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Sullivan: Random Thoughts From Raiders-Cowboys Practice

Posted Aug 13, 2014


OXNARD, Calif. - Some of the thoughts that run through an oversized, bald head:

  • This Raiders-Cowboys dual practice wasn’t the best of ideas. Makes sense, wanting to compete against other teams, but there are certain rules in life and right up there is when a small army of police (there were various reports how many, one estimate was as high as 95) is needed for a football practice, how about making other arrangements. Am guessing they could have been used elsewhere. Been there for a week and haven’t seen more than a few police, so this was quite different.
  • The increased security was related to rival Ventura County gangs, one of which wears Raiders apparel, the other Cowboys. Seem to go somewhat smoothly outside of one fan swinging a helmet at Cowboys cornerback B.W. Webb.
  • There were three on-field scuffles, not quite worthy of being called fights per say. These are to be expected when teams practice together, not much news worthy there. However, one of the singular highlights of my life occurred during the first one.
  • There are two adjacent fields at the facility, and about 20 people, VIPs, were seated in chairs behind one of the end zones. Among them was Hall of Fame manager Tommy Lasorda, who turns 87 in September, but still has some weight on him.
  • Anyhow, on the other field, on the far sideline no less, is where the first altercation broke out and all the players started running toward one another to break it up. As this is taking place, has to be 70 yards from Lasorda, but sure enough he stands up and takes a few steps toward the other field. Not sure if he wanted to a better view or it’s just habit from bench-clearing incidents during baseball games. Either way, it was highly entertaining. He was moving pretty well, too. It was quickly broken up and Lasorda returned to his seat.
  • Lance Dunbar looks even quicker than last year. Cowboys were lining him up in the slot a few plays, too, and he caught one ball and just exploded on a little slant. There are so many ways Scott Linehan can use him. Definitely want to limit his snaps and touches, for obvious reasons, but 8-10 times a game, he should be fun to watch. Seems like I find myself typing this next part often: Just needs to stay healthy.
  • Don’t know a ton about Kenneth Boatright, the defensive end the Cowboys signed on Aug. 1, but he just keeps making plays. Like all the time. Definitely the surprise of camp for me. Can’t believe the Seahawks let him go. Have heard a few people in Oxnard drop the George Selvie comparison in terms of a guy coming out of nowhere, off-the-street, and making a real impact. Rod Marinelli loves having an eight-man rotation with his defensive linemen and at this point, I can’t imagine Boatright not being among that group.
  • So I told Nate Newton the other day that I enjoyed the Sports Illustrated cover story on him in its “Where Are They Now?” issue. He said, “I didn’t read it.” We went back and forth for a few minutes, as just couldn’t believe that he didn’t read it, but in the end, he convinced me, saying, “I know what I said, so why do I have to read it?” He also was walking the sideline during the Raiders-Cowboys practice and upon seeing a young kid, maybe two, wearing a Raiders cap, he said, “Youngster, you’re off to a bad start in life.” Even the Raiders fans laughed at that one.
  • Oakland’s first-round pick, linebacker Khalil Mack, was dominating just about anyone he was up against in one-on-one drills, including Tyron Smith. That just doesn’t happen. Smith has been manhandling everyone for weeks, but Mack did a nice job with him. Kid is going to be special. Heck, both of them.
  • Speaking of Smith, someone said aloud earlier Tuesday that Travis Frederick, Zack Martin and Smith are all 23. That just kind of floored me. I knew Smith was ridiculously young, but he has three years experience, is already a Pro Bowl selection and he’s the same age as many NFL rookies.
  • On my life, give Pro Football Hall of Famer Larry Allen a month to workout and he could start for an NFL team. Looks fantastic.
  • So I’m walking through the parking lot early Sunday morning at the team headquarters in Oxnard and who is walking toward me headed for the weight room but Dez Bryant. The team had the morning off. No meetings, no nothing. He’s having a stellar camp, just looks explosive, and he’s great interacting with the fans, signs autographs. Wish more players signed really, these fans are there watching practice. To steal Allen Iverson’s quote, “Not no game, we’re talking about practice.”
  • Joseph Randle for the second straight camp wins the award for signing the most. He’s amazing. Also watched Jason Garrett on Sunday pose for what seemed like 200 photos and selfies (that’s word now, right?). Literally waited until there were no requests left. He’s really nothing like the robotic image many have portrayed. That whole thing kind of annoys me, but it is what it is.
  • When practice ends, every single player, all 89 of them walk off the field to the locker room. Except for Jason Witten. He jogs, almost closer to a run than a jog. This is his 12th season and he runs off the field every single time. If a reporter stops him, he talks and then runs off. He’ll often stop and sign for fans, Witten’s one of the top signers on the team, then sure enough, he’ll turn and start running.
  • Anthony Spencer did some resistance change-of-direction late in practice, and looked quite spry. That’s a fun word to say and type. Spry. I’m not sure he’s going to play Week 1, but he’s going to play in September, that much I’m sure of barring a setback. Best guess would be Week 3, but they are still shooting for the opener.
  • At this point, I would be stunned if the Cowboys didn’t return to Oxnard in 2015. Not sure about after that, but definitely one more year. Jerry Jones loves it out here as just about all of us do.
  • First-round pick Zack Martin has been pancaking dudes left and right the last week and continued doing so against the Raiders linemen. He’s going to be a rookie only in name. I honestly think he has a legitimate chance at making the Pro Bowl. This year. He did a 20-minute interview with me the other day while the majority of his knuckles on his right hand were bleeding after practice. Didn’t say a word about it, just kept smiling and talking.
  • So, I met Magic Johnson at practice. For a kid who grew up immersed in the Celtics-Lakers rivalry of the 1980s, that was pretty cool. Said he was a fan of both teams and that Jerry Jones is the man. Magic really knew his stuff, too, says he watches all the Cowboys games and defended Tony Romo, saying, “He throws for 400 yards, and they blame him for the loss. It’s not like he’s playing defense. The offense is one of the best ones in the league.”
  • The highlight for Magic, “I’ve met most of these guys before, but I really wanted to meet Dez so this was a great day for me.” The two took a photo together during practice. Magic Johnson wanted to meet Dez. Unreal stuff right there.
  • By the way, the Dez jerseys have more or less become a monopoly. There are 10 times more Dez jerseys than any other player, maybe even higher than that.
  • Could live another 100 years and that image of Lasorda walking toward that field will never leave me. This can be a really cool job some days.
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