IRVING, Texas --If second-year inside linebacker Bruce Carter is going to win a starting job next to Sean Lee, this is time to make an impression.
Carter's competition, newly-signed veteran Dan Connor, is still recovering from shoulder surgery. The first-team reps belong to Carter for the next few weeks, and the Cowboys obviously would like their 2011 second-round pick to become a fixture in the defense the way Lee blossomed in his second season.
Like the rest of his rookie class, Carter didn't have a normal first offseason due to the NFL lockout. He also didn't have a training camp, preseason or half the regular season due to his rehab from knee surgery.
Defensive coordinator Rob Ryan called Carter's 10-game debut "his training camp." He recorded one tackle in some defensive subpackages and added eight stops on special teams.
"Him coming in and not playing because he was hurt, you have to be out there doing it to fully understand it," linebackers coach Matt Eberflus said. "It's one thing to see a power-point presentation, video clips and me up on a grease board drawing it up. But once you hear it, you kind of forget what it is. You see it, you sort of kind of remember. Then, when you do it on the field, you fully understand.
"It's been good to work with him and he's really made progress so far in terms of the off-season program. These first (few) days, he's done a real nice job."