OXNARD, Calif. – The Cowboys' starting offensive line will look a bit bigger this week, which is saying a lot, given the size of those guys.
Heading into the second game of the preseason, the Cowboys are trying a new rotation in their vacant left guard spot. Jonathan Cooper is still working at the position, but he's splitting reps with Byron Bell – who, at 6-5, has the necessary frame to play either guard or tackle.
"He's played some tackle for us, he's playing some guard and he's competing for one of these spots," said Cowboys coach Jason Garrett on Tuesday. "He's a professional. He's the kind of guy who comes to work every day and you see him getting better and better."
Garrett's words ring true, considering all that Bell has done since signing with the Cowboys in the spring. He opened OTAs playing right guard, and he has played both tackle positions. But in the two weeks the Cowboys have been at camp, he said he thinks he's been more reliable in his assignments so far.
"I'm just really trying to get my consistency going. I feel like I've been more consistent, starting from OTAs up to this point – just working hard," Bell said. "Just keeping my head down and doing what I do best, which is working. I feel like they're seeing that on tape."
Truth be told, injury might also be part of the promotion. Chaz Green is working his way back from a shoulder injury and has missed a week or so of practices, while Joe Looney injured his toe in the Hall of Fame Game and is currently unavailable.
Bell said he'd prefer to win any kind of position battle on merit, rather than by default. But given the physical nature of training camp, he also acknowledged that it's part of the game.
"I'd like everybody to be healthy and I'd like to win it. I'd like to compete to win it," he said. "I don't want to win it through injuries, but that's part of it, also. But when my number is called, I've got to know what to do and know how to do it – and make sure I do it."
The fact that Bell is in position to compete for the job is a testament to his work ethic. The seventh-year veteran tipped the scales at roughly 360 pounds when he signed with the team in March. In the time since he has met two different weight incentives in his contract, checking in at 319 in June and 310 at the start of training camp.
"This is the lightest I've ever been since leaving high school," Bell said. "I'm kind of proud of myself."
Bell is in line for one more pay day if he meets the Cowboys' weight requirement of 320 during Week 1 of the regular season. Obviously, in order to do that, he'll need to make the team first.
As a veteran with 72 career starts for two other NFL teams, Bell is far too experienced to get too excited about the promotion. But given the work he's put in, it's nice to see some fruits from that labor.
"It just shows that I'm working, but I've still got a lot more work to do," he said. "This don't mean nothing – this don't mean I arrived or I'm going to start."