OXNARD, Calif. — It's officially a wrap for the Dallas Cowboys in Southern California, at least for 2023. The team completed its final practice on Thursday and proceeded to pack up to depart for the Pacific Northwest, where a preseason matchup against the Seattle Seahawks is the only remaining travel hurdle to their return to North Texas on Sunday.
For head coach Mike McCarthy, the near four-week stay in Oxnard was highly productive — in both progress made and in unbridled intensity — setting the stage for a pivotal season to come.
That intensity spilled over in the final practice, resulting in two scuffles, but McCarthy is "all for the fighting", though that confession comes with a caveat, of course.
"As long as you don't cross the line," he said.
That line is as clear as it is thick: do not throw punches.
That aside, the tension is viewed by all involved as a huge positive as it relates to the mindset of the Cowboys heading into their Week 1 matchup against the New York Giants, as explained by locker room leaders like Dak Prescott, Micah Parsons and veteran safety Jayron Kearse.
For his part, McCarthy would, mostly, not have it any other way.
"You can't ask your team to push the envelope and be super-competitive and not think you're going to have situations where we're crossing the line," he said. " … But you can't throw punches. [Other than that], I'm all for it. I think a good skirmish is healthy. Conflict is good. …
"This all goes into the thought process of why we practice the way we do, and why we didn't feel the need to practice against another team."
Unlike one year ago, the Cowboys opted against scrimmaging versus other teams (last year it was the Broncos and Chargers), feeling they have more than enough elite competition on both sides of the ball to sharpen their teeth against.
McCarthy feels the intensity and rep-to-rep impact of each practice is any indication of what's to come.
"I think it's been an excellent camp," he said. "I know I talk in riddles sometimes, but I really look at things through education and then the application of it, and then the evaluation. I think our education volume and instruction was really good this year. You can see it in the communication out here amongst the players, in-between the lines.
"The application was good. Would I like to have more? Absolutely. I don't think you can have enough padded work in today's climate in how we prepare for the season. I think we had good,quality work and I think the evaluation process — just look at the video. We've had incredible teaching situations and that's really always held up in my time in the league.
"Some of the best teaching tape you'll have is in training camp. I think we've really benefited from that."
Two more preseason games remain on the schedule before the Cowboys join the other 31 teams in trying to narrow their roster from 90 men to only 53, the August finale being a home game against the Las Vegas Raiders, and that will involve a lot of very tough decisions.
But the fact those discussions will be tough speaks to how all 90 players have been in practices this entire summer: