OXNARD, Calif. – Brice Butler has gotten used to learning new offenses. And quarterbacks.
He had four coordinators in college and two in Oakland, his first NFL stop. He had just learned a new system last September when the Raiders traded him to the Cowboys the week after Dez Bryant broke his foot in the season opener.
Nearly a year later, Butler's comfortable with Scott Linehan's offense. But there's no substitute for reps with your quarterback. Butler essentially had none last year with Tony Romo.
Together they played a combined 11 games, and their time on the field only intersected for a handful of plays in Week 2 at Philadelphia before Romo fractured his left collarbone. Romo would miss 12 of the final 14 games and Butler was inactive with a hamstring injury during the veteran quarterback's final two season appearances against Miami and Carolina.
Needless to say, the offseason program and training camp has helped Butler take the next step in his transition to Dallas: building a rapport with the guy throwing you passes.
It started last year mostly through conversations.
"Not being out there, him not being out there, just sitting next to him in the training room, stuff like that," Butler said. "Just making sure I was still in tune. There's plenty of times in games where he would come to me at halftime, even if he wasn't playing and say, 'Hey, if he does this, this is that.' He did a great job of helping me out.
"I just learned a new offense in Oakland because we had a new staff and I got traded and I was here trying to learn another one. That was kind of hard because I had just thrown away the old offense that I'd learned in Oakland to develop the new one."
Butler played seven games in Dallas last year, including one start in the season finale with Bryant on injured reserve. He caught 12 passes for 258 yards, including a 67-yarder in Week 4 at New Orleans – the play in which he injured his hamstring.
The Cowboys believe Butler can add a speed element to a receiving group that includes Bryant, Terrance Williams and Cole Beasley, among others. The comfort level in the system is there.
The next step? Continuing to carry those conversations with Romo to the field.
"Then when he sees that you're getting open, you're running your routes and you're where you're supposed to be catching the ball," Butler said, "then he's like, 'He's doing what he's supposed to do, so when I get out there I know I can trust him.'"