IRVING, Texas –While the practice sessions might have the look and feel of the previous OTA workouts the Cowboys have conducted the last three weeks, there is one key difference as the team begins a three-day mini-camp.
This is mandatory. No longer do the players have the option of participating in the voluntary workouts. All players are required to be here at Valley Ranch, or will be subject to a fine.
And that's likely a big reason the Cowboys had a full house Tuesday morning, including the return of guard Ron Leary and linebacker Rolando McClain. Both players had skipped the majority of offseason practices until Tuesday.
"With that understanding, we have to make sure we acclimate them slowly into what we're doing," head coach Jason Garrett said in a press conference Tuesday morning. "Our team has been here in the offseason program practicing. Both of those guys were here (Monday) for the physicals and here this morning and will be a part of this three-day minicamp. We're going to get them acclimated back to playing football in a more deliberate fashion."
Garrett said the two players will probably work off to the side getting more conditioning work in and likely won't participate in team drills.
For Leary, who reportedly wants a trade to a team he can compete for a starting job, his absences have been contract related. McClain has been out of town dealing with personal issues, but is expected to be the starting middle linebacker for the third straight season.
"We've had ongoing conversations with him," Garrett said of McClain. "He's had a family situation he was working through. The offseason program in the NFL is voluntary. There are three mandatory days. Again, we've had conversations with him and have been working with him.
The Cowboys will practice three straight days during this mini-camp before taking a near six-week break, leading up to the July 29 departure for training camp in Oxnard, Calif.