ARLINGTON, Texas – They're still a ways off from taking the football field, but most of the Cowboys' extensive infirmary looked fit and fresh on the baseball diamond.
Whether by coincidence or design, the vast majority of the players swinging bats Wednesday at Reliant's home run derby for The Salvation Army were guys who spent time on Dallas' injury report last fall. But with the 2013 season starting to take shape in the distance, it seems like those health concerns are clearing up.
"You're going to be a better team when you've got your players out there and you're building continuity and getting better each week," said linebacker Sean Lee. "You've got to do whatever you can to try to stay healthy, and then pray that it happens."
Lee would know better than most, as his 10-week stint on the injured reserve was one of the longest on the team. The three-year veteran had offseason surgery for a ligament tear as a result of turf toe. But with team workouts coming up, he said he's feeling fine.
"The toe's ready to go. I'm pretty much 100 percent. I'll go through all the OTAs and it's getting better and better every week. Other than some soreness after practice, I'm pretty much 100 percent," Lee said. "They said you're going to feel that soreness all the way probably right before camp. So it's really progressing really well, and if I needed to play tomorrow, I could."
That's great news coming from the leader of the linebacker corps. Lee ceded those duties to Bruce Carter after his injury in late October, though Carter lasted only another month himself before sitting down for good with an elbow injury.
Both Lee and Carter were among the worst hitters in the park on Wednesday afternoon, but their prognosis for football in 2013 was plenty bright.
"My arm's great. Everything is back to normal," Carter said of the elbow, which he dislocated in the Thanksgiving loss to Washington. "I'm back to bench pressing, and I'm just ready to go."
Nine players in all stepped to the plate for The Salvation Army on Wednesday, and six of those dealt with an injury of some sort – whether it was a season-ender like Lee's and Carter's or persistent pains. Though none of them missed a game in 2012, the Cowboys' trio of top pass-catchers in Dez Bryant, Miles Austin and Jason Witten all dealt with nagging problems of some sort.
"I'm definitely strengthening my hamstring a lot more than I have been – doing a different routine, a couple of extra exercises each day on our leg days," Austin said. "I'm running hard and trying to compete at a high level at this time, so it doesn't shock your muscles when you do it for real." [embedded_ad]
Bryant played the last three games of his breakout second year with a broken index finger, which he had surgery on immediately following the season. Some side effects of the break are likely to linger, but Bryant said they won't affect his abilities in 2013.
"It's never going to be normal, but I promise you it's never going to be an issue. I'm ready to go," he said.
Even the absent among the Cowboys' infirmary were spoken for by the time the last of the players had taken a turn in the batter's box. Asked about the strength of the defensive line, eventual home run king Jason Hatcher spoke for Jay Ratliff – his assumed partner at defensive tackle and another 2012 casualty.
"Y'all have seen him when he's healthy, and he's back healthy," Hatcher said. "He's coming along and we're looking forward to getting him back on track. What can we say? You've just got to see it on Sunday."
With training camp looming and a whole host of healthy bodies set to report, Cowboys fans would love to see exactly that.