OXNARD, Calif. – The Cowboys will welcome the Oakland Raiders to Oxnard for a pair of practices this week, which is quite a twist of fate for the organizations.
The Raiders arrive in town for joint practices with the Cowboys on Tuesday afternoon and Wednesday morning. Ironically enough, those practices will take place on the very fields the Raiders used when they held training camp in Oxnard from 1985-1995 under former owner Al Davis.
"It reminds me of the first time I ever saw this place, walking across the field when we drove up here from Thousand Oaks in my first year in the NFL," said Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones. "We walked out across the field … and that's the first time that I'd ever met him and talked with him apart from a league meeting."
As long ago as those days seem in 2014, it's not quite ancient history. Cowboys coach Jason Garrett reminisced fondly about intense practices with Oakland back during the 1990s, when he was a backup quarterback for Dallas.
"It was just all ball, all the time," Garrett said. "The Raiders back then, it was like a collection of Hall of Famers like none other – Willie Gault would be walking out there, Ronnie Lott, Eric Dickerson, along with all the other great players they had."
There should be plenty of talent on hand this week, as well, as Cowboy standouts like Tyron Smith, Tony Romo and Dez Bryant will get looks against familiar names like Justin Tuck and Charles Woodson. Familiar names like Maurice Jones-Drew and first-round draft pick Khalil Mack will also be on hand to test the Cowboys.
"When you work against people you don't know, it gets you out of your routine. We always try to create competitive situations in practice – you see that every day with just simply how we practice from start to finish," Garrett said. "When you go against another group, I think that competitive spirit gets heightened, and that's a good thing." [embedded_ad]
The Cowboys have been plenty competitive in their own work during training camp, with trash talk and even a small skirmish breaking out last week between Bryant and J.J. Wilcox. It was no surprise to hear reporters ask Bryant about facing another team when practice concluded Sunday.
"It's going to be real fun," Bryant said. "I told the defensive backs as we were breaking down, I'm mad we didn't get the best of y'all today. Now we've got to take it over to Oakland."
Garrett said he has spoken with Raiders coach Dennis Allen, and the goal is to push practices "to the brink of competitiveness." He added, however, that the teams need to be mindful of not taking that competition over the line into detrimental behavior.
"I've been on practice fields a lot in my life in these kinds of situations, and they turned into six, seven, eight fights a practice – and that's certainly not what we want," he said.
Bryant has consistently been involved in ramping up the intensity at Cowboys' practices, but he said he's confident he can keep that intensity from going too far this week.
"I know how to handle myself," Bryant said. "I'm learning how to channel that in a more positive way. I know exactly what I'm doing when I'm out here on the field."
These practices should take on extra significance for one new Cowboy and a former Raider. Rolando McClain was Oakland's No. 8 overall pick in the 2010 NFL Draft and made 175 tackles in three seasons. A long and arduous road that included three arrests and two retirements has led him to Oxnard, where the Cowboys hope he can claim a role in the linebacker corps.
"I still know a few guys on that team, so it'll be good, but it'll also be good to put my pads on a few of those guys," he said.