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Cowboys’ Spencer sees his role expand

– Since he plays in Dallas, Anthony Spencer doesn’t get the opportunity to play close to home often. In fact, counting the Cowboys’ visit to Cincinnati today, the Bishop Luers product has played close to home only twice in the NFL.

The only other time the Fort Wayne native has played within driving distance of his hometown was in December 2010 when Dallas played at Indianapolis. But even though about 10 friends and family will be making the three-hour drive to Paul Brown Stadium for today’s tilt, he is treating it like any other game.

“I try not to make it any different. I try to make every game the same and try not to worry about who I’m playing in front of or where we’re playing,” Spencer said after practice Wednesday. “So I’m trying not to make it a big deal. The only thing different is I’ve got to get more tickets than I do down here.”

Now in his sixth NFL season, the former Purdue linebacker is second on the Cowboys in tackles (65) and sacks (6.5). He’s performing well in a season where he’s on a one-year deal after accepting Dallas’ franchise tag during the offseason for $8.856 million. His future with the Cowboys is a hot topic but one he doesn’t want to discuss until the season is over.

“It’s gone pretty well. We’re not really where we want to be as a team, but individually I can’t complain,” Spencer said. “This is where I want to be at. I took the franchise tag because I wanted to be here and with no worries. Hopefully it all works out.”

Dallas linebackers coach Matt Eberflus is in his second season working with this talented 28-year-old and likes how he has stepped up this year.

“He just keeps improving. He’s got great work ethic,” Eberflus said. “He’s got competitive fire, and he’s real physical and real smart. When you have all those tools together along with a guy that wants to work hard and get better at it, he’s going to continue to improve.”

One way his starter at left outside linebacker has continued to improve is by handling all the defensive calls for the last few weeks.

Sean Lee held that role to start the season but suffered a season-ending toe injury in October, and Bruce Carter, who replaced Lee, was sidelined for the season in early November with an elbow injury.

“He’s embraced the role. He understands the importance of communication in the defense,” Eberflus said. “He’s just taken off with it, and I think he’s going to do an outstanding job.”

It’s a role Spencer is not only embracing but enjoying. “I like it. I enjoy it. I like being the play caller. I like being in front of the defense,” he said.

Dallas is 6-6 and still in the mix for an NFC wild card berth while the Bengals are 7-5 and also in the mix in the AFC. But Spencer isn’t too concerned with where the Cowboys sit in the playoff picture or what other teams are doing.

Instead, he’s more focused on doing all he can to ensure Dallas wins today in the Queen City.

“Yeah, we’re not worried about that. We know if we win the games we need to win we’re going to be where we need to be,” Spencer said. “We’re just worried about this one game.”

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