FRISCO, Texas – It might be easier to identify something Micah Parsons won't do – and that's not for lack of trying.
At the end of Thursday's special teams period, as the Cowboys' return men finished their session with the JUGS machine, Parsons broke away from his own position group, signaling his intent to field the final punt of the period.
He caught it cleanly – though that's not something he thinks you should get used to seeing.
"I just do that to warm up, to warm the engine up," Parsons joked on Thursday afternoon.
It's understandable why Parsons might need to get the blood flowing, giving everything he's doing these days. In a typical Cowboys practice, it's common to see the reigning NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year bop from position group to position group, making sure to hone his skills as both a linebacker and a pass rusher.
And it's not just on-field work. As the Cowboys install their schemes with an eye on training camp, Parsons is splitting his days between the two different meeting rooms, making sure to maximize his time spent on each task.
"It's going to be a little different. It's going to be more challenging. But I never back down from a challenge," Parsons said. "The good ones, the great ones, just find a way. No matter what comes at me. I know things are going to be frustrating, but I've got to find a way to get home. I've got to find a way to make plays because that's what gets me going."
This won't be the first time the Cowboys' coaching staff has been presented with unique skillsets to finetune. Asked about Parsons' adaptability, Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy noted his experience with Clay Matthews, who flopped between edge rusher and inside linebacker en route to six Pro Bowls with the Green Bay Packers.
"I thought it served him well as far as creating more opportunities for matchups," McCarthy said. "But what I really found out is how much it benefited our defense. You definitely saw that last year with Micah."
With one All-Pro season under his belt, Parsons is feeling all the usual benefits of experience. The game is slowing down, and he feels more comfortable speaking his mind in a veteran-heavy locker room.
For that matter, Parsons is clearly a respected figure within this team – and obviously for good reason. It's surreal to think that, one year after finding his way at OTAs, he's offering his impressions of this year's first-round pick, Tyler Smith, who he has now had the opportunity to assess in practice.
"He's a strong kid. He gets his hands on your arms, not too many people get away," Parsons said of the rookie. "He's got the best of a lot of guys here in practice so far. Really made a great impression. I'm excited to see his step forward."
There's understandably a big focus on Smith and his fellow rookies contributing early. Several of them will need to if the Cowboys are going to accomplish their goals in 2022. But it's strange to think that, as much as Parsons did as a rookie, there might be more he can offer to that equation, as well.
McCarthy was asked directly during his weekly media availability: what does a Year 2 jump look like for a player who has already been to a Pro Bowl? His answer was equally direct: the hope is to transition from great to elite.
"The elite ones bring everybody with them," McCarthy said. "How they work, how they compete in practice, how they compete in the weight room, how they compete at garbage can basketball in the locker room. I don't know. That's all part of culture growth and establishing that and that's something that he has an opportunity to really make a huge impact in our football team."
It's early still. But Micah Parsons looked determined to make his impact felt.