OXNARD, Calif. – The last thing the Cowboys need right now is an injury at the center position.
While it's not major, starting center Phil Costa was held out of the last hour of practice on Friday with tightness in his lower back. Walking off the field, Costa declined interviews with the media, but offensive line coach Bill Callahan said he didn't think the injury was anything to worry about.
Still, the Cowboys are worried right now. They have to be. Camp began two weeks ago and Costa, Bill Nagy and Kevin Kowalski were supposed to have a healthy competition for center snaps.
Nagy is out 2-3 more weeks with a high-ankle sprain and Kowalski has an ankle injury that could cause him to miss another month. Costa's injury forced David Arkin into first-team snaps at center, somewhat a positive since he's never played before last week, which is still causing even the most optimistic of the Cowboys' brass to get anxious.
"Right now, I must tell you that I have been holding my breath a little bit because I want the interior of this line to be a source of confidence for Tony (Romo)," owner/GM Jerry Jones said after Friday's practice. "I want him to feel good about his protection in there. People talk about the running game, I know that helps protect him in our passing game, but I look at it principally by beginning with the protection for him. That's got me a little angst right now, but I'm liking some of the things I'm seeing in there."
The guard situation is improving, especially with Mackenzy Bernadeau returning to guard, but center has been problematic behind Costa.
Arkin has never played center in high school or college until the Cowboys asked him to take some snaps in the last week.
"I just keep working at it … keep getting snaps," Arkin said. "Snapping is the first part. Calls are a big thing. That's a big adjustment. I'm just going to keep working the best I can. I'm getting more confident and it's starting to feel good. I think I'll be alright."
Until then, maybe the Cowboys and their owner can catch their breath about the center position once again.