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Offseason | 2021

Mick Shots: Time To Start Setting Up Camp


FRISCO, Texas – Camp is right around the corner.

Next Shots will originate from Oxnard, Calif. And in fact, they will generate off the Cowboys' camp-opening press conference noon CT on July 21 from the tennis courts at the River Ridge Sports Complex.

After being grounded here at Ford Center at The Star last summer, can't wait, especially since the following day, that Thursday, is the Cowboys' first scheduled practice.

Uh, sorta. In light of all the building excitement to see Dak Prescott back on the practice field, along with the likes of Tyron Smith, La'el Collins, Zack Martin and Leighton Vander Esch, to get a camp glimpse of rookies like Micah Parsons and Kelvin Joseph and Jabril Cox, to get to see free agents such as Keanu Neal, Damontae Kazee and Tarell Basham, better take a sedative once looking at the schedule.

See, the Cowboys' first padded practice is not scheduled until Wednesday, July 28. That means not until the ninth day of training camp will there be an honest-to-goodness football practice. Crazy, huh. That means over that period of time, the Cowboys arrive on July 20, have the opening press conference the next day, followed by the first of four minicamp-like practices (helmets, jerseys, shorts) and two mandatory days off before the pads come on.

Point is, have patience when waiting for answers to how this guy is looking, how that guy is doing.

For those who are concerned, the Cowboys' main practices will begin at 11 a.m. (PT) and generally last for around two hours.

Now then, if this is giving you visions of the alleged Camp Cupcake from the Wade Phillips-coached days, the NFL/NFLPA have these practice rules in the current CBA, with mandatory lead-up practices until the pads come on and then those mandatory days off.

Plus, because of the Cowboys playing in the Hall of Fame preseason game, their training camp will last a week longer than 30 other NFL teams. That also means extra travel. Leaving Aug. 4 for Canton, Ohio, for the first preseason game (Pittsburgh on Aug. 5), returning immediately after the game to Oxnard, likely arriving at the Residence Inn at 4 in the morning on Friday Pacific time, which is listed as a day off. Then there is a practice against the Rams on Saturday, and by the following Thursday the Cowboys are breaking camp and jumping back on a plane for Phoenix to play the next preseason game, Friday, Aug. 13, against the Cardinals.

Oh, and the team will likely arrive home here after the game at like 5-6 in the morning on Saturday, ending a 26-day journey with, uh, a day off.

Now you know. So easy on any cupcake talk.

  • Dr. Bob: A mini-Cowboys alumni reunion took place Tuesday at Prestonwood Baptist Church during the memorial service for former Cowboys longtime strength and conditioning coach Bob Ward, who passed away June 28, a week short of turning 88 on Fourth of July. Dr. Bob, who earned his doctoral degree in biomechanics, spent 14 seasons with the Cowboys from 1976-1989, going from working with Tom Landry to one year with the Cowboys' second head coach Jimmy Johnson. Those relationships attracted such Cowboys players as Roger Staubach, Randy White, Bob Breunig, Cliff Harris, Preston Pearson, Thomas Henderson, John Fitzgerald, Tom Rafferty, Aaron Mitchell, Doug Donley, John Dutton, Kurt Peterson and Glenn Carano, among others to pay their respects. While Ward is best known for coaching the Cowboys, he's sort of football's Forrest Gump. Think about this: Not only is he a member of the Strength and Conditioning Coaches Hall of Fame, he's also a member of the Burbank Hall of Fame after starring at Burbank (Calif.) High School in football (QB, RB, punter and kicker) and track and field. Then at Whitworth University, he earned NAIA All-America honors in football and distinguished himself in track and field (shot put, discus, javelin and pole vault), landing in that school's Hall of Fame. From there, on to the Marine Corps before he got into college coaching. During White's eulogy, he recounted how Ward introduced him to the value strong hands from his background in martial arts, too. And if all that were not enough, after retiring from coaching, Bob Ward competed in the Masters Track And Field competitions beginning in 1998, establishing world records in the 70-74 age group in weight lifting and various pentathlon events. Quite a guy, quite a legacy, quite a conversationalist, as he wife Joyce of 66 years would attest to, telling me, "I'm sure you had some long conversations with Bob." Sure did, and will miss them.
  • Added Incentive: If unvaccinated players needed any more incentive to get the shots than just fear of the delta variant before the start of training camp, here it is, the NFL somewhat quietly issuing this to teams, via's Tom Pelissero. For players not fully vaccinated by the start of their team's training camps (July 20 for the Cowboys), they will be tested for COVID-19 daily. Masks will be required at club facility and during travel. Travel restrictions are to return in effect. Players must be physically-distanced in meal rooms, and will not be able to eat with teammates, and as for unvaccinated staff members, they must utilize grab-and-go meals and must refrain from eating in cafeteria. And among other protocols, this returns again: unvaccinated players may not leave the team hotel to eat in restaurants and may not interact with anyone outside of Team Traveling Party members during team travel. Man.
  • Training Camp 2021: Don't miss Cowboys Star Training Camp Preview magazine now available for purchase online at Features on the return of Dak Prescott, new defensive coordinator Dan Quinn and the Cowboys heading back to Oxnard for training camp. A pullout poster of the 2021 schedule, position-by-position breakdown, along with scouting reports and stats on every single player on the team's 90-man camp roster are there. Magazines also will be sold at training camp and in select stores throughout the region.
  • Summer Shots: So the Cowboys will be featured on Hard Knocks for the third time, but only one episode will totally originate from training camp this year. Episode 1 debuts on HBO Aug. 10, which will include the trip to Canton for the Hall of Fame game. But with the Cowboys breaking camp and leaving two days after that episode airs for preseason Game 2 being played on Friday, Aug. 13 in Glendale, Ariz., the majority of the series will take place right here at The Star . . . For a change, the Cowboys don't have to worry about any July 15 deadline to sign a franchise player to a long-term deal to avoid the player having to play on the tag since giving Prescott the one-year tag back in March. Of the 10 players franchised in 2021, Prescott is one of just three who have been signed to long-term deals as of Wednesday afternoon, joining Giants defensive tackle Leonard Williams and Broncos safety Justin Simmons.

And for today, Dak gets the last word, reassuring most everyone after the final minicamp practice he will be good to go once the Cowboys hit the fields in Oxnard next week, pointing out not putting limits on yourself is the key to recovering from an injury like he had.

"Not to say I'm some egotistical guy, but I've never really set limits on myself, and I've always had I believe higher expectation than anybody else has for me, and I hold myself to high standards," Dak says. "To actually just see myself six, seven months later from the injury, whatever it is, just knowing there is no limits. There is no limits to what the mind can do. There's no limits to what you can push yourself to do. There is a lot of injuries that have more of a mental weight than they actually do a physical weight and if you can learn how to get that off of you by trusting yourself, believing in what you can do, trusting the doctors and the people around you, you can do pretty much anything you want coming back from the majority of the injuries this game gives us."

Enough to convince me, as the headline on the cover of the Training Camp Preview magazine states, Dak Is Back.

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