FRISCO, Texas – The grind of training camp is still a month off, but the Cowboys' goal is for this week's minicamp is to forecast the regular season a bit.
The tempo of practice will be the same, and the workload will be similar for these three days of mandatory practice. But Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said Tuesday he wants this week to feel like the regular season – when the team goes through three days of specified work at the tail end of the week.
"The one difference in the daily schedule is we'll meet after practice today, and we'll simulate really what a day looks like in the regular season," Garrett said. "Today is going to feel like a Wednesday, tomorrow is going to feel like a Thursday and Thursday is going to feel like a Friday."
That's nothing new for any NFL veteran, but it's an interesting thought for a newcomer. The Cowboys' rookies have yet to even make it through training camp, but it's safe to say they've learned plenty in the mere six weeks they've been on the roster.
"It's a huge difference," said Ryan Switzer. "I'm a way better player than I was coming in in May, and I think that's the whole thing about being a pro – you've got to come in every day and compete."
The benefits of reps are extolled by coaches and players across the NFL, and Switzer is a fantastic example. Minor injuries to Cole Beasley and Lucky Whitehead have left the rookie as the primary slot receiver during this month of practices. To say he's trying to take advantage of that opportunity is an understatement.
"The reps have been huge for me, and getting with the reps and those older guys has been huge," Switzer said. "If I can continue to grow and make strides, I think it sets myself up for a good season."
Garrett said repeatedly on Tuesday that the purpose of the offseason program is to lay a foundation for training camp. That obviously goes for all 90 players on the roster, but it's especially intriguing to see how the rookies advance in such a short period of time.
Since being drafted 28th overall on April 27, Taco Charlton agreed that he can tell the difference already.
"Definitely – just the fact of knowing the defense now and getting more comfortable out there with the guys and everything like that," he said. "It's definitely a big difference from now to the first day. I've got a bond with them, I know what I need to do and I'm more comfortable playing against different competitors and everything like that."
All of this is after a mere 10 days of practice. And to hear it from Charlton, who said he's in contact with all of his fellow rookies from Michigan, the Cowboys' regimen is tougher than many.
"We just talk and see how everybody's doing," he said. "We kind of compare, and this is definitely a tough minicamp compared to a lot of people."
Garrett would probably be happy to hear that, given the way the Cowboys pride themselves on the strength of their practices. And with the true work of training camp still to come, that can only be a positive for their rookies.