OXNARD, Calif. – Well, final full day here in training camp.
Sure is hard to leave when at 10:50 Wednesday morning, as the Cowboys were going through their special teams practice, and with one last full workout later this afternoon, it was 67 degrees and knowing back home the weekend forecast is predicting right at 100.
That’s a 33-degree climate change right there, and why, when the Cowboys return to The Star the six planned practices will be in Ford Center, uh, that’s indoors – for a very good reason.
But good news for us, players and coaches, too, seems the Cowboys are close to knocking out a deal to return here next year for training camp. Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said the decision on the future is in his mind but that he’s ready to make an announcement.
So, while the Oxnard portion of training camp will come to a close on Thursday as the team departs for Hawaii, where the second preseason game will be played Saturday at Aloha Stadium against the LA Rams, camp is not over by any means. Three more preseason games to go, and a lot sure can happen between now and 3 p.m. Aug. 31 when the roster must be trimmed to the 53-man max.
Again, no shortage of shots for sure.
- Walking Wounded: The injuries began piling up this week following Saturday’s preseason opener against San Francisco. By the completion of Tuesday’s practice, 21 players were being held out of practice with injuries, another two on vet days off and, of course, Zeke still MIA. But of all the injuries, with four guys still on PUP (DeMarcus Lawrence, Tyrone Crawford, Byron Jones, Noah Brown), the most troubling one might be the back issue Pro Bowl guard Zack Martin is dealing with. I’m told Martin’s problematic disc is improving, but the key thing will be staying “deliberate” by not returning him to practice or games too soon. Then, there is Robert Quinn (hand surgery), Luke Gifford (high ankle sprain) and Connor McGovern (strained pec) likely missing the remainder of training camp. Good news is, though, the Cowboys should be getting a few of these guys back after returning home, specifically Amari Cooper, Crawford and Brown. Jones still is eyeing the season opener, and Sean Lee and Lawrence might remain in bubble wrap until meeting the Giants on Sept. 8.
- Snap Counts: The consequence of all these injuries has been a shortage of players for practices this week, to the point of head coach Jason Garrett shortening the practices so he does not wear out the guys forced to take extra snaps. This also means more players will have to take more snaps in Saturday’s preseason game against the Rams. For example, in that games against the Niners, the Cowboys were forced to play guard Xavier Su’a-Filo 77 snaps, or 100 percent of the offensive snaps in the game, an uncommon total for who now is the first-team right guard because of injuries to Martin, McGovern and Cody Wichmann. He wasn’t the only one. The likes of Joe Looney, Adam Redmon and Jake Campos shouldered 68 snaps, or 88 percent.
- Might Have Been: The Cowboys playing the Rams at Aloha Stadium, their first preseason game in the state of Hawaii, would have been a grand event for former Cowboys offensive tackle Mark Tuinei, of Hawaiian decent and raised in Nanakuli. Tuinei played a club record-tying 15 seasons for the Cowboys and died in 1999 at the age of 39 from what was ruled as an “accidental overdose.” Tuinei was a teammate of Garrett’s, and he knows this would have been huge if Tuinei was still with us. “Ah, he’s a big deal over there,” Garrett said. “We’re all fond of Hawaii for different reasons, and for all of us who knew Tooey, he brought it to life. He had such a great spirit about him. He made all of our lives so much better. He’s a Hawaiian legend over there. Anyone who comes from Hawaii seems to know about Tooey.” That Cowboys record for most seasons played also belonging to Bill Bates, Ed “Too Tall” Jones and Jason Witten will likely be broken this season with Witten poised to now play his 16th after returning following a one-year retirement. Knowing the gregarious Tuinei, he probably would have tried to talk Witten out of returning just to preserve his portion of the record.
- Don’t Forget Me: During the spring practices and the start of training camp, young receivers Jon’Vea Johnson, Jalen Guyton and Reggie Davis have attracted a lot of attention. But over the past week, two other receivers flying under the radar have put their hands in the air, as if to say, “Don’t forget about me.” That’s right, third-year veteran Devin Smith, in his first season with the Cowboys, and first-year, former sixth-round pick Cedrick Wilson have caught the attention of the coaching staff with their play against the Niners and during practice sessions over the past two weeks. Wilson spent his rookie season on injured reserve following shoulder surgery early in last year’s camp. Smith, a former second-round draft choice of the New York Jets who has been battling back from two ACL injuries, had three catches for 55 yards against the 49ers, and could have had at least one more on the final drive, would-be touchdowns had third-string QB Mike White not underthrown him from the 39-yard line and then from the 4 when White did not see him wide open crossing the back of the end zone. Wilson, though, likely doesn’t play Saturday since a vicious hit in the San Francisco game put him in the concussion protocol.
- Final Camp Shots: During his pregame interview Saturday on our “Countdown To Kickoff,” Cowboys owner Jerry Jones pointed out he’s working on more than just three contracts right now, and said the number is as high as six. So Tuesday’s comment here after practice about contracts highlighted that, Jones saying, “My focus is on our team, not where any of these contracts are relative to another player. I’m not dealing in the market. I don’t have the responsibility of dealing with the market.” Sounds as if Jones is sticking to his message with wild speculation flying about . . . Did you notice the Cowboys’ two interceptions against the 49ers and one sack all belonged to rookies, the sack recorded by Jalen Jelks and the interceptions by Luke Gifford and Donovan Wilson . . . From what I’m hearing, Gifford, now out for several weeks with the high ankle sprained sustained against the Niners, has shown enough to likely make this 53-man roster . . . When asked about a possible contract extension, linebacker Jaylon Smith, scheduled to be a restricted free agent in 2020, said, “For me, I’m going to be a Cowboy and a Cowboy for the rest of my life. They took a risk on me.”
And that’s all from Oxnard.