Unleashed Cowboys DE Canty ready to be disruptive force

SAN ANTONIO (AP) -Chris Canty emphatically pumped his fist after getting to the quarterback, then celebrated another tackle with a leaping in-air bump with one of his Dallas Cowboys teammates.

There was also a scuffle with a running back.

And this is only training camp.

"I'm an aggressive personality," said Canty, the third-year defensive end. "I live to compete. I like the physical play."

Especially in the Cowboys' restructured 3-4 defense under new coach Wade Phillips. It is a more aggressive blitzing style, far from the somewhat conservative way Bill Parcells used the system, which sometimes shackled the 6-foot-7, 299-pound Canty.

"Oh man, he's really playing well," linebacker Bradie James said. "He's getting in the backfield, and he's a big man. ... We have a new scheme that allows these guys to move and get in the backfield. So these guys are very excited."

Despite starting every game last season, Canty had only one sack and didn't have a tackle for a loss. He did tie for the team lead with seven quarterback pressures.

In Parcells' version of the 3-4, the defensive ends played mostly technique - forced to read and react rather than just attack. That often left them stuck on the line of scrimmage dealing with offensive tackles or tight ends. Marcus Spears, the other starting end, also had only one sack.

Canty and Spears expect to do so much more in Phillips' scheme.

"The coaches are putting us in position and give us opportunities to do that," Canty said.

"Chris is a really strong disruptive force," Phillips said. "He'll go in there and just knock two people out of the way and make a play. ... We're going to try to use him more upfield and into people, and knock people back. He's got some natural skills there."

Early in training camp, the excitable Canty got into a scuffle with running back Julius Jones at the end of a play.

"Those are love taps. That wasn't even a fight. We do it for TV," Canty said with a laugh. "It's just us being competitive, just aggressive."

The first chance to hit somebody else is Thursday night when the Cowboys play their preseason opener at home against the Super Bowl champion Indianapolis Colts.

When the Cowboys took Canty in the fourth round of the 2005 draft, some considered him a risk even that low - a year after he had been projected to have first-round talent.

Canty led ACC defensive linemen in tackles as a sophomore and junior at Virginia before he tore ligaments in his left knee in the fourth game of his senior season.

Then while rehabilitating his knee and preparing for a pre-draft combine, Canty sustained a gruesome eye injury. He was in an Arizona nightclub when a fight broke out across the room and a thrown beer bottle slammed into his face and detached his left retina.

Virginia coach Al Groh, who had worked in the past with Parcells, assured the Cowboys of Canty's character, work ethic and how the end fit in a three-man defensive front.

The chance the Cowboys took on Canty two years ago could start paying off now.

With two seasons of NFL experience and a different approach in the Cowboys' defensive style, Canty can't hide his excitement.

"I'm more comfortable being in game mode now," he said. "I think it will be exciting for me to go out there on the field and just really go out and play, get back to just playing the game. ... I think I've definitely matured as a player with my experience and my understanding of the game."

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