OXNARD, Calif. – Officially, the Cowboys' training camp will open on Saturday afternoon.
The organization will hold its typical opening ceremony on the practice fields, and roughly 45 minutes later the Cowboys will hold their first practice of camp.
Realistically, it'll be a bit more scaled back than that. Saturday marks the first of 14 practices while the Cowboys are in California, and coach Jason Garrett said he plans to ease them into the routine.
"The first two days – this afternoon's practice – we won't do anything that's competitive against each other, and that'll be the same tomorrow in Sunday's practice," he said.
This isn't a new development. For the past few years, Garrett has sought to acclimate his players into practice before asking them to put on pads and get into the true competition.
The reasoning is simple enough: despite going through a month of offseason practices, it's been quite a while since any players have gone through the grind of NFL gameplay.
"The essence of it is that we have this offseason program with the guys where we build up to having nine OTA practices and three minicamp practices, and then the players are away," Garrett said. "They're gone for five weeks. Our guys work out, they work out together, they get themselves ready – but they haven't been playing football. They haven't been playing football against another NFL player."
Instead, the Cowboys went through a non-padded walkthrough on Saturday morning, and they'll try their best to keep it non-competitive for the early stages of training camp practices. Garrett said it's important to get everyone used to being back on a football field before attempting to worry about full-speed.
"We just think it's in our best interest to be deliberate as we start camp and let them get their football legs underneath them in a situation where they're not competing against someone," he said. "That's oftentimes when guys get hurt – because they're not quite ready, they're not quite reacting the way their body needs to react when they're in a competitive situation."
That leaves players – and fans – with a bit more of a wait until they can see some hitting. After two such practices this weekend, Garrett said he'll be ready to ramp up the competition when the week starts.
"We'll have one of those practices that we described this afternoon, we'll do the same schedule tomorrow and then we'll put the pads on on Monday and get after each other a little bit," he said.