OXNARD, Calif. — Don't look now, but Luke Schoonmaker is on the practice field for the Dallas Cowboys, the second-round pick having battled plantar fasciitis in his foot that cost him the entirety of mandatory minicamp in June and the first two weeks of his first-ever training camp.
He was officially activated from the NFI (non-football injury) list on Monday, though, and participated in individual position drills before being held out of team reps as a precaution — head coach Mike McCarthy making it clear the Cowboys will be deliberate in their workload for the former Wolverine.
Schoonmaker, speaking after his first camp practice, says he feels great.
"I just know that this week is definitely gonna be some positive stuff," he said.
Don't plan on him taking the field in the preseason bout against the visiting Jacksonville Jaguars, however, because while it's not impossible, it's also not probable, at least not at the moment.
"I'm hoping I can go this weekend, but we'll see," said the former All-Big Ten talent.
Having directly faced the question about Schoonmaker's availability on Aug. 12, McCarthy tempered expectations.
"I'm excited to see him in practice — today," he said.
The expectation is that Schoonmaker, a road grader of a blocker who can also make plays with his hands when asked to do so, will add another dimension to a youthful tight ends room led by Jake Ferguson and with a talented former undrafted talent in Peyton Hendershot set to make an impression as well in Year 2.
But, first, he has to finish playing catch-up, having missed several practices with the injury. He has been seen going through mental reps on the sideline prior to being activated, including doing phantom reps during team drills, and his excitement is to the point wherein Ferguson had to calm him down a time or two — presumably to prevent a setback in the healing process.
"In walkthrough], he was so fired up that he was running and almost slipped and I was like, 'Calm down. We're just in a walkthrough right now, Schoon,'" **[Ferguson said last week**. "That's great to see though — him taking in the mental reps. And that's what you've got to do so when he does get in there, he's gonna be lights-out."
That's the kind of energy the Cowboys love to see, and it's what helped make him a notable name at Michigan.
His goal is to now achieve that goal in Dallas going forward.
"It felt great [to get out there], especially going from doing the rehab — it's the next step to coming back and putting it all together," said Schoonmaker. "It felt great to play football together, and be out there and run fast.
"… I think I've been doing a great job with rehab and just trying to put my best foot forward, so that when I do get back, I'm moving."