IRVING, TX - Questions about the back and hamstring injuries that bothered new (to Dallas) RG…
Signed as a free agent from Green Bay, the 10th-year veteran has been thrust into a leadership role with the Cowboys' offensive line. Larry Allen may be the old man on the line, but Rivera -- revered across the NFL for his intelligence and toughness and work ethic -- already is being looked to as a mentor for the Dallas blockers, despite the fact that he has yet to suit up with his new teammates, working on his conditioning during this weekend's mini-camp after suffering a back injury while running on a treadmill shortly after signing with the Cowboys.
To Rivera, success for an offensive line starts with familiarity. Playing up front is not an occupation in which success can be found simply by showing up for practice and going home.
"I think the key to having a great offensive line is knowing each other, trusting each other," he said. "We need to hang out, spend time together, have a cup of coffee together. When you sit around, trade war stories, you can learn from each other's experiences and benefit from each other's knowledge."
To that end, Rivera said that before the Cowboys take the field in the fall, he wants to take the whole offensive line out to dinner. While describing the damage they might do to the beef inventory at one of the area's steakhouses, Johnson -- who simply has the misfortune of having his locker next to Rivera's -- made the mistake of sitting down. "Al gets to pick up the tab," Rivera said, turning to Johnson. "You were a second-round pick a couple years ago, right?"
Presumably Rivera was kidding about saddling Johnson with the tab. But it's hard to say, because it already is clear that when Rivera speaks, the rest of the offensive linemen listen.
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