OXNARD, Calif. - What a difference a week makes.
Undrafted rookie receiver Cole Beasley left the Cowboys on Aug. 3 because, as head coach Jason Garrett put it, his heart wasn't in it. Two days later, Beasley returned to the squad with a renewed energy.
After a week of two-minute drills, team drills and a scrimmage, the undrafted 5-8 rookie enters the first preseason game against Oakland as a legitimate candidate to be the Cowboys' third wide receiver.
He said his mind is now "totally focused on football."
The SMU product's sure hands and knack to get open, along with Miles Austin's hamstring injury, has allowed him to work in the slot with the first-team when the Cowboys use three wide receivers. Dez Bryant also missed the end of Saturday's practice with a sore hamstring, allowing Beasley to earn more reps. Bryant participated in Sunday's walkthrough, but even if he's cleared to play, Beasley will get his looks.
"I was excited either way just to play in the first NFL game and see what it's really like," Beasley said. "Now, I'll just get to go with the big dogs maybe a little bit and see how fast it is and see how much different it is from college."
Wide receivers coach Jimmy Robinson said he's seen a different player since Beasley returned from his hiatus. The rookie's having fun, not as worried and not as overwhelmed, according to Robinson.
Beasley shined in two-minute drills this week, catching multiple passes, including a diving touchdown grab and a one-handed reception across the middle. He's made an impact on Robinson, who's anxious to see the free agent wide receiver against the Raiders.
"He's stepped in there and made plays when he has had an opportunity," Robinson said. "He's smart. He knows what he's doing."
Beasley said he feels more confident he can compete in the NFL after going through preseason workouts and drills. He said he feels like the coaches trust him and put his brief leave of absence behind.
"Them putting me with the ones kind of shows I've done some things and that they're confident in me and confident I know what I'm doing," Beasley said.
Robinson is looking for one receiver to emerge from the hodgepodge of players competing for the third spot behind Austin and Bryant. He said three-year veteran Kevin Ogletree is slightly separated from the pack, but the spot is still up for grabs. Robinson said he's hopeful – not confident – the third wide receiver the Cowboys are looking for is currently on the roster and won't have to be signed later in the preseason.
Beasley will have his first opportunity to boost Robinson's confidence Monday against Oakland, a chance the receiver said he's "really amped up" for.
"I just want to show that I belong and that I can make plays and play at this level," Beasley said. "And show them that being small doesn't matter.