OXNARD, Calif. – The camaraderie among many of the Cowboys players got a jumpstart this week before the team ever traveled out to training camp.
Travis Frederick and Barry Church were among the majority of Cowboys who took part in a player-organized conditioning test at Valley Ranch on Monday, and they believe it helped getting to see everyone competing before they met back up with the coaches and the rest of the team.
"Normally when you come in, the first time you see everybody is on the plane," Frederick said. "We did get to see everybody yesterday. When the coaches said we weren't going to have a conditioning test this year, a couple of the older guys wanted to make sure we had everybody in the right shape. Sometimes if you don't do it, you're not in the right shape and you're not ready to practice."
Frederick said "the older guys" – veterans of the team's leadership committee, including Jason Witten – wanted to ensure everyone was in shape. Frederick said when players practice as hard as they do at camp, it can lead to injuries if they're not conditioned correctly.
"Nobody was around, just the players running it, but I think it was a really good step for our team," Frederick said.
Players have gotten hurt before during conditioning tests, leaving many to wonder if they're more harmful than beneficial.
Cowboys coaches didn't want to have everyone competing in the conditioning test out in Oxnard and tiring out so close to when they'd be practicing at camp. The test consists of a variety of sprints that need to be completed in an allotted time and vary by position group.
Even if any coaches wanted to be there for the test at Valley Ranch, league rules prohibited them from being at the facility immediately prior to camp. That didn't stop the players from organizing it themselves, however.
Church said it showed initiative on the part of players to build their own identity and see what they can accomplish as a group. [embedded_ad]
"The coaches had decided not to have one this year, but we as players, we decided we needed for our team to do it, kind of a camaraderie thing," Church said. "We went out there at Valley Ranch, ran our little conditioning test, and almost everybody showed up and it was a great time."
Frederick echoed similar sentiments. He said he felt like the team stepped forward as a group.
"I think it shows that there's a level of maturity and a level of work and a level of expectation by the older guys," Frederick said. "You can easily, if coach says there's no conditioning test, everybody can say, 'Oh, that's great, we don't have to do it.' But are you going to be ready? Are you ready to work, are you ready to come out here and practice as hard as we want to practice to be the caliber of team we want to be?"
To be the caliber of team Frederick's talking about, Church knows it begins with revamping the defense. Church is one of the few defensive players who can practically be penciled in as a starter. Last year that wasn't the case for the safety, who entered training camp coming off a major injury.
"The Achilles doesn't hurt anymore," Church said. "Starting the last camp, it felt kind of sore. Now, I feel like I'm in the best shape I've been in since I've been with the Cowboys. I trimmed down my weight, and I feel like I'm ready to go."