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Melton Looking Healthy, Wants To Step Up & Dominate


OXNARD, Calif. – There was no laboring, struggling or grimacing.

Cowboys defensive tackle Henry Melton whipped through the dummies during Thursday's individual drills like anyone would expect from a Pro Bowl player.

Only, that Pro Bowl occurred in 2012. The following year, last season, ended before it ever really began for Melton, who tore his ACL in late September after only three games.

One would expect that knee injury, which kept Melton out of team drills during the Cowboys' offseason, would hinder him to start training camp. But it certainly didn't appear that way Thursday, as he was among the quickest and most powerful defensive linemen going through defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli's drills.

Photos from Friday's morning practice in Oxnard.

"From minicamp to now, I feel it's night and day," Melton said.

Melton went out to the practice field that morning and performed cuts and subtle moves, and could immediately tell how much better his knee had gotten from the offseason. "Ten times better," in his words, and that showed later in the day at the afternoon practice.

"It was a good feeling," Melton said. "It's a good start. (Marinelli) loves this stuff, and all you can do is really feed off his energy. It makes you work harder."

The coaches will continue to monitor the defensive tackle, but Melton doesn't plan on taking it too easy. He said as long he continues feeling well, he'll go full throttle. On Thursday, that was evident.

That might also have something to do with the fact that the Grapevine High School product was at his first training camp practice for his hometown team.

The former Bears lineman said it's a surreal experience to now be with the Cowboys. He didn't realize just how much he would enjoy being and playing back home, and he described how nice it felt to be in Dallas; or, in this case, in Oxnard but playing for Dallas.

"Being out on the field, you know, when we first took the field I had a big smile on my face," he said. "Hopefully, it's the start of something special. I couldn't stop smiling. I was having a good time out there."

That's understandable, considering the Cowboys' marquee signing of the offseason hasn't played a meaningful football snap since last September. The Cowboys still have high hopes for Melton, who compiled 13 sacks combined between the 2011 and 2012 seasons, even if he is coming off a major ACL injury. [embedded_ad]

And Melton isn't hiding his desire to get back to his Pro Bowl form. There's a lot of pressure on him to perform. He said he feels he still has to prove he's got it, and he's got a long way to go before he starts feeling like the dominant player he used to be.

"The NFL is about what have you done lately," Melton said.

But that's a challenge he looks forward to.

"I want to be the veteran who steps up and takes over and dominates," Melton said. "I want to come in here and be a beast. But there are a lot of guys who can step up and do the same things. There aren't a lot of big names, but it's all about making a name for yourself. There are a lot of guys that people don't know about who are going to make plays this year."

Melton will be counted on to lead that group of largely no-names, and he said he'll do everything he can to get that done as he takes the place of Jason Hatcher, who led the team with 11 sacks at that spot last year.

Rather than worrying about replacing Hatcher, though, Melton said his focus will be on fitting in and doing what he's always done to make him successful. The Cowboys hope that can make him a Pro Bowl caliber player once again.

"I'd love to be that interior beast that this defense demands to be successful," Melton said. "With the rush men and myself, we're going to work as hard as we can to get that done."

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