OXNARD, Calif. – And on the seventh day of training camp, the Cowboys rest.
Hey, according to the CBA, can’t work these guys too strenuously. Mandated day off here on Wednesday after four consecutive days of workouts. But at least the last two have been the first in pads, so we’ve seen more tangible evidence of what’s going on.
Meaning, there are shots galore. So let’s get started.
- Bubble Wrap: Likely again for veteran linebacker Sean Lee, who suffered a minor sprain of the right medial collateral knee ligament in the team’s first padded practice on Monday. Lee, who was scheduled for a veteran day off on Tuesday anyway, spent the day receiving treatment in the training room. I’m told this is not one of those MCL sprains needing two-to-four weeks recoup time. In fact, if need be, Lee could play a game next week. But since the Cowboys don’t play a real game until Sept. 8, the trainers will slow play his return.
- Inexpensive Exception: Bringing back running back Alfred Morris this week is not a huge salary-cap expenditure. Morris, who last played for the Cowboys in 2016-17, was signed to the veteran exception deal, which means a minimum one-year base salary, along with a $90,000 signing bonus, all counting just $735,000 against the cap. This has been the “plan” all along that Cowboys owner Jerry Jones referred to on Sunday during his interview with CBS-11’s Bill Jones when asked how they would handle Ezekiel Elliott’s absence from camp. The Cowboys knew they needed to add some experience to the existing group totaling just six NFL carries to their credit. Said Jason Garrett, “We like our young players, but they haven’t played all that much.” Pointed out the Cowboys wanted to bring Morris back last year but the eighth-year veteran thought he had a better opportunity as a free agent with the Niners. Morris chose the Cowboys this time over potentially going to New Orleans, where he had a visit just before signing with the Cowboys. Alfred said he had to consider his growing family since he resides just north of Dallas now.
- Fine Ability: There are mechanisms in the CBA to levy fines on players under contract refusing to report to training camp. Like Zeke. So he’s been out six days, and the Cowboys could fine him $40,000 a day. Also, missing six days means Cowboys can recoup 15 percent of the player’s signing bonus. For Zeke, that would be $613,000. Also, the fines can increase to another 1 percent a day, topping out at 25 percent. It’s a club option to enforce these. And the Aug. 6 deadline looms next Tuesday when an AWOL player can lose an accrued season of service for not reporting. Unless something radically changes in the negotiations on a new contract, doesn’t appear Zeke, now bunkered down in Cabo, will be here anytime soon.
- Off-season Warriors: Here are this year’s nine award winners from head weight and conditioning coach Mike Woicik’s offseason workout competition: Byron Jones, Sean Lee, Xavier Woods, Connor Williams, Justin March-Lillard, Jeff Heath, Tyron Smith, Blake Jarwin and Dak Prescott. Always a good sign when the QB is out there leading the pack. The immediate award is the use of an individual golf cart to get around here in training camp.
- Good Interception: If there can ever be one, then it must take place in training camp as a teaching tool. That is how new offensive coordinator Kellen Moore describes Woods’ pick of Dak Prescott on Tuesday to 105.3 The Fan Wednesday morning. “Good it happened,” Moore said, pointing out the value of the teaching point for Dak and intended wide receiver Randall Cobb. Both apologized to the other for the pick, blaming themselves. But as Moore pointed out, with that particular coverage either Dak has to go somewhere else or Cobb has to cut off his route. Hey, that’s why they call these sessions practice.
- Oh That Witt: During a walkthrough practice the other day, with the offense working against the defense, Dak threw a medium-deep out route to a cutting Jason Witten, who caught the ball over his shoulder right on the sideline. And even though during walkthroughs the DBs don’t challenge the throws, Witt began making his way back to the huddle celebrating of sorts, screaming, “Oh yeah . . . oh yeah.” He might be 37, but Witten seems to be having the time of his life here in camp. Possibly he found the Fountain of Youth while spending that season in the ESPN broadcast booth.
- Rush To Judgment: There might have been by many a rush to harshly judge backup QB Cooper Rush during the OTA workouts and early in the minicamp. Rush, who took only six snaps last season – all mopping up in the 40-7 blowout win over Jacksonville and did not attempt a pass on any of those snaps – picked up his play the final day or two in the minicamp and has been darn sharp so far in these two padded practices. Again, this is what practice is for. And if you think about it, Rush went nearly six months without playing any football, and as the backup QB last year mostly ran the scout team. Rarely do the backups get more than a handful of snaps during the week. Takes time to get comfortable in the pocket, but so far the third-year vet has been spot on with his throws and decisions.
- Stepping Up: Two rookie free-agent lineman have at least put their hands in the air for a possible 53-man roster spot early in camp. First, free-agent defensive tackle Daniel Wise. Then free-agent offensive tackle Mitch Hyatt, a four-year starter at Clemson. We have yet to see third-round pick Connor McGovern, an odds-on favorite to make the team as an interior offensive lineman. A strained pectoral muscle has kept him out of practice so far.
- Coastal Shots: Was 61 degrees when waking up at 6 this morning and got all the way up to 70 as of noon . . . The Cowboys’ offensive line had a really good day on Tuesday, winning the majority of the one-on-one pass rush battles, and then with the entire team gathered around went 3-for-3 in one of the compete periods against defensive linemen . . . Thought Travis Frederick, in pads for the first time since last year, following his bout with Guillain-Barre Syndrome and then also undergoing off-season shoulder surgery and surgery to repair an umbilical hernia, showed he has regained his strength and power. Just needs to acclimate himself to actually playing football again, picking up the speed of the game . . . With Sean Lee sidelined, Joe Thomas moved from the second team to take his spot at strongside linebacker with the firsts. Bumping up to replace Thomas on the second team was rookie free-agent Luke Gifford of Nebraska, who must have caught the staff’s eye since he also was working with the first-unit punt team during special teams workouts . . .Quiet as it’s kept, last year’s practice squad running back Jordan Chunn has caught the staff’s attention, and know that during team drills, fourth-round pick Tony Pollard gets at least one snap, sometimes two with the first unit behind Darius Jackson.
The pads come back on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, with the Blue-White scrimmage scheduled for Sunday afternoon, starting at 3:30 p.m. (PT) and to be broadcast live in the Dallas-Fort Worth area on Texas-21.