're the backup quarterback.


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