OXNARD, Calif. – There was a three-day wait for theatrics, but Dez Bryant returned in style to training camp on Friday.
The Cowboys' All-Pro receiver suffered through some disappointing work days on Monday and Tuesday, marked by dropped balls and an inability to connect with Tony Romo. Then, after an off day on Wednesday, the coaching staff gave him a veteran's day off.
But that wait made it all the more worthwhile when Bryant got back to making catches and stealing the spotlight during Friday's afternoon session.
"Every day it just gets better and feels more natural, more natural," Bryant said. "I'm excited. I'm taking it day-by-day."
Bryant made perhaps the best play of training camp to date when he lined up across from Brandon Carr in 1-on-1 drills early in practice. Tony Romo sent him up the near sideline and threw him a back shoulder fade – which Bryant snagged one-handed after gaining some separation.
It was an encouraging sign for an offense that didn't have its playmakers available for the majority of the 2015 season. Add newcomer Ezekiel Elliott to the occasion, and Bryant said there's no limit to what the Dallas offense is capable of.
"It can be as good as we want it to be, but that's up to us," he said. "We just have stay focused, remain extremely humble and go after it."
- Cedric Thornton was absent from Friday's practice, but Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones said it wasn't injury-related. Thornton came down sick and took the day off to recover.
- Jones also updated the Cowboys' situation as it pertains to backup quarterback. He said there's current no update, but the Cowboys will continue to assess the situation. "We've got guys we'll keep our eyes on, keep watching to see what might be available out there," he said. Jones said the Cowboys made a run at Nick Foles, but that didn't' work out. He repeated that his first priority is to "get it right."
- The Cowboys worked out an offensive lineman on Friday, but they didn't sign him. Jones said the front office will continue to look at offensive line options to bring in for workouts.
- The Cowboys bring in officiating crews to referee their practices, and on Friday they had none other than well-known NFL official Ed Hochuli on the fields for practice. Hochuli is the NFL's longest-tenured referee, and he has officiated two Super Bowls.
- With Tyron Smith, Sean Lee and Barry Church getting a veteran's day off, their replacements with the first-team offense and defense were Chaz Green, Mark Nzeocha and J.J. Wilcox, respectively.
Notable StandoutsJason Witten –With Romo and Witten returning to practice, they made sure to get back on the same page as usual. Romo looked for Witten often during the course of practice. During full-team drills, he found Witten for a sizable gain on a crossing route in which Witten was all alone. In two-minute drill, Witten sat down in the middle of the defense and picked up first downs on two different occasions.
Ryan Russell –The second-year defensive end continues to improve in this first week of practice. He baffled Cameron Bradfield in 1-on-1 drills, and he repeatedly made his presence known during the full-team portions of practice.
Alfred Morris –The veteran running back had a hard time finding running room at times during practice, but he shined when the team moved to red zone drills. Morris scored two touchdowns in the red zone – bouncing one to the outside and carrying the other inside. He continues to benefit from Ezekiel Elliott and Darren McFadden's absence from practice.
Play of the Day
Dez's one-handed catch in 1-on-1's was probably the play of the day. But since we've already covered that, give credit to Jason Witten. Thursday's rest must have done him some good, because he punished the defense in two-minute drill. With the Cowboys facing a 3rd-and-10, Witten ran his trademarked curl route and sat down right in the middle of the defense. Orlando Scandrick and the Dallas secondary did their best to disrupt his timing, but Romo found Witten four a first down to keep the chains moving. The Cowboys eventually kicked a field goal on the drive.
Unofficial Injury Report
OT Tyron Smith (rest)
LB Sean Lee (rest)
S Barry Church (rest)
DT Cedric Thornton (illness)
WR Devin Street (back)
LB Andrew Gachkar (thumb)
DT Tyrone Crawford (back)
DT Terrell McClain (toe)
QB Kellen Moore (fibula)
LB Kyle Wilber (back)
DT Maliek Collins (foot; Active/PUP)
DE Benson Mayowa (knee; Active/PUP)
RB Darren McFadden (elbow; Active/NFI)
RB Lance Dunbar (knee; Active/PUP)
LB Jaylon Smith (knee; Active/NFI)
LB Damien Wilson (eye; Active/NFI)
TE James Hanna (knee; Active/PUP)
Returned to Practice
QB Tony Romo (rest)
WR Dez Bryant (rest)
TE Jason Witten (rest)
Saturday, August 6
12:15 p.m. (PDT) Coach Garrett press conference
3:45 p.m. (PDT) Practice
Sunday, August 7
TBD Coach Garrett press conference
2:30 p.m. (PDT) Blue/White Scrimmage
A look at some of our favorite photos from the sixth day of training camp in Oxnard, California.