IRVING, Texas - For the first three days of the week, it's been a rather quiet atmosphere here at Valley Ranch.
But that changed Thursday afternoon with the invasion of 27 rookies – the Cowboys' seven draft picks and 20 undrafted free agents.
The rookie class of 2012 showed up for the upcoming three-day minicamp, which begins Friday with two practices. But Thursday's events included the rookies partaking in physicals, getting fitted for their helmets and shoulder pads, taking mug shots and even conducting a few interviews.
The anticipation is high for Friday's first practice. Of course, there will be one notable absentee on the practice field.
First-round pick Morris Claiborne, the sixth overall selection and obvious headline for this year's draft class, will not practice because of a left wrist injury that required surgery back in March and has him wearing a hard cast for the next two weeks.
While Claiborne said all along he knew his first on-field participation would likely be training camp in late July, it still bothers him somewhat that he won't be practicing come Friday.
"Yeah it didn't really hit me until I got here and saw the other guys," Claiborne said. "It brought the competitive nature out in me. I don't want to be held back. I can't get out there and do what I do."
Claiborne said after the pins are removed from his wrist in two weeks, he will have a soft cast for another two to three weeks, but fully expects to be ready for the start of training camp in late July.
He also said the mindset now is much different than just a few days earlier when he came to visit Valley Ranch with about 10 family members, less than 24 hours after being drafted. Then there were a lot of smiles, hugs and even tears as the family toured the complex with amazement and excitement.
But as Claiborne got off the bus with his fellow rookies, it became a different story.
"It's way more of a business situation now," Claiborne said. "I'm going to try to be as professional as I can and attack this head on."
The Cowboys' second draft pick – third-round defensive end Tyrone Crawford – beamed with excitement as he went from station to station Thursday.
"I could just feel the energy that comes through this building. I'm just excited to get going and seeing how everything goes," said Crawford, who talked about the bond created with his new teammates. "Yeah, we've gotten to know each other now. At the hotel, the ride over here, it's good to have these guys with you. I'm excited about getting out there on the field with them."
While most of these guys are rolling through Valley Ranch for the first time, some of them have been here recently. Safety Matt Johnson, a fourth-round pick from Eastern Washington, was among the 30 pre-draft players who visited a month ago.
"It's nice to be back and know you're not going anywhere else. It's good to come back and be familiar with it," said Johnson, who likes the history that is represented throughout the building. "It's something that is very special. I noticed it when I came for the visit. You have to uphold a big tradition when you come here and play. That's what I'm excited about it."
The word "excitement" was used quite a bit on Thursday, but these guys are admittedly nervous as well.
"I'm anxious and nervous a little bit," Johnson said. "You just don't really know what to expect."
But as Crawford explained, being nervous is normal. That's why he's taking Friday's practice with a game-like approach.
"Yeah I'm nervous. But I always have nerves," Crawford said. "I'm nervous any game. It goes away quick, but I think I perform my best when I'm nervous."