IRVING, Texas -- Dallas Cowboys linebacker DeMarcus Ware was back at practice Thursday, though the team was unclear about his status for Saturday night's game at New Orleans less than one week after he strained his neck in a scary headfirst collision.
On the practice report issued by the Cowboys, Ware was listed as not participating even though he was involved in some parts of the 90-minute, padless session that resembled a walkthrough. The team also didn't indicate Ware's status for the game against the Saints since the NFL doesn't require that until Friday.
Ware, who was taken off the field on a stretcher and briefly hospitalized after being hurt last weekend against the San Diego Chargers, wasn't available to comment Thursday. The three-time Pro Bowl linebacker said earlier this week that he wants to play against the undefeated Saints, the NFL's most productive offense.
"He is a competitor. I'm pretty sure if he felt well enough to go, he would," Cowboys defensive end Marcus Spears said of Ware. "I'm guessing it wasn't bad enough to keep him out. He was able to participate and run around (at practice)."
Ware has never missed a game, starting all 77 regular-season games since he was the 11th overall pick in 2005.
In October, Ware agreed to a six-year, $78 million contract extension through the 2015 season, including a $20 million signing bonus. Ware, 27, was in the final year of the contract that he signed as a rookie.
After leading the NFL with 20 sacks last season, Ware has nine this year to push his career total to 62.5. He needs only one more sack for his fourth consecutive 10-sack season. The only Dallas player to do that was George Andrie from 1964 to 1967, although sacks weren't official then.
Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo said it was nice to see Ware back on the field Thursday.
"You always want to make sure that he is going to be OK, and from the sound of things, he is improving," Romo said. "I told him, I was like, 'You've got to do obviously the right thing for your health, but you're going to play.' If he can play, obviously that's going to help us."
Cowboys coach Wade Phillips, who didn't talk with reporters after practice, said Wednesday that Ware still could play against the Saints even if he didn't work out Thursday.
"Just talking to him, not really getting specific with him, he seems to be getting better every day," linebacker Keith Brooking said Thursday. "He's a freak of nature, man. He would never have to work out, lift a weight or practice for the rest of his career and average 15 to 20 sacks a year, so he's fine."
Brooking said Ware knows the defense, so missing practice "is not going to affect him at all." Ware has attended meetings and taken part in other walkthrough sessions this week.