IRVING, Texas – Roughly 50 players took to the practice fields at Valley Ranch on Friday for the Cowboys' rookie minicamp, but it was the one who couldn't attend who drew the most conversation.
Twenty-four hours after his introductory press conference with the team, La'el Collins was still a hot topic of conversation around the facility – both for the talent he brings to the roster and for his bold comments to the media on Thursday afternoon.
"He's a pretty well-spoken young man," said Cowboys offensive line coach Frank Pollack. "He's determined. I'm not going to get in front of him, I'm going to stand behind him and coach him."
Following the January departure of Bill Callahan, Pollack is the man charged with leading the Cowboys' offensive line – which now features four first-round talent. Asked about Collins after practice on Friday morning, Pollack was happy to discuss his new pupil's attributes from his game tape at LSU.
"He's physical, he's tough, he's explosive – he was fun to watch," he said. "He's got a great play demeanor, and he was a lot of fun to watch and evaluate."
Pollack wasn't so keen to discuss some of Collins' bolder statements, however. At his press conference, Collins put the NFL community on notice, predicting the Cowboys' line would be the best in NFL history. It wasn't a prognostication Pollack wanted to entertain.
"I learned this real quick, growing up, from my dad: potential and 50 cents gets you a cup of coffee. That means nothing," he said. "Today is May 8, so we've got a long ways to go to develop and become anything."
Technically speaking, Collins can't even begin work until after this weekend. A provision in the NFL's Collective Bargaining Agreement states that if a prospective free agent is brought to the team facility within 24 hours of the start of minicamp, he can't participate.
That rules mandated that Collins had to leave Dallas for the time being, but he'll be eligible to begin the offseason program on Monday – and the Cowboys have already given him the provisions to begin working this weekend.
"He got an iPad, so he'll see some of the information the players got this weekend," said Cowboys coach Jason Garrett. "Hopefully he'll be able to come back on Monday and integrate himself into the offseason program."
Collins will surely be available for the start of Organized Team Activities on May 26, when he'll be able to begin practicing with the veterans along the offensive line. As Garrett said on Thursday, Pollack reiterated that his best five offensive linemen will play.
"We'll start working him in multiple spots to see where he can best compete for one of those five spots," he said. "He's going to compete like everyone else for one of those five spots and opportunities on the line."
Knowing Garrett and Pollack's personalities, though, it won't be a surprise if Collins is less likely to issue bold predictions after he's had a chance to acclimate to his new unit.
"We're about the process, and all that other stuff will take care of itself," Pollack said. "If somebody wants to anoint somebody something, I don't care. All I want to do is execute and kick the guy across from you's butt and come out with a win on Sunday."