Brought To His Knee

good. He fully participated in the three-day mini-camp the first of June, and then the four-day OTA session the following week. At this point, all systems are go. 

"I feel better now than I did before I came in (for training camp last year)," said Beriault, who spent 10 weeks on crutches after the dual procedures. "I haven't missed a workout since we began on March 20." 

At this point, the kid from Ball State is bucking the odds. But remember, he's yet to tackle someone or have his right leg all tangled up in a pileup. He's yet to play football with the abandon that caught the eye of Cowboys head coach Bill Parcells last summer despite his knee problems, that same abandon he'll need to exhibit, especially on special teams, if he is to have a chance at making the club's 53-man roster this year. 

The odds of that have stretched longer, too, since we last saw him play. The safety position has grown crowded. Of course, there is Pro Bowler Roy Williams starting at strong safety, where Beriault will be lining up at once camp begins in three weeks. There is Keith Davis, who started 15 games at free safety last year. There is Willie Pile, who was the nickel safety last year. 

Then, the Cowboys have added fifth-round draft choice Pat Watkins, a free safety. They have signed veteran defensive back Marcus Coleman, a former corner who has spent the past two years playing safety. They have added first-year free agent Abram Elam, along with signing rookie free agent Darrell Brooks. 

Unfortunately for Beriault, he doesn't have a leg up on many, if any of these guys. 

"I only got to play three weeks in the NFL, so I've got to try to pick up the speed again," Beriault said, referring to his time spent actually playing with the Cowboys last year in training camp. "This is my rookie year all over again. Same thing." 

Then again, he does have a couple of advantages. At this point, his knee is better. Remember, after that first week of camp last summer, Beriault basically was reduced to practicing once a day or every other day or even missing a couple of days so he would be well enough to play in a preseason game. Once he did, the cycle would start all over again. 

Also, he's heavier and stronger, having spent so much time in the weight room not only rehabbing the knee, but working his upper body. In fact, during that mini-camp, Beriault was a robust 215 pounds. Don't laugh. Remember last year at that time he had been sick for a couple of weeks before the mini-camp began, and had dropped to like 198. Maybe. That would be 6-3, 198. The Cowboys wanted him at 208 for camp, and it was a struggle. 

"For the first time in my life I've had to lose weight," said Beriault, laughing at the irony of now having to get down to 210. 

But Beriault also knows that he was only on the edge of making the squad last year as a rookie - that he would have made it eight-for-eight when it came to draft choices making the team. There were legitimate concerns over Beriault being able to handle the physical rigors of playing in the NFL. 

The knee injury and subsequent surgeries bought his body some time. 

"That was almost a blessing to me," Beriault now admits. "I wasn't as strong as I needed to be and I have a better idea of what to expect now." 

Plus he has a sound right knee. Or, well, let's put it this way, much sounder than the one he reported to training camp with last summer that began acting up before the Cowboys even got to that second Saturday scrimmage in Oxnard, Calif. 

So he gets a second chance now, and for the kid from Indianapolis, it's almost a pride thing to him. "A challenge," he says. For he readily points out last year's season opener, Sept. 11 in San Diego, was the "first game I've ever missed in my entire life." 

Let that sink in. 

Let this also sink in now that you know the extent of Beriault's knee injury and surgeries (that's plural, remember): If Beriault's knee should prevent him from having a legitimate shot at making the Dallas Cowboys, he insists, looking you straight in the eye to emphasize his no nonsense, "I'll never use (an injury) as an excuse. I would not have even used that last year." 

Even if he needed that rare,

MICK SHOTS

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