FRISCO, Texas – Camp is done.
In a day, preseason will be completed.
And after like a four-day lull, with the roster cuts made and the practice squad formed, the real stuff begins on Monday, with the regular-season here and preparation for the Cowboys’ season opener against the New York Football Giants, 3:35 p.m. Sunday at AT&T Stadium, beginning in earnest.
But in the meantime, let’s take a few shots to keep us on our toes until then.
- Un-PUPed: That’s right, the Cowboys have all but cleaned up their Physically Unable to Perform list, first last week activating DE DeMarcus Lawrence and DL Tyrone Crawford, and this week removing CB Byron Jones, all being eased back into practice. The only one remaining on PUP is WR Noah Brown (knee scope), and there is a likely chance the Cowboys will leave him there for the minimum of six weeks. While Lawrence and Crawford didn’t do much more than individual drills last week, both jumped into some 11-on-11 work this week, and even some one-on-one pass rush drills. Judging from their rehab sessions, they look like they are ready to go. As for Jones, he’s on a similar path, individual drills Monday but got into some team work on Tuesday. And knowing how antsy he’s been, he’ll likely be full go next week.
- Oh Amari: Word is Cowboys wide receiver Amari Cooper, who has not practiced with the team since Aug. 4 when his intrinsic muscle strain in the heel area first occurred, is running and cutting well, and I’m told will be ready to go next week for the season opener against the Giants. That’s good news for this offense, especially if Ezekiel Elliott fails to report in time. That’s a strong top three receivers with Cooper, Michael Gallup and Randall Cobb.
- Best Intentions: Now when the Cowboys get around to reducing the 90-man roster to 53, there might be a couple of surprises. While third-round draft choice Connor McGovern (strained pec) has been easing back into practice, rookie free-agent LB Luke Gifford still is in a walking boot after suffering that high ankle sprain. He’s likely a few weeks away from getting back into practice. But nevertheless, and unless the Cowboys get into a numbers bind at certain positions, their initial intentions were to keep both on the 53-man roster, though the soreness McGovern experienced the other day might give them pause on keeping him active.
- DNR: The Cowboys certainly are hoping they don’t have to jump into regular-season prep with Zeke still on Did Not Report. If so, he would not count against the 53-man limit, opening a spot for another player, probably a running back. And his availability all depends on if negotiations become more realistic with a paycheck deadline looming. Because if Zeke isn’t on the active roster by the end of business on Saturday, Sept. 7, he will forfeit the $224,000 first-game portion of his 2019 base salary ($3.853 million). Again, let’s not get hung up on total package of what he might sign for, with two years still left on his contract worth a total of $13.9 million ($9.1 million in 2020). Keep hearing about how he has to make as much if not more than Todd Gurley and/or Le’Veon Bell. Just remember, Gurley’s deal guarantees him $45 million, that’s signing bonus plus guarantees over his 2018-21 base salaries. The Rams could get out of the deal after four years, with Gurley making $49 million, or averaging $12.25 million a year. Hmmm. And as for Bell, his $27 million in guarantees expire after just two years of his four-year, potential $52.5 million deal, meaning, he would average $13.5 million if the Jets take the out. And after three years the Jets could bow out at $13.33 million a year. So if we keep hearing those are market value for a top running backs, let’s go, but my guess is Zeke’s folks want more lucrative guarantees than that.
- Emmitt Who?: Now wouldn’t it have been something had the Cowboys been able to turn back the clock 30 seasons when during the team’s annual Kickoff Luncheon on Sept. 4, 1990, they surprisingly introduced rookie Emmitt Smith as their newly-signed first-round draft choice, ending a 48-day contract negotiation stalemate by walking out from behind a blue stage curtain. But there was no Elliott coming out from behind a curtain with a contract extension at the annual Cowboys Annual Kickoff Luncheon Wednesday at AT&T Stadium, though he was named the recipient of the team’s 2018 Offensive Player of the Year. You know Jerry Jones would have liked nothing better than to have made that splash. Well-deserved Defensive Player of the Year goes to Pro Bowl corner Byron Jones and the special teams award is all L.P. Ladouceur’s.
- Sixth Gear: Not sure we saw this last year during Gallup’s rookie season, but he’s got another gear, one that puts him into one of those video game power boosts to pull away from corners. Been seeing this on deep balls the last couple of weeks, where the Cowboys’ second-year receiver seems to keep the corner on his hip and then at the last second explodes out to pull away for a deep catch. And lately, doesn’t matter who is throwing to him, Dak Prescott or Cooper Rush. He’s running down those throws.
- Parting Shots: There was no letup these final two days of training camp, Garrett working his team hard in pads for the allotted two hours. Why so? “We don’t have anything, we don’t have anything in our back pocket,” said Garrett, meaning this team has yet to accomplish anything . . . The Cowboys did intend for Sean Lee to play some on Saturday night, but during his pre-pregame warmups, he didn’t feel quite right, so now it’s just getting him ready for the opener . . . The more I see Tony Pollard play, the more it’s apparent he really sees the field well . . . More Pollard, because he shays in high school he played running back, wide receiver, cornerback and safety, and oh, in his spare time he returned kicks, too . . . Not fair in one-on-one pass rush drills, Tank going up against Jake Campos . . . Chido, nice pick of Dak Prescott during Tuesday’s 7-on-7 drill.
And on a sad note at the conclusion of training camp, the memorial service for Luke Laufenberg, the 21-year-old son of former Cowboys backup quarterback and current analyst on the Cowboys Radio Network Babe and his mother Joan, was held Wednesday afternoon at Highland Park Methodist Church. Luke lost his two-year battle with leukemia after UTEP signed him to a football scholarship and was going to be the Miners’ starting tight end.