FRISCO, Texas – It's strange to think that, as slowly and surely as the Cowboys have built to this point, it's all ending just as abruptly.
The Cowboys held their final day of minicamp on Thursday, culminating nine weeks of workouts, practices and meetings. For many of their players, it's been an even longer road, going back as far as February and March for players-only workouts.
Starting Thursday afternoon, though, the true offseason begins, as the Cowboys begin a five-week break before reporting to training camp in late July.
"I think it's good for them," said Cowboys coach Jason Garrett. "Obviously, when we get back to training camp in Oxnard, it's a very demanding time for everybody. I think it's important for all of us to get away from it."
It's an annual rite of passage in the NFL, as the early portion of summer is as close to a dead period as there is in the year-round cycle of the NFL. It still feels a bit strange to see a team come together over the course of a month of practices, only to break away before training camp.
With 90 different players going their separate directions for five weeks, it's understandable why the Cowboys have preached the importance of accountability during these off weeks.
"This is always an important time, you see it around the league. You do all this work, and then school's out," Jason Witten said. "What's going to happen? I think our team understands that. It's a good group of guys. And the biggest thing is you've just got to use good judgment and understand that we're pursuing something bigger than any individual in this room."
That's bound to be music to Garrett's ears, as the Cowboys' coaches have stressed the importance of accountability throughout the offseason program. It's a given that players will take some times for themselves, but the expectation is that the Cowboys will continue training in the month leading up to camp – even without the typical structure that's provided at The Star.
"It's really important for the players to be professional, to be mature, to handle this time off well," Garrett said.
That message seems to have been received around the Cowboys' locker room, as players discussed their preparations for training camp. Dak Prescott intends to get reps with his wide receivers in the coming weeks, as they work to improve their chemistry leading up to the preseason.
"I'm sure when we're all in town or when a couple of us are in town – even if one receiver is in town when I'm here, we'll get some work in," Prescott said. "I don't care if we're both out in L.A. and accidentally run in to each other, we'll probably go get some work in that next day or something. It's about communicating, knowing where we're at and trying to get a time together when we're all there and we can work on some things."
If past experience is any indicator, the time between now and late-July will likely fly by. The Cowboys' first day in California is just more than a month from now.
And while some downtime has definitely been earned in the past nine weeks – as Witten pointed out – the real work has yet to start.
"This is a good group of guys and we've done a good job, but it's all in front of us," Witten said. "You've got to live in that 'now,' so to speak. It's certainly my job as a leader and in my 15th year to express that, but you've got to go do it."