OXNARD, Calif. – The Cowboys are packing for home.
The team completed its 16th and final practice in Oxnard on Thursday, two days before their second preseason game Saturday night against the Cincinnati Bengals at AT&T Stadium.
After Thursday's practice in shells and shorts, the players tested their accuracy throwing a ball toward the giant Cowboys star logo on the midfield tower. After the competition, head coach Jason Garrett rewarded them by canceling the afternoon walkthrough and evening meeting.
Camp doesn't end on the West Coast. The Cowboys will hold a series of open practices at The Star in Frisco next week, and the roster won't be cut to 53 players up Sept. 1.
Garrett believes the team laid the groundwork in Oxnard.
"When you get a chance to be out here and start playing real football for the first time, I think that's where you really grow," But you're still laying a foundation. You're evaluating players, you're trying to help players grow and then you're trying to get everybody working together.
"We're very much in that process. We're a young football team. A lot of guys need to learn how to play at this level but then we have to learn how to play together."
Other notes from Thursday:
-The Cowboys are indeed a young team, with only one position player (Sean Lee) 30 or older. Garrett is pleased with their progress. "The players who are new to our team are completely different than they were three weeks ago," he said. "They've really grown by leaps and bounds. But this will be another opportunity for us (Saturday night)."
-Garrett said first-round pick Vander Esch was feeling better after the rookie linebacker strained his groin in Wednesday's practice. He did not practice Thursday, but the injury isn't believed to be serious.
-The Cowboys have also been deliberate with receiver Tavon Austin's work since he felt tightness in his hamstring at the start of Wednesday's practice. Like Vander Esch, he's considered day to day. Asked if Austin will be able to play Saturday, Garrett said, "We'll just see how he feels."