OXNARD, Calif. – Respectfully, Micah Parsons isn't trying to talk about his chess game right now.
It's still a hobby, and it figures to feature in his social life – perhaps even on HBO's "Hard Knocks" at some point this month. But with his debut season rapidly approaching, and a dwindling number of practices before then, the Cowboys' electric rookie made it clear that he's trying to focus on business.
"I just think it's better if I just focus on football right now, and then after training camp I can get back into chess," Parsons said on Monday.
From the outsider's perspective, it certainly seems like the Cowboys have Parsons' undivided attention. The No. 12 overall pick has been one of the stars of camp, from generating big plays in practice, to lining up all over Dan Quinn's defensive formation, to snagging a takeaway in his first snaps of the preseason.
Even for a guy as highly-touted as Parsons, it's been an impressive start. And when you consider that the rookie said during the spring that he was still feeling his way through the install, it's even crazier to think how far he's come in such a short amount of time.
"It's drastic. I kind of understand every coverage we're in, why we're running it, what situations we'll be in," he said. "I can say -- and me and Coach talked about this the other day -- it's like I understand what we're trying to do, but now I want to understand what they're trying to do against me."
No sign jumps out more clearly than the lime green dot on the back of Parsons' helmet – an indicator that he has a radio transmitter in his helmet, allowing him to relay calls from Quinn and the coaching staff.
To be clear, it is training camp. The trio of Parsons, Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch are all sporting green dots, as they get comfortable making calls for the defense. It's unclear who will hold that responsibility when the season arrives. But the fact that the coaches would bother a rookie with that responsibility seems to indicate a certain level of confidence.
"You do have a great responsibility because all 11 guys need to be on the same page, and everybody needs to understand what we're running and what we're going to do," he said. "It is a big responsibility because if you're not, it can go very bad."
Training camp isn't the right venue to judge just how well or poorly it's going. Yes, the Cowboys are out here practicing in front of thousands of fans and dozens of reporters. But the schemes and assignments in question aren't about to be shared. As Parsons noted, the Cowboys see plenty of things – good and bad – that the rest of us don't. He also said he's perfectly happy taking the rest of this month to get things right. It's better to make mistakes in training camp than on Opening Night, against Tom Brady.
It's fun to think where Parsons could be in a month, though, after how far he's come to this point. And while he might not be focusing on chess at this particular moment, he's got a heck of a chess analogy for where he's trying to go from here.
"You want to kind of be like the queen on the board," he said. "You never want to be a rook, where you can only go straight or you can only go sideways. You want to be able to go diagonal. I think that's what makes the queen so strong. I just kind of want to be the queen of linebackers."