"It's like the Civil War,'' says Cowboys rookie pass-rusher Victor Butler. "Brother-against-brother, best-friend-against-best-friend, and all that. It's something that I'm used to, the rivalry thing, and it's one of the really fun things about playing football.''
And I'm officially confused. I'm trying to talk to Butler about his potential role in the upcoming Thanksgiving meeting between the Raiders and the Cowboys. So. ... what rivalry? And how did the Union and the Confederacy get dragged into this?
"You know, ‘The Civil War!''' says an incredulous Butler. "Oregon State vs. Oregon!''
"And for me, playing the Raiders is going to be a repeat of The Civil War because I've got so many friends on that team.''
OK. Gotcha. It makes sense now. And it also makes sense to keep an eye on Butler in this game ... and he and I will tell you why:
"The times when I'm getting snaps,'' says the 6-2, 245-pound backup, "are a combination of when somebody needs a break; you know, just to keep everybody fresh ... and sometimes, because there's a certain spot in the game, or a certain play or matchup, that might be a good fit for me. Third-and-long in the Nickel, that's a good fit.''
This week would seem to be a potential cornucopia of those situations, if only because of the fact that Dallas is playing its traditional two-games-in-five-days doubleheader, with the unavoidable wear and tear possibly necessitating more of the "freshness'' that Victor Butler brings. If there was ever a time to rotate in a guy with young, springy legs and a full tank to propel the motor, two-games-in-a-week might be that time.
This year, Butler has been a Human Highlight Film of sorts. ... though the reel would only qualify as a "short film.'' He pops into games in limited moments but he does pop. ... with two important sacks in a Week 3 win over Carolina, with the critical shoelace tackle of Donovan McNabb in Philadelphia in a win on Nov. 8, and in last Sunday's 7-6 win over the Redskins with a huge third-down tackle of Rock Cartwright to plug up a Washington possession that ended in a 50-yard field-goal miss.
"I'm just trying to make the most of my opportunities and learn as I go,'' Butler says.
He's learning from watching tons of film. I asked him who he watches, which pass-rushers he borrows from and what he gleans from each of them.
*Elvis Dumervil, Denver - "He finds ways to use leverage to his advantage.''
*James Harrison, Pittsburgh - "I think physically, he is similar to me. And he's got that motor.''
*Dwight Freeney, Indianapolis - "The way he gets off the line and that spin move of his.''
*And of course, DeMarcus Ware, his Dallas teammate - "If you watch closely on the sideline, you see us talking constantly, before the game, during the game, even after the game, trying to discuss what we see, what the other team is doing, what there is to learn.''
Ware is obviously an outstanding role model, a guy who had 20 sacks a season ago when Dallas led the NFL in that category with 59. This season, the Cowboys are ranked eighth in the NFL in sacks with 25, and everyone is getting into the act. Linebacker Keith Brooking (not especially a sack artist during his years in Atlanta) has three. Anthony Spencer is oh-so-close to putting up numbers. Ware has seven. Nose tackle Jay Ratliff, playing a position that isn't usually a sack-source, has four. And Butler - a sack specialist during his junior and senior seasons at Oregon State -- is contributing with his three sacks. ...
"I need some bragging rights this week,'' Butler says. "On the Raiders, (first-round rookie receiver) Darrius Heyward-Bey and (practice-squad linebacker) Slade Norris are two of my best friends. You can't lose to your best friends or you never hear the end of it.''
OK. Gotcha. Cowboys vs. Raiders ... The Civil War.