FRISCO, Texas – From here on out, the operative word shifts from "voluntary" to "mandatory."
The Cowboys held their annual Cowboys U high school football camp on Thursday, marking the end of their OTAs. Their last bit of business before they break for the summer is next week's three-day minicamp – which is the only mandatory part of the two-month offseason program.
That's really not much of an issue for the Cowboys, who enjoy fantastic attendance during the offseason program on an annual basis. But it will be interesting to see if the threat of a fine prompts an appearance from two of their key pieces in Zack Martin and David Irving.
Asked about it Thursday, Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said he wasn't sure if either player would be in attendance.
"Don't really know," he said. "David has been in and out over the course of these OTAs. When he's been here for practice, he's just run on the side. Zack has not practiced with us since we started OTAs, but he has been working out in the building. So we'll see."
To Garrett's point, there's a bit more going on here than meets the eye.
Martin has yet to take part in an offseason practice while his representatives try to iron out a contract extension, but he has hardly been absent. The All-Pro guard was a regular part of offseason workouts, and he has maintained his own workout regimen with the Cowboys' strength coaches during OTAs.
If Martin does participate in minicamp practices, Garrett didn't sound overly concerned about getting him some work.
"He's been in our program all year long and he's working on the side with our strength coaches right now and doing a great job. He's a professional," he said. "So if he's here, we'll certainly be mindful of that – that he hasn't practiced yet. We wouldn't put him in a situation he can't handle, but he can handle most things."
Irving's absence isn't exactly cut-and-dry, either. Cowboys coaches said at the outset of OTAs that the fourth-year defensive tackle is still working his way into shape. Irving is also dealing with some non-football issues, which he himself alluded to on social media this week.
"He's been handling some different things in his life right now," Garrett said. "He has not been a regular participant in the offseason program, so when he's been here we have not put him into practice. We've had him run on the side."
NFL clubs can fine players up to $14,000 for failing to appear to the first day of minicamp. That number doubles for the second day and triples on the third day, which means failure to participate could cost a player up to $84,000.
These circumstances are a bit more unique, though, and Garrett said the team will take fines on a case-by-case basis.
For starters, that will mean waiting to see who's present when minicamp starts up on Tuesday.