FRISCO, Texas — Cowboys Head Coach Mike McCarthy had some nice things to say Thursday, about linebacker Leighton Vander Esch.
"He's top notch in every category when it comes to preparing for an upcoming football season," McCarthy said. "So, I think just the course that he's on, I think everything that's in front of him will be attainable."
But that doesn't change the fact that Dallas chose to forgo Vander Esch's fifth year option, meaning he'll be a free agent after this season.
"That was fully their decision," Vander Esch said. "I didn't have any control over that. So, that's what they wanted to do, and it is what it is."
Clearly, he isn't thrilled with their decision, but don't expect him to say he's using that as fuel.
"I've always been motivated," he said. "I didn't have to use that to be motivated to play better, or to work harder."
But if Vander Esch is to prove that the Cowboys were wrong about him, he has to stay healthy and produce this year. And he seems optimistic about his chances to do so, playing in new defensive coordinator Dan Quinn's system.
"Things are cut and dry," Vander Esch said. "I mean, his intensity and his involvement is a total game-changer. I have so much respect for him already, and I love a coach like that."
And what Vander Esch probably loves most is how Quinn is going to utilize him.
"I'm going back to pretty much my old role from the first two years," Vander Esch said. "Which, I think, is what is should've been, last year."
It could be heard in his voice, he's not happy with how he was used last season. But now, he's sees changes coming.
"I think we're going in the right direction, for sure," he said. "It's very encouraging, and I'm just excited to see what we can do."