(Updated: 5:30 p.m. CDT)
IRVING, Texas – Ninety-nine days removed from the "Dez Caught It But Didn't Catch It" playoff heartbreaker at Lambeau Field, Cowboys players were back together Monday for the start of the team's voluntary offseason workout program – the first official organized sessions of the 2015 league year.
Under the NFL collective bargaining agreement, each team's offseason program is divided into three phases:
- Phase One – these next two weeks – permits only strength, conditioning and rehab work with strength and conditioning coaches.
- Phase Two includes three weeks of on-field work with coaches, though live-contact offense vs. defense or kick team vs. return team reps are not permitted.
- Phase Three includes up to 10 days of non-live organized team activities (OTAs) and a three-day team minicamp.
Everything is technically voluntary except the Cowboys' June 16-18 minicamp – the last team workouts before training camp gets underway in what's expected to be late July. The club typically has close to full program participation throughout the spring.
Although the Cowboys don't release an official list of voluntary participants, newly-signed defensive end Greg Hardy was among a large group of players who got started Monday morning. Hardy's incentive-laden one-year deal includes a workout bonus totaling $1.3 million.
All-Pro receiver Dez Bryant's expected absence is sure to be a hot topic of conversation. Remember, Bryant is not under contract until he signs the Cowboys' one-year, guaranteed $12.82 million franchise tag or signs a long-term deal before July 15, the negotiating deadline before the season.
If Bryant continues to train elsewhere as most observers have predicted, it would be common practice for a player without a signed contract. In 2008, franchised safety Ken Hamlin missed all team activities, including the mandatory minicamp, until he signed a long-term deal just before the deadline. In 2009, wide receiver Miles Austin skipped offseason workouts without signing his restricted tender offer and eventually worked out a new contract.
Cornerback Orlando Scandrick, the defense's most tenured player and most productive defensive back, was another name that filtered out as a non-participant on Monday. Signed through 2018, Scandrick earned an extension two years ago that included an additional $9 million in guaranteed money, yet his $1.5 million base salary for 2015 is the source of speculation regarding his workout status.
Again – as this type of news seems to crop up around the league every spring with a notable player here and there – it's early. And voluntary.
Key Offseason Workout Dates:
April 20 – First day of voluntary workouts
May 26-28, June 2-4, June 8-11 – OTAs
June 16-18 – Mandatory minicamp