FRISCO, Texas – Well, it's time, here we go, off to Oxnard, Calif., Thursday afternoon for the start of training camp.
Enough of all the projections. Enough of all those offseason lists, the bests, tops, biggest and mosts. Now we start seeing tangible evidence as these Cowboys begin preparation in earnest for the 2019 season.
The official start to camp at the River Ridge Sports Complex will be noon (PDT), Friday, when Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett holds his first, mandatory team meeting. So be ready, these shots will be coming over the next several weeks fast and furious.
- OK Zeke: Weird, don't you think, the only person who has been quoted on this whole Zeke reporting/not reporting on time fiasco has been Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett. This whole thing has been sourced to death, and we certainly have nothing on record from the man himself, Zeke, the NFL's defending rushing champ. So, when posed with the question if he is expecting Ezekiel Elliott to report to training camp on time, Garrett said, "Yeah, we anticipate that. I've heard nothing different from that." Neither have we. Hopefully, though, Zeke doesn't make a grandstanding entrance as Jalen Ramsey of the same 2016 rookie class did in Jacksonville, arriving in an armored truck and walked out to his own emcee announcing his arrival over a bullhorn. That's what this world has come to for sure.
- To PUP Or Not: That is the question the Cowboys will face after all the physicals are taken and conditioning run is finished the first day of camp on Friday. At this point, DeMarcus Lawrence and Byron Jones are the most likely candidates to begin camp on active/Physically Unable to Perform. Garrett said he doesn't expect either player "ready to go at the outset of training camp." Meaning, to actually practice. Lawrence appears pretty ready, but there is no sense rushing a guy you just signed to a $105 million contract back into practice. Lawrence is ahead of Jones, who had hip surgery, and all along, having him ready for Sept. 8 has been the goal. Physicals and the conditioning tests will determine the status of others coming back from surgeries or offseason injuries. Two of those in that category possibly could be Tyrone Crawford (hip bursitis) and Noah Brown (knee scope in early June). Not a good start for Brown in a crowded receiver field after spending the first nine weeks of last season on injured reserve (hamstring). Players on active/PUP will revert to the active roster once they are cleared on a physical.
- Long Camp: This will be a long, hard training camp for Cowboys wide receiver coach Sanjay Lal, who recently underwent surgery to repair badly damaged peroneal tendons in his right ankle. He'll likely spend the entire training camp in a huge walking boots and utilizing one of those kneel-down scooters. Somewhat know the feeling, though far less severe, having started the 2002 training camp in a walking boot and crutches after suffering the fractured fifth metatarsal of my left foot.
- Business Decision: You know, the Cowboys picking up the option on Allen Hurns' second year of his two-year contract surprised me since his $4 million base salary and $1 million roster bonus seemed extreme for a guy who likely was going to be no more than the No. 4 receiver trying to return following his gruesome fractured fibula in the playoff win over Seattle. So, while Hurns was seen running really well by the end of the offseason program, really no surprise the Cowboys decided to officially release him on Wednesday after the veteran receiver refused the offer to reduce his base salary. As Garrett said, "The essence of that decision is the business of football." For sure, while Hurns' prorated signing bonus will hit the cap for $1.25 million in dead money, the Cowboys will pick up another $5 million on the cap, along with wiping out a potential $1 million per-game game bonus total. They also opened up a roster spot, already filled by signing a fourth quarterback for camp, Taryn Christion, an undrafted free agent last year (South Dakota State) signed by Seattle and released in early May.
- Too Funny: Cowboys former defensive lineman Marcus Spears, now on ESPN, cracked me up the other day when he joined First Take, and told Stephen A. Smith, he was "the human embodiment of the Dallas Cowboys – love me or hate me, you got to watch me." Right, and left Stephen A. mumbling something, almost – almost – speechless.
- On The Corner: Unsigned former Cowboys cornerback Morris Claiborne might have a chance to land in Minnesota, where Vikings corner Holton Hill had another four-game suspension added to his previous four-game suspension, totaling the first eight of the season. The 29-year-old former Cowboys first-round draft choice has spent the past two seasons with the Jets, totaling three interceptions, 22 passes broken up and 100 tackles. Mo started 15 of the 15 games he played last year for the Jets and is listed by Gil Brandt as the top remaining unsigned free agent.
- Slim Pickin's: Keep hearing how the Cowboys might have to dip into the group of unsigned free-agent quarterbacks if Cooper Rush or Mike White don't step up in training camp. Well, this is sobering. Of the available free-agent quarterbacks for 2019, the highest remaining QB still available, at No. 9 is Colin Kaepernick, who hasn't played for the past two years and is already 31. Others still available are Josh Johnson (11th), Brock Osweiler (14th) and David Fales (21st). The 23rd-ranked Mark Sanchez just retired. Yuck.
- Parting Shots: Still No. 1, and for the second straight year, on the Forbes' annual list of the most valuable sports franchises in the world, the Cowboys value going up from $4.6 billion last year to a cool $5 billion this year. The Yankees were second at $4.6 billion and the Patriots ($3.8 billion) were the next NFL team at seventh . . . The Cowboys had nine games ranked among the top 50 highest rated television sports broadcasts for 2018. The Patriots were the only other team with more than four . . . Former Cowboys safety J.J. Wilcox already has been placed on injured reserve by Atlanta after suffering a torn ACL in Monday's practice. Wilcox signed with the Falcons after spending the past two years with Pittsburgh in 2017 and with the Colts and Jets in 2018 . . . Two players flying way under the radar heading into training camp but have caught the attention of the coaches are fifth-round draft choice CB Mike Jackson and last year's practice squad running back Jordan Chunn.
And away we go, me for my 34th Cowboys training camp. Though reminded that three years ago today four of us heading to Oxnard for training camp on the Cowboys tour bus survived a horrific highway crash south of Las Vegas, all thanks to Emory Tyler, to me forever more known as the best darn bus driver in the world, expertly bringing the bus careening into a culvert with flying glass in his face safely to a halt upright after broadsiding a car failing to yield the right of way. My camp MVP that year for sure. Shout out, Emory, from all of us.