FRISCO, Texas – This is amazing .
We are 18 days away from the Cowboys' 2020 season opener vs. the L.A. Rams that guessing most were skeptical of ever happening a month ago.
That makes 25 days away from the noon home opener at AT&T Stadium vs. Atlanta, that for so long has seemed so far away.
Absent the false positives this past week, the NFL and players have done a commendable job so far during training camp with very few COVID-19 positive tests.
And the Cowboys players, mostly, uh, bubble-wrapping themselves out here at The Star/Ford Center/Omni Hotel, haven't lapsed since results of the first round of tests.
The protocols seem to be working, with a big knock on wood.
With that, and nine practices in the books, got a lot of shots, to cover, so let's go.
- ET III: While Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy sort of straddled the fence on this now third possibility over the past couple of years of the Cowboys acquiring the recently-released safety Earl Thomas, thought saying this threw up a yellow caution flag when considering a veteran player the Ravens already sent packing: "Everything's looked at, and at the end of the day, I think the most important question you need to ask is: How does a player fit into the locker room? Because to me, that's usually a huge determining factor on if it happens or if it doesn't happen, too. And just like anything in this business, there has to be a mutual, you know, understanding to bring those things together. At the end of the day, as the head coach, my focus is on our current locker room." In a cliché reversal, speaking 88 words is worth a clearer picture.
- Ravens Discontent: How dissatisfied were the Baltimore Ravens to outright release Pro Bowl safety Earl Thomas after another one of his altercations with a teammate? Well, after signing him last year to a four-year, $55 million deal, which included a $20 million signing bonus and his 2020 base salary guaranteed, Baltimore still cut bait. That means, if they don't win their grievance against him to recoup money, citing conduct detrimental to the team, they will have to pay him the guaranteed $10 million base salary for this season. This would cause $15 million in dead money this year and another $10 million next year for the final two seasons of his prorated signing bonus. A high cost to get that guy out of your locker room if the Ravens aren't allowed to dismiss this year's base salary and recoup three-fourths of the signing bonus.
- Sounds Of Football: Another one of those COVID-19 changes these days, head coach Mike McCarthy not playing that ear-drum thumping music during the team portions of practice. Not only does that help a new staff teaching, but as McCarthy points out, the Cowboys first two road games will be played before empty stadiums. At this point, neither the Rams (Sept. 13) nor Seahawks (Sept. 27) will being allowing fans to attend games. In fact, seven of the Cowboys' eight road opponents are either not allowing fans in or not allowing in until further notice. Minnesota (Nov. 22) will not being allowing fans in for at least the first two games.
- Target Practice: The Cowboys have instituted a new warmup drill for the quarterbacks. They first work on their footwork, moving forward and backward through a series of pylons on the ground, and then while rolling out try to hit one of the three rectangular target pockets on the net some 15 yards away. When quarterbacks coach Doug Nussmeier was asked if that has become a competitive drill, he sarcastically says, "Naw, they're not competitive at all. They just go in the quarterback room and draw up a big board with their names and they tally every day. They love it. It's natural for those guys. … There is definitely some ribbing going on, and they definitely know who won and who lost." And when asked who's the leader, Nussmeier said, "I can't disclose that, you know that. That's top secret." Well, check back on that tomorrow. We'll ask Dak.
- Center Of Attention: Most take for granted Joe Looney will be the walk-in starter at center to replace the retired Travis Frederick, and he's done nothing to suggest he can't be the guy. But let's keep an eye on rookie center Tyler Biadasz. This guy is coming on, and keep hearing good things about the Rimington Trophy winner from Wisconsin. A real bulldog in there, and as I've pointed out, the only player on the team who started all last season at center, even if it was college ball. Already has earned the nickname on the Cowboys' flagship radio station, 105.3 The Fan, Tyler "Bad Ass." Even tight-lipped offensive line coach Joe Philbin allowed this about Biadiasz, "I think the guy is a football player. He looks natural playing center. … I don't think, I know he likes football. … He's tough, he's hard-nosed, got good play strength, he understands the game well. Yeah, he's off to a good start." And if you want to get it right, it's Tyler Bee-AH-dish.
- Noah's Arc: And it's on the rise for the fourth-year receiver having landed on season-ending injured reserve the past two years. Noah Brown got the reputation after his rookie season as a "good blocker," and I've been hard on him, saying if I need another "good blocker" on the field, I'll use a tight end. I want my wide receivers getting down field catching passes. Well, Brown is lighter, going from last year's listed 222 to now listed at 215. And he looks faster so far in camp, with an improved ability to get open. He no longer looks like a tight end, and I'm thinking if the Cowboys keep at least five receivers, and we know who the top three are, right now I'd say Cedrick Wilson and Brown are the next two in line.
- Camp Shots: When the Cowboys drafted cornerback Reggie Robinson of Cleburne in the fourth round, when looking at his size, special teams ability, thought he might be a corner the Cowboys could transition to safety. Well, this week Robinson has been taking snaps at safety, and made a really nice play during a red-zone session on Tuesday, breaking up a pass for what would have been a touchdown … And the other guy who seems to have versatility to him is veteran corner Daryl Worley. Lo and behold, he, too, is now taking snaps, not only in the slot, but at safety … Presumptive third corner Jourdan Lewis, out with an ankle injury, needs to hurry up and get healthy and back into practice … Coming back from his ACL repair, two-year starter Connor Williams has been the guy at left guard, but for the first time, got a little R&R Tuesday, the Cowboys just wanting to be smart with his return from surgery eight months later … Players know talent, and when second-year running back Tony Pollard was asked about rookie receiver CeeDee Lamb, he finished by saying, "He's worth the hype."
And for this week's shots edition, the last word goes to McCarthy, saying when asked what would someone say about defensive end Aldon Smith after watching practice and not knowing he hasn't played a down of football since Nov. 15, 2015, "Who the hell was No. 58?" Say no more.