IRVING, Texas (AP) -Texas native Zach Thomas has a family divided by the Cowboys-Redskins rivalry before even playing in it.
Still, Thomas' first taste of the matchup won't be quite as bitter as it could have been for Dallas' leading tackler.
Sunday's game was supposed to be the first Thomas played against Jason Taylor, his teammate with the Miami Dolphins the past 11 seasons and his brother-in-law. But Taylor is out after a rare injury sustained after the Washington defensive end was kicked in the lower left leg.
``I hate to see that Jason is not playing, he's been healthy his whole career,'' Thomas said Thursday. ``But if he has to take a week off, I'm cool with him taking this week off, let him get healthy.''
he hospital early Monday because of a mass of blood near his ankle. He needed surgery to alleviate the problem.
He hasn't missed a game since 1999.
Thomas said he hasn't spoken this week with Taylor or his sister, Katina, and wasn't sure if they were even making the trip.
``I'm sure he probably doesn't want to talk to me,'' Thomas said. ``I don't know if I'll get to see him or not. But it will be awkward when I do see him and he's dressed with another team. After playing with him for 11 years, it will be different.''
Taylor was sporting crutches and an Ace bandage this week, and could miss more than the Dallas game. Taylor and Thomas get another chance to play against each other Nov. 16 when the Cowboys go to Washington.
Thomas grew up in Pampa, about 340 miles from Texas Stadium, and watched Cowboys games with his father and grandfather. He was a standout at Texas Tech and then a seven-time Pro Bowl linebacker during his 12 seasons in Miami.
As part of Bill Parcells' massive overhaul of the Dolphins in the spring, Taylor, a six-time Pro Bowler, was traded to Washington at the start of training camp.
Thomas has had an immediate impact for the Cowboys (3-0), with game-high totals in tackles the first two games, and a team-leading 30 stops so far.
y to run all over the field and get involved with a lot of tackles,'' linebacker Greg Ellis said. ``I'm really impressed with his approach to games. It's really impressive to see a guy who's been playing that long and still out there able to do it at a high level.''
Thomas insists he's still learning the Cowboys' schemes, making the adjustments to playing full-time in a 3-4 defense after being primarily a middle linebacker in 4-3 sets in Miami. He had at least 100 tackles in each of his first 11 seasons with the Dolphins before 52 in five games last year, when he was limited by a concussion and then nagging migraines after his car was rear-ended.
``Once you figure out this defense, you can make plays. There's been so many things I'm learning as I go,'' Thomas said. ``I'm really adjusting, but I'm really learning a lot and I really like the scheme.''
The Cowboys are using the 35-year-old Thomas on first and second downs, primarily in running situations. He is averaging about 30 plays a game.
``We probably could play him more, but I think that is the way to utilize him right now,'' coach Wade Phillips said. ``He played middle linebacker in a 4-3. That's a hard position. This position, you can run to the ball more and are protected more.''
lot.
Jason Witten, the Cowboys' Pro Bowl tight end, has found that out in practice.
``He's still got a lot of plays in him,'' Witten said. ``I've said time and time again when I see him, just throw it to me every time, I can get this guy. Then he gets out there and he makes a play. He has no business making them, but he does and I have a lot of respect for him.''

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