OXNARD, Calif. - It's time for the tires to leave the tarmac in Southern California as the Dallas Cowboys ready themselves to head northeast for a date with the Denver Broncos this week. It'll be more than a one night stand on Saturday evening though, when the two are scheduled to collide in the first preseason game for both clubs this August, because they'll also dance via joint practice on Thursday afternoon.
In speaking on the trek to the Mile High City, head coach Mike McCarthy emphasized the need to have "highly competitive practices" on Monday and Tuesday, and he got his wish - in spades - with the level of usual chippiness ramping up to fever pitch one day before the team's scheduled flight out to Denver.
So, it seems, they're quite ready to start hitting some guys wearing different jerseys.
"I think (Tuesday's) practice was a great illustration of what you're trying to accomplish," said McCarthy on Wednesday. "What I'm talking about is … yesterday's practice was the lightest of the six [per GPS] but you would've never felt as a player walking off of the field because the emotion was clearly the highest of the six. … To me, I think it's clearly a catch your breath moment when you get to now go work on your game plan.
"For the young guys, it's now let's play real football, as far as the emotions and pace of it - all the things that make a difference in the game."
McCarthy gave some insight early in the week, however, into why there will likely only be one joint practice in Denver (keeping in mind the Cowboys also have one the following week against the Los Angeles Chargers).
"We'll evaluate everything we do," McCarthy said on Monday. "The fact that [Monday] and [Tuesday] is our last padded work here in Oxnard, I'm kinda second guessing the schedule. What the hell was I thinking about? It's going to be 95-98 degrees up there [in Denver] on Thursday, and everything that goes into that."
To his point, the temperature in Denver is predicted to be in the upper 90s later this week and into the weekend, with heat indices hovering near or at 100 degrees. Needless to say, while that may not quite be the sweltering heat that awaits them back home in North Texas, it's a gargantuan leap over the balmy 70-degree weather they've become accustomed to over the past 2.5 weeks in Oxnard.
"I think going [with] one [scrimmage] is preferred," McCarthy continued. "But hey, this is new for me. I think it's definitely something we needed to do, that's why we did it. I think it will be really good for our players.
"The travel and all those things, it's stress[ful]. It's part of the stress of travel. It's part of the conversations you have with nutrition and strength staff and medical staff - it's all factored in. I would prefer one practice because you're able to still get done what we're trying to get done here. We're going to have two outstanding practices before we get on the plane Wednesday.
"I do like the way this week looks. I think next week is going to be a challenge."
That's a bridge to cross when they come to it though, but for now it's about executing a plan that will see the Cowboys "focus on veteran players" in Thursday's scrimmage before scaling them down and ramping up the younger players on Friday and Saturday, according to McCarthy. And as far as joint scrimmages go in the future, will McCarthy reconsider them entirely, or does he still view them as being more valuable when considering the NFL has now reduced the preseason from four games down to only three?
"Can you save that question for Friday?"