OXNARD, Calif. - Just 15 minutes after each morning's walkthrough practice, pretty much all of the Cowboys' players are off the field. But in the corner of the practice area you can usually see one wide receiver catching passes from the JUGS machine.
It is only a little extra work, but after a nearly three month setback, Danny Coale will take every step he can in order to catch up with the progress of his fellow receivers.
Coale was drafted in the fifth round this April after showing impressive speed and good catching ability in his four years at Virginia Tech. Unfortunately, Coale broke his foot in the first day of Organized Team Activities back in May. It was not until last Wednesday that Coale was cleared to practice in full pads.
After the walkthrough on Friday, Coale talked about the status of his foot.
"The foot's going to be sore a little bit just because we're going live and everything is so fast paced," Coale said. "So there's a little bit of soreness, but the good thing is it is responding better each time. There's a little bit less soreness each and every day when I wake up."
When Coale was drafted back in April, many were hopeful that he would stand out and compete for the third receiver spot. Coale wants to be a big part of the Cowboys' offense, but he feels that he also has to focus on more immediate goals like assuring the health of his foot and adjusting to the speed of the NFL game.
"Right now it's just transitioning back from this injury," Coale said. "I want to get back to full speed again and get back to where I'm comfortable. Obviously at the end of the day I want to contribute and be a part of this team, but there are things that I need to take care of first like getting back into football shape. Everything else I'll work out down the road."
One of Coale's biggest accomplishments so far has been his ability to keep his head up through the injury. Training camp reps are so important to the development of young receivers and his competition at the position has been able to get a head start on him. While it does not seem that any player has jumped far ahead and taken the reins of the third receiver spot, Coale knows that he has some ground to make up.
"I had to take care of the foot first," Coale said. "But it's a competition every day. They might have had a few more opportunities than I have with the injury. I'm looking forward to my opportunities here and the snaps that I get. I just need to worry about those and take care of those."
A major opportunity missed because of the foot was Monday night's game in Oakland. Coale was forced to remain in Oxnard and watch Kevin Ogletree start the game as the second receiver (with Miles Austin out with a hamstring injury). Cole Beasley was the third receiver and Andre Holmes got a fair amount of early playing time as well.
The receivers that did play against Oakland were generally solid, but the overall ineffectiveness of the offense prevented any receiver from standing out all that much. This means that Coale will still have a chance to come in and gain the attention of the coaching staff in the final three preseason games.
After basically shooting down Coale's chances of playing against Oakland last Friday, head coach Jason Garrett did go on to express his pleasure in the progress Coale has made.
"We're hopeful that he continues to make progress," Garrett said. "There's nothing that we've seen in practice that says he's not going to be ready, but we're just being cautious."