Darnell Dockett Makes 49ers Debut in Win over Cowboys

By now, you've read all about NaVorro Bowman's remarkable preseason return to the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday night.

But you should also take notice to another notable debut that took place in the team's 23-6 home victory over the Dallas Cowboys.

Longtime Arizona Cardinals standout and 49ers rival, Darnell Dockett, made his first game appearance in a red and gold uniform.

"It felt good," the free-agent addition said after he saw action as a nickel pass-rusher. "It was a long time coming."

Dockett's playing time on Dallas' opening three-and-out series was also important to note because it was his first game action since he suffered a season-ending ACL tear exactly 370 days ago.

Suiting up in a preseason game meant a lot to the 12-year veteran.

"I've been out there grinding, (I) missed the offseason, but it felt good to come in and move around a little bit," Dockett said. "I kept it limited, but I'm making strides. I'm glad we all played well on defense. That's the most important thing."

Dallas converted on just 3-of-14 third-down conversions and threw three interceptions against a stingy San Francisco defense. Although Dockett did not record a tackle in his brief appearance, the veteran lineman's presence was noted as he came off the field, by who else, head coach Jim Tomsula.

The first-year NFL coach put his arm around Dockett's shoulder pads and gave him words of encouragement. In turn, Dockett said he appreciated the gesture.

"When you come off a knee injury, mentally, you want to do well," the 6-foot-4, 290-pound lineman said. "You want to get the feel for it, and we've been joking all week about it. He's been very supportive of everything that's going on. I've got a respect for a guy like that. He knows how to take care of his players and let them know, 'Everything is going to be OK.' That's huge. Most coaches don't really care about that stuff. I give a lot of respect to a guy like that."

Dockett's role with the 49ers has been mostly in sub packages. But after hearing the tenured defender discuss his job in San Francisco, Dockett sounds like he's pleased with his change of scenery. Dockett didn't dispel the notion that he's considered as a nickel specialist at this point of his career.

"We've got a lot of depth on D-line," Dockett said. "I'm very fortunate also because that will help me because I'm not a team where I'm playing 60-70-80 plays, trying to win a ball game. We've got so many talented guys. ... We've got a great chemistry going. We've got a great camraderie going."

Dockett added that it was a little odd to be playing with the 49ers for the first time and not against them. Even so, he enjoyed his new home stadium.

"Fans were out there and there was a lot of energy," he said. "It felt a little weird today like, 'Wow, I'm coming out here with a team I've been battling for so long. I'm actually in a uniform, going out there to play.' But any time you come out (of a preseason game) and nobody gets hurt, no matter what the score was, everybody wins."

Dockett knows how the injury feeling can bring someone down.

On Sunday, he experienced the satisfaction of returning from one.

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