Cowboys' Gurode faces Haynesworth for first time since incident

IRVING, Texas -- Plastic surgery fixed the physical scars on Dallas Cowboys center Andre Gurode's forehead after he was cleated in the face by Albert Haynesworth three years ago.

As for any lingering effects from that dirty play, Gurode says there are none as he prepares to face Haynesworth in a regular-season game for the first time since the incident.

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"That situation is behind us. It's something that happened years ago," Gurode said. "He doesn't focus on it. I don't focus on it. We just moved forward and continue to play football."

Gurode needed 30 stitches and was bothered by headaches and blurred vision after the 6-foot-6, 350-pound Haynesworth, then with the Tennessee Titans, kicked him and stomped on his helmet-less face. Gurode didn't even miss a game and Haynesworth was suspended for five -- three games longer than anyone ever had been punished for on-field behavior in NFL history.

Haynesworth is now with the NFC East rival Washington Redskins after receiving a seven-year, $100 million deal last spring. He expects to play Sunday at Dallas even if he's not able to practice because of a sprained left ankle.

It will not be the first time that Gurode and Haynesworth have seen each other, since they were both in the last two Pro Bowls, but this will be the first time to face each other in a game that counts.

"Yeah, we are cool," Haynesworth told Dallas reporters in a conference call Wednesday, without elaborating on conversations between the two.

"If I could go back in time, I wouldn't do that," he said. "Now it was a step in my life, a crossroads. I had to choose what I was going to do. Either go down and let that define me or step up and rewrite history."

Haynesworth has 14.5 sacks the last two seasons and was a starter in both Pro Bowls after having just 9.5 sacks in his first five seasons.

"It's good that he moved past it. I moved past it," said Gurode, a Pro Bowl pick the past three seasons. "He is a great player."

Haynesworth calls Gurode "one of the best centers in the game. ... He has good movement. He is big. He is strong."

Gurode opted against filing criminal charges against Haynesworth, who publicly and privately apologized to the Cowboy in the days after the October 2006 game in Nashville.

Now that they will be on the field together again, Gurode knows there will be plenty of reminders of what happened, from the questions being asked to the video replays sure to be on TV.

"I expected when he signed with the Redskins and we played them that it was going to be brought up," Gurode said. "It's something in the past, and you can't let what happened in the past define who you are today."

While Gurode is healthy and having another standout season, the Cowboys have to make a change on the offensive line for the first time this year after right tackle Marc Colombo broke his left leg and sustained ligament damage in his ankle against the Green Bay Packers last Sunday.

Doug Free, who took over after Colombo was hurt, is expected to make his first career start against the Redskins. Colombo had started the last 57 games.

"The exciting part of it is you've got another guy ready to go," Cowboys offensive line coach Hudson Houck said. "He's got fresh legs. He hasn't been banged around. So he will bring some good things to the table from the standpoint of good feet, knowing what to do. Smart guy, plays hard, stays on blocks. "

The Cowboys had considered moving right guard Leonard Davis outside, but they will keep him at the spot where he has started all 41 of his games and been a two-time Pro Bowler since coming to Dallas before the 2007 season. Davis played both tackle spots during six seasons with the Arizona Cardinals.

"It's probably easier because it's just one move instead of two," Davis said.

Still, it will be a change for Davis, who has never started a game for the Cowboys without Colombo beside him. But he has confidence in Free, a third-year pro from Northern Illinois.

"He actually does better in games than he does practice," Davis said. "Basically since I've been here, Marc's been there. To not have him, it's tough. But we've got a solid, quality backup. Doug's going to do a good job."

Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press

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