OXNARD, Calif. — The last time you saw a Canadian that was ready to bounce back from a devastating injury, they were dressed as Deadpool and looking for Francis. Neville Gallimore is having, literally, the best training camp of his four-year career in the NFL and with the Cowboys, and he's done it quietly off of the field but very noisily on it.
It was nearly two years ago to the day that Gallimore suffered a dislocated elbow in the first quarter of a preseason matchup against the Arizona Cardinals — the most devastating football injury he's ever suffered — ultimately costing him all but five games that season.
Truth be told, however, it also cost him the 2022 season as well.
How? Well, mentally he was a different player, one that still wore an elbow brace that served as a constant reminder of the trauma and, as such, a visual cue for him to overthink on every single rep, always wondering if the next strike would send him back to injured reserve.
"It did," said Gallimore after the conclusion of the final padded practice that precedes the coming preseason matchup against the Jacksonville Jaguars. "I have to give thanks because I didn't have to get surgery, but it definitely was a process, both physically and mentally, to get back to being a defensive lineman. You have to use your hands and be able to strike.
"And with that brace? Man, mentally, it set me back.
"Even now, dealing with certain circumstances that I had to get accustomed to, the beautiful thing about this game is when you put in that work, you find a way. It was an uphill climb, and this is my first camp not having a brace and not having to actually think about it."
For anyone watching Cowboys' practices from OTAs to now, that tracks.
Gallimore hasn't won every battle, but no one does. He has, however, won far more than his fair share and it's been with a combination of quickness and the rib-rattling power in his hands that led him to become a dual-draftee in 2020 — selected in both the NFL and CFL Draft that spring — after earning honors as an All-Big 12 talent for Oklahoma in 2019.
On one rep in particular, Gallimore used the aforementioned quickness and power to toss Tyer Smith to the ground for what would've been a TFL at worst and, at best, a quarterback sack.
He looks every bit the part of a former third-round pick who started nine games for head coach Mike McCarthy as a rookie.
"Once you take the thinking out of the [injury part], you can get back to focusing on the little things — dropping [unnecessary] weight, getting back into football shape, and just getting back playing football and to get better at the game," Gallimore said. "I would say this has been my best offseason, and I still have a lot to prove. The beauty about it is this is my fourth year and, even with the knowledge I've gained and the amount that I've improved, in terms of my game, I still feel like there's another level to hit.
"And that's what this is all about: not listening to the outside noise and making sure that I'm bringing what I need to bring to the table; and being a guy that players and coaches can rely on in the future."
The process to get back to this point, now two full years removed from the injury and mentally over the events of 2021, has involved tweaking his offseason preparation as well.
"Absolutely [changed my prep]," he said. "I feel like the biggest thing for me — it started with the offseason. After going through what I went through last season, just understanding that there's another level that I have to hit. The biggest thing is, yeah, proving the point, but it's [also] to be the guy Dallas drafted me to be.
"I feel like that comes with obviously me taking care of my body, but also me being a student of the game. I feel like what I bring to the table can contribute to a championship-level defense, and that's what we're chasing. This offseason, it's more about proving myself right and really showing myself and the guys around me how much I care about this game, this team and this camp is about taking it day-by-day and improving.
"It's about making plays and really focusing on the little things."
That will all presumably go a long way in ensuring the 26-year-old makes an impact on a defensive line that is inarguably one of the best in the entire NFL, stacked at every level of its depth chart, and one that McCarthy labeled as “the most depth I’ve ever had” in his 30 years as an NFL coach in any capacity.
"It can be very special," he said of McCarthy's assessment. "You've got different personalities and different dominant guys on the defensive line, ones you can learn from but they've also got their own tools to perform. I feel like going into my fourth year, it helps because you've got a lot of veteran guys who have played in different systems and dominated for a long time, and you've got young guys that are up-and-coming and are freaks, and bring a lot to the table.
"… That pays dividends. You wanna be a part of a room that's competitive, where you've got guys that are gonna love each other but that's gonna compete, day in and day out. … That's what drives us. It's the NFL. It's a long season.
"You need everybody. When your name gets called, you gotta be ready to go. It's a great thing."
'Tis true, and much like Deadpool himself, Gallimore is finally back to form physically but, equally as important, he's back at full charge from the mental aspect as well, and ready to carryover his stellar offseason into the regular and postseason for the Cowboys.
Physically, he's been ready.
Mentally, he's finally back.
Now, he wants all types of smoke from opposing offenses.
In other words, where the hell is Francis??
Asked what his individual goal is for 2023, and what he's aiming to put on tape, Gallimore was unequivocal — his response sending a very real chill down my spine.
"Violence, man," he said without so much as a smirk on his face. "I want to be violent. I want to be disruptive. I want to show that my game and my knowledge of the game has improved. I know people always like to put a label or a stamp on what they are, but I know the work that I've put in and the level that I can take it [to].
"I want to be a more polished, disciplined player but still that dog that's going to compete every down — you'll see by my play I'm a guy that loves the game, that wants to improve and wants to be the best. I want to shut all the people up who have bad things to say, but [even more so] it's about proving myself right."
And, with that, it's almost time to make the chimichangas.