IRVING, Texas – The Cowboys were extremely busy in free agency back in March, signing seven players at various positions, filling out major needs for the team. Many of those new players have already shown off their skills during the summer OTA and minicamp practices.
Linebacker Dan Connor hasn't been one of them, having to sit out most of the summer because of a shoulder surgery that occurred before he signed. Still, he's the exception to the rule in this week's rookie practices. Connor is eligible to attend because he missed all of the offseason and he's taking full advantage.
In fact, he said it's good to get back on the field for more reasons than one. While he's excited about the start of a new season with a new team, it's been a rough few months for Connor, being a Penn State alum. Connor talked about everything from his role to the team, getting back into shape, and the unfortunate situation and events occurring at his alma mater.
How excited are you to finally get back out here on the field?
* Connor:* That whole offseason was just brutal for me, just watching and not being able to do the OTAs, so I've been looking forward to this for a while. It feels good to be able to get out here and work.
So how do you feel, health-wise?
* Connor:* I've felt great for a couple months now so that's why I've been champing at the bit to get out here. There was no reason to push something too much early in the offseason. That was their approach. As a player, you know you always want to play and you might think that to a fault, so (the trainers) are there to watch your back.
How are you coming along with the defensive playbook?
* Connor*: Good. I've had a lot of time to study. And it translated pretty well out there today. It felt pretty good out there. I could run a little, play some Mike, play some Will, and feel comfortable. All the classroom work has helped a little more than I even thought.
Is it different to play on the inside in this 3-4 scheme?
* Connor:* Yeah, I haven't done it since my senior year, but when you're playing next to a great player it makes you play well. I have been comfortable with Sean at Penn State and hopefully it can translate to the NFL.
Do you feel like you're going to fit in well with the rest of the team and coaches?
* Connor:* Definitely. Obviously Sean I've known forever and was in close contact with him, and Coach (Rob) Ryan I've known since the Senior Bowl. He was my D-coordinator. And then I got to meet Coach Garrett and he was unbelievable. He was so impressive and he kind of had me thinking, "okay this is the right place." Everything was right and the deal was smooth and I was able to come here.
Was it good to get back on the field and get your mind off the Penn State situation?
* Connor:* Yeah, this is the kind of steps that everyone needs to make: move on, work, do your own thing to kind of better the name. They're going through a tough time up there so as many alumni and players do as good as they can do, that's going to turn things around up there.
What is your overall thought on what happened?
* Connor:* It was sad and disappointing. That's the feeling. There are so many great people up there. The players are great. A lot of the coaches that are there that might not be there anymore; there are some great people. It's hard to know that this happened and that this is going to be scarred on them for a while and that this is going to be hard for them to get over. But at the same time, I still support them and I want them to do great and I hope the guys there rally around the coach and rally around Penn State. When you don't have a bowl game and there's nothing on the line, you can really show some character by going out there and giving it your all.
So what are your thoughts now on Joe Paterno?
* Connor:* Obviously you can't say that he was right; he was definitely wrong. And people suffered. And that's sad, but that's one thing that happened. But he did more than that and he could be great. I mean, we didn't always get along and I can say, "I'm sorry, it was my fault, I was a jerk." And he was trying to straighten me out. He was the guy who would stay on you for every little thing. He taught character. You can't take away what he did, but at the same time he was wrong and people suffered.