FIRSCO, Texas – Here is some good news emanating from The Star after three weeks and nine OTA practices, where seldom has been heard a discouraging word.
Four-time Pro Bowl center Travis Frederick is back on the field with a helmet, not doing everything during the 11-on-11 portion of the workouts but most everything else with the first-team offensive line.
Since our allowed day to watch one of the three weekly OTA workouts, this week happened to be the third day, so we were able to witness the work being done just twice a week by Tyron Smith, Sean Lee and Jason Witten.
While linebacker Leighton Vander Esch still is nursing a pelvic-area strain, he's at least been out there this week with a helmet on doing limited work, and not doing more for merely precautionary reasons.
Though not ready for contact of any kind, wide receiver Allen Hurns is running and rehabbing amazingly well after suffering through that gruesome leg injury in the playoff victory over Seattle. Looks like he'll be ready for training camp.
And this, too, is a good thing, having to look at my roster when No. 28 broke up a pass at the goal line, reminding myself that was safety Jameill Showers, who is back practicing twice a week following surgery in August to repair a torn ACL suffered in the second preseason game last year. He fully expects to be cleared for full-go the start of training camp.
There, a couple of good shots to start things off this week.
· Review This: After missing nine games and starting just five last year because of injury, seemed like old times out there Wednesday for linebacker Sean Lee, now penciled in as the starting strong-side linebacker. You'd have thought Lee was preparing to play a playoff game, instead of just participating in a pad-less OTA workout. Especially on a highly-contested deep ball where the receiver and defensive back exchanged contact, Lee screaming at the coaches on the sideline, "interference, review it, review it," knowing offensive and defensive pass interference this year – we think – called or not called can be challenged by the head coaches. Gotta love the guy's intensity.
· Who He: Poor guy has been with the Cowboys since Nov. 1 of last year, albeit on the practice squad, but it's about time folks know No. 11 out there is Reggie Davis, wide receiver. Yep, that was him snagging a deep ball from Dak Prescott in a play-it-out session Wednesday, and also catching a hot slant from Cooper Rush that in a swoosh raced by two defensive backs for what would have been a touchdown. Wide receivers coach Sanjay Lal called him the most improved receiver from last year, and his calling card at just 5-11, 170 pounds is speed. Lots of it. As assistant director of scouting Chris Hall says, "He can run out of sight." No kidding, the former Georgia receiver who has kicked around practice squads for the past two years says his best 40-yard time came in 2017 while training for his Pro Day, proudly saying he ran a 4.29. Was a track star at Tallahassee (Fla.) Lincoln High School, running a 10.4-second time in the 100-meter dash, and ran on the school's state championship 4x100 relay team. When asked if speed was his thing, he said, "I would say so, being small you've got to have something." That he does.
· College Hall Calling: Starting most notably with Tony Romo, the Cowboys have six former players included on the 2020 National Football Foundation's ballot for induction into the College Football Hall of Fame. Remember, Romo was the Division I-AA Player of the Year in 2002 at Eastern Illinois. But also on the ballot are former Cowboys OT Flozell Adams (Michigan State), LB Ken Norton Jr. (UCLA), DB Dennis Thurman (USC), S Roy Williams (Oklahoma) and RB Timmy Newsome (Winston-Salem State).
· Hall of Fame II: The Texas Sports Hall of Fame, a must-visit in Waco, Texas, has announced its official 2020 list of the 20 nominees on the "primary ballot," and among the group is Dallas Cowboys executive vice president/chief brand officer Charlotte Jones Anderson, one of the most prominent women in the NFL. Anderson has been named chairman of the NFL Foundation and is the first female executive in history to lead a major professional sports league charitable foundation. If elected, Charlotte would join her father, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, as the first father-daughter in the Texas Sports Hall of Fame. And there could be a double-first if Olympian Michele Carter, also a nominee for 2020, is selected, too, joining her father Michael Carter, an Olympian himself, along with a three-time Pro Bowler and Super Bowl champ during his nine-year career with the San Francisco 49ers.
· Nursing Injuries: While the Cowboys have not suffered any serious injuries during these past nine OTA workouts, they have sustained a couple of nagging things that might keep guys out of next week's minicamp. Wide receiver Noah Brown was undergoing an MRI for a sore knee condition. Fellow receiver Michael Gallup came up with a tight hamstring Wednesday and immediately was removed from the workout. Third-round draft choice Connor McGovern has suffered a strained pectoral muscle, keeping the offensive lineman out of workouts on Wednesday. Adding these guys to those already rehabbing from postseason surgeries or recent ailments, the club might have as many as 20 guys being held out of the minicamp. The target for all is the start of training camp or the season. Oh, and with McGovern out and Joe Looney out for personal reasons, snapping for the first-team offense Wednesday was Adam Redmond.
· Good Hands People: First Amari Cooper on a highly-contested deep ball with Jourdan Lewis all over him. Then rookie free agent Jon'vea Johnson on a great corner throw into the end zone from Mike White for an over-the-head touchdown catch. And also, there was tight end Dalton Schultz's crossing catch where he had to reach back on the run for White's throw.
· Last Shots: BTW, when Gallup went out, it was Johnson working with the first team on the outside … When the second-team offense went out for a play-it-out session down four points in the final minute, Cooper Rush hooked up with tight end Blake Jarwin twice, and even though it's Jason Witten working with the first-team offense, Jarwin continues to show he's a threat off the line of scrimmage … And defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli's assessment of newly-acquired defensive end Robert Quinn so far, though qualifies with no pads, goes like this: "Really looks good. A great guy to work with. He fits right in, he goes to work." Except when Quinn was dragging along on one of those post-practice conditioning sprints, in so many words Marinelli accusing him of loading. Next one, Quinn finishes first among his group.
And would be remiss if we didn't take a moment to double-tap our hearts to history, for Thursday, June 6, is the 75th anniversary of the D-Day invasion on the Nazi occupied coast of Normandy, France, the United States announcing in 1944 being all in on World War II in the European Theater. Two days later, June 8, my dad-to-be, Staff Sargent Dominick Spagnola landed on the shores of Normandy's Omaha Beach, and lived to tell about it.