OXNARD, Calif. — Playing in the Hall of Fame game on Thursday means that the Cowboys have an earlier start than most teams, and it also means they are being thrown into a whirlwind that will mirror different points of the season. If the start of training camp is for easing players into all of their responsibilities and preparation, it seems that phase is wrapping up on Tuesday, as the team will travel to Ohio on Wednesday.
Before Tuesday's practice Mike McCarthy, said that the team had used their time on the field these past two weeks for "install practices" in which the team goes through all of their schemes, even the ones that will rarely be used, so that nothing is completely unfamiliar if needed at some point. Instead of repetition and refining certain things, the players had to process a lot of information each practice.
"We were able to get everything in," McCarthy confirmed with what seemed like a sense of relief. "That's always a big-hurdle to get over for the first time."
McCarthy also added an intriguing tidbit about which side of the ball he thought looked sharpest over the first phase of camp.
"I would definitely say the defense is ahead of the offense," McCarthy said. "I feel great about that. Their mental work has been cleaner. That's a real tribute to the coaches and players."
That mental preparation will be tested on Thursday when the team faces the Pittsburgh Steelers, and if there is much to clean up it will likely be done with the Los Angeles Rams on the field. The Cowboys will arrive back in Oxnard late Thursday night and will be participating in joint practices with the Rams Saturday.
"I'm just excited to play this game and come out of this thing healthy and get the quality of work that we anticipate with the Rams on Saturday," McCarthy said.
If the coaching staff feels their players are ready, they will find out for sure over the course of the next week.
For what it's worth, McCarthy said, "We've had the most work we can possibly get done in our timeframe that we're given."